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WVN Newsletter #182: School Committee planning

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  • waylandvoters1
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 14, 2006
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      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
      Sciacca reports.

      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
      went on.

      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.

      LONG-RANGE PLANNING

      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
      committee.

      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
      sentences:

      " Define directional strategies addressing identified strategic
      questions for discussion at School Committee meetings and
      forums."

      "Build, test, and review plans to implement strategies at
      appropriate intervals."

      "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
      goals?
      2. How will we finance our educational needs over the long
      term?
      3. What should our educational mission, goals and priorities be
      going forward?

      ARTIFICIAL TURF

      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
      approved.

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