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WVN #127: Happy Hollow to Stay Open

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  • waylandvoters
    Wayland Voters Network December 1, 2005 Dear Wayland Voter, This is a report of the School Committee meeting on Monday, November 28. Please see the Waycam
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2005
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      Wayland Voters Network
      December 1, 2005

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      This is a report of the School Committee meeting on Monday,
      November 28. Please see the Waycam broadcast of this
      meeting on Friday and Sunday nights at 7 PM.

      WVN is delighted to note that the Town Crier this week includes
      significant coverage of this School Committee meeting and the
      school budget process, in keeping with the school budget's
      primary importance in determining both the quality of life and the
      cost of living in Wayland.

      This report was written by Tom Sciacca.

      Again meeting before a large crowd largely composed of
      concerned Happy Hollow parents, the School Committee
      struggled like a hooked fish before finally deciding to eliminate
      closing Happy Hollow from consideration next year.

      To start the meeting Chair Jeff Dieffenbach told the concerned
      parents that the committee would in no case be voting to
      recommend any course of action that evening; December and
      January will be spent arriving at a budget that the group would
      actually recommend to the Fincom and the Town. This meeting
      was to choose what the committee considered the lesser of
      three evil budget cut options to meet the Fincom's request for a
      budget option that would avoid the need for an override next year.

      Surprises during an initial public comment period included the
      strong remarks of one parent who said she was willing to pay a
      lot of money in fees and skip vacations to maintain programs.
      Another parent said that class sizes were a whole lot higher
      when he was in the Wayland schools and they were still
      excellent then, implying that raising class sizes to keep Happy
      Hollow open might not be such a terrible thing. However, all
      plans under consideration stay within the existing maximum
      class size guidelines, though classes grow higher than the
      "preferred size".

      The committee began considering three possible cut scenarios
      to meet the Fincom's guideline. Superintendent Gary Burton, as
      in previous meetings, delivered a sales pitch clearly aimed at the
      observers and the Waycam camera telling the committee what it
      already believed: that the problems are not the schools' fault but
      result from external circumstances. Therefore, he concluded, the
      schools really shouldn't have to cut.

      The committee struggled with the decision, with most members
      clearly preferring to not make any decision rather than choose
      one as less bad than another. But Burton eventually stated that
      "Alternate Plan 1.0", added to the two original choices by request
      of member Bob Gordon at last week's meeting, was regarded by
      the administrators as a political compromise not true to any
      philosophical underpinning. Going back to the two basic plans,
      ultimately the committee decided that the option of closing
      Happy Hollow was less acceptable than the alternative proposal
      that would impose more cuts at the middle and high school,
      largely because of worries about elementary school populations
      rebounding and the possibility of using more fees to salvage
      some of the athletic and extra-curricular programs cut in the
      "preferred" plan.

      The chosen plan would cut 13 classroom teachers, five
      librarians, nearly two elementary music teachers, and one
      athletic director. It would, however, add a new full-time
      math/science coordinator and another reading teacher to the
      elementary schools. Voters may remember that two new
      non-classroom teaching positions were also added last year. It
      would also cut three teaching assistants, one computer
      technician, and reduce clerical hours. It would also eliminate
      170 stipends for athletic and extra-curricular work.
      Back-of-the-envelope estimates being bandied about indicated
      that average class sizes might rise by two or so in this scenario,
      though administrators were quick to point out that the effects
      would be highly uneven. Committee members seemed
      especially upset at the possibility of reductions in the athletics
      programs, indicating that they regarded athletics as just as
      important as academics to have a complete school.

      In a letter to the Fincom outlining the evening's decisions the
      committee raised the caveat for the chosen scenario that some
      kids come to school only for the athletics and extra-curricular

      As an indication of the extremes of emotion at stake, as the large
      group of observers were leaving the Large Hearing Room one
      young woman angrily, loudly, and at some length verbally
      attacked an elderly citizen who had made a comment earlier
      questioning the metrics of excellence for the schools. She told
      him he should just shut up and vote for overrides so her kids
      could get an excellent education.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove and Michael Short, Editors
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