WVN Newsletter #182: School Committee planning
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The School Committee has been working on short-term and
long-term questions, including the aging high school buildings
and the future of Wayland's school system as a whole. Tom
Also note: Two important public hearings.
SPECIAL TOWN MEETING WARRANT
The Finance Committee will hold a public hearing Monday Sept.
18 at 7 p.m. at the town building on the warrant articles for the
November special Town Meeting.
CONCOM AND ARTIFICIAL TURF
The Conservation Commission will hold a public hearing at the
town building at 7:35 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21 on a controversial
proposal to install artificial turf at the High School football field.
Environmental questions have been raised because the site is
near a town well, a national wildlife refuge and a federally
designated Wild and Scenic River.
Special Town Meeting voters will consider a proposal to allocate
about $300,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to
supplement private donations.
HIGH SCHOOL BAND-AIDS
Superintendent Gary Burton hired Dick Amster of Turner
Construction, who had previously helped the High School
Building Committee develop the high school rebuilding proposal
rejected by voters last year, to examine the condition of the high
school buildings and recommend short-term fixes. Amster is
being paid $5,000 out of the $50,000 appropriated at the spring
Town Meeting for these repairs.
School officials have now concluded that, as last year's project
critics predicted, new state School Building Assistance
regulations will not be available on schedule and that Wayland
may not receive anything in the first year's funding allocations.
Consequently, the current school buildings will be in use for at
least another five to seven years. Some concerns with the
buildings involving safety and handicapped access were
obviously very high priority and were already being dealt with
using the rest of the $50,000 appropriation, but Amster was
asked to look into what was needed beyond that.
Amster recommended planning to spend several million dollars
a year to do extensive repairs, including new roofs for all the
buildings. But the Committee questioned the wisdom of
spending significant amounts of money given the need for a
serious renovation or replacement project within a few years,
and whether spending millions now would compromise voters'
willingness to approve many more millions later. A member of
the HSBC said that even though the roofs were at the end of their
lives they could be patched, albeit with increasing effort as time
Burton reported at a Sept. 5 Committee meeting that an
inspector said there is no immediate further danger from
concrete falling from walkway overhangs, which had been a
major concern after a chunk fell last spring. The Committee then
decided not to ask for an appropriation at the newly announced
fall Town Meeting to deal with high school repairs. Burton will
include a proposal as part of his budget to be presented to the
spring Town Meeting.
Management consultant and Wayland parent Steve Goldstein is
a principal in a firm specializing in helping corporations do
strategic planning. After observing the School Committee's
floundering attempts to do long range planning at their annual
"off-site" meeting in June (held in the Public Safety Building), he
volunteered to lead an effort to do some serious strategic
planning for the Wayland school system. He made his first
presentation at the Aug. 28 meeting. Asked for more "focus,
clarity, and brevity", he came back the following week with a
revised proposal which met with general approval from the
Goldstein's initial proposal, couched in abstract business
school terminology suitable for senior corporate executives,
seemed to overwhelm the School Committee. The executive
summary read, in part, that many people were motivated to see a
plan for the district that would "renew its direction, advance its
educational and operational performance, and increase support
for its goals and actions." It went on to say that "Desired
outcomes from a strategic plan include the articulation of long
term educational and financial needs, establishment of long
term priorities and spending plans, actions to address major
challenges and opportunities having long lasting effects on the
schools and its stakeholders, and the delineation of and
approaches to pursue meaningful educational, operational, and
financial improvements." It continued, "Desired outcomes from a
strategic planning process include the means to maintain
continuity during periods of change, an ability to meet challenges
and realize opportunities before they become urgent, and
broad-based stakeholder engagement in and support for the
Wayland Public Schools and its role in the community."
Goldstein's second try, which met with a more positive reaction
from the committee, had many fewer words and shorter
" Define directional strategies addressing identified strategic
questions for discussion at School Committee meetings and
"Build, test, and review plans to implement strategies at
"Integrate strategies and plans into a Wayland School long
range strategic plan."
"Revise Wayland School District and School Committee
missions as appropriate."
"Synchronize with key School Committee and school system
schedules and initiatives."
"Actively reach out to key constituencies for input and review
throughout the process."
One major issue seemed to be the role of the community in this
process. Goldstein proposed to integrate community input
throughout the effort, while some School Committee members
seemed to want to involve the community only as the targets of a
PR campaign after the fact to sell it on the outcome. As another
issue, Goldstein proposed to address long-range curriculum
goals in this process. Member Bob Gordon objected that
curriculum issues should be left entirely to the administration.
However, in at least one recent instance, the Committee
overrode Burton's decision to reduce the science offerings at the
high school, after objections during public comment. Some
elementary school parents have been critical of the
long-standing deficiencies in the elementary science and math
programs, which were only addressed this year with the
addition of a new math/science coordinator.
But without resolving the details, the Committee gave Goldstein
the go-ahead to address three "core strategic questions":
1. How can we enhance community support for our educational
2. How will we finance our educational needs over the long
3. What should our educational mission, goals and priorities be
Town Counsel Mark Lanza has drafted an article for the fall Town
Meeting to appropriate $300,000 for a new artificial turf field at
the high school, despite the Town Meeting Study Committee's
recommendation that money articles not be included in fall town
meetings. This article would be jointly sponsored by the School
Committee and Park and Recreation Commission, but the
money would be managed by the School Committee. Members
questioned why the schools should be burdened with
management chores when Park and Rec would get the major
benefits from this project. They were under the impression that
Park and Rec would manage it. Chair Heather Pineault and
Burton were authorized to work out these issues with other
boards before submission of the article, which was otherwise
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor