WVN #127: Happy Hollow to Stay Open
- 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.
PAINFUL DECISION RELUCTANTLY MADE
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
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
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