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WVN #325: HS Honor Society dormant? More cordial developer-ConCom relations?

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, The School Committee discusses class sizes and receives word that Wayland High School, which considers itself one of the best around, can t
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7, 2009
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      The School Committee discusses class sizes and receives word that Wayland High School, which considers itself one of the best around, can't find an adviser for the local chapter of the National Honor Society.

      Also in this newsletter:

      -- The Town Center developer has paid its consulting bills and hopes for smoother relations with the Conservation Commission.

      -- Raytheon, which has an integral role in the Town Center development, says it was unaware that Twenty Wayland hopes to break ground in the spring.

      ---------------------------------------------------
      MORE H1N1 FLU VACCINE CLINICS
      Wednesday Dec. 9, 2-4 p.m., Town Building
      For healthy children ages 2-18 only (no history asthma, wheezing, or any underlying health issue) ages 2-18 and healthy adults ages 19 to 49.
      Saturday Dec.12, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Town Building
      For anyone under age 65. First and second doses available. Register at:
      http://www.activityreg.com/selectactivity.wcs
      Questions: Board of Health, 508-358-3617 or:
      www.wayland.ma.us and click: Town Departments/Board of Health.


      PRIMARY ELECTION
      Tuesday Dec. 8. Primary election, U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
      ----------------------------------------------------
      SCHOOL EMPLOYMENT, CLASS SIZE

      About 500 people are employed by the Wayland schools over the course of a year, Superintendent Gary Burton says. Since the previous fiscal year there was a reduction of 12.73 FTE's (Full Time Equivalents), mostly from declining enrollments and a few from new grants that pay for positions.

      Claypit Hill has three fewer classes this year than last.

      On examining the detailed class size reports at the Nov. 30 School Committee meeting, Chairman Louis Jurist questioned math classes as small as six for challenged children at the middle school, while some of the more average classes had as many as 30. Burton defended the very small classes as necessary to bring the most challenged students up to speed. But Jurist continued to question the large discrepancy, believing there must be a continuum in ability levels and a few more kids could be added to the smaller classes to reduce the size of the largest classes.

      That led to a discussion of smaller class sizes in general, especially in subjects such as language with small enrollments. The middle school and high school may have to start sharing teachers in such situations to become more efficient. But the two schools have incompatible schedules, making it very difficult for a teacher to run from one to another. One school or the other may have to change its schedule to conform.

      At the high school about one third of classes have fewer than 15 kids. Some electives are now being offered via Virtual High School, which in principle allows each student to take a different elective. "We're just putting our toe in the water this year" with Virtual High School, said Assistant Superintendent Brad Crozier. At the subsequent public comment period a high school parent described his child's experience with a virtual high school course as wonderful.

      Virtual High School is a non-profit consortium based in Maynard which offers online courses to students across the country and around the world. Students are able to "attend" classes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, "working cooperatively online with others from a wide variety of ethnicities, backgrounds, and geographic locations." Nearly 12,000 students from over 644 schools currently participate, some as far away as China and Australia. They are taught by specially trained teachers and class sizes average 18 students, with a maximum of 25. See
      http://www.goVHS.org/

      What's going on at Happy Hollow?

      Crozier presented the latest MCAS test results, along with new data mining software available from the state that allows detailed examination of the data in myriad ways. Wayland kids generally do very well on MCAS. But member Malcolm Astley commented that MCAS "doesn't measure the higher kinds of thinking that we're after".

      One worrisome anomaly, however, was the noticeable decrease in scores at Happy Hollow over the last couple of years relative to Claypit Hill. Crozier promised to investigate possible reasons for the phenomenon. Some Happy Hollow parents, however, told WVN that the reasons should be obvious. They described the school under new principal Jim Lee as "chaotic" and "dysfunctional," with bullying a huge problem. Lee had a reputation as an excellent teacher but no administrative experience when he was promoted by Burton to replace Crozier as Happy Hollow principal.

      School technology spending recommended

      Technology Director Leisha Simon presented her Fiscal 2011 capital budget request for $750,000 to continue improving technology capability begun last year. The network infrastructure work has largely been completed but needs to be finished by, for example, extending the network to Claypit Hill. Most teachers now have laptops; many are using their own now that the infrastructure supports "foreign" machines, but others have been provided machines and the plan next year is for all teachers to be equipped. Next year will focus on the "one-to-one initiative" to ultimately provide a machine for each student . This will allow all students to, for example, take Virtual High School courses or access research material during class, in the same way that an earlier generation might have leafed through a textbook.

      Virtual High School courses are much less expensive than conventionally taught courses. In addition to courses sourced nationally, Wayland is participating in a local TEC (The Educational Collaborative) program whereby one teacher in each school teaches an online course which is made available to all students in the TEC consortium. This makes a much wider variety of courses available, taught to Massachusetts standards, than any one school could have provided, in a highly economical manner.

      In a separate presentation curriculum specialists showed the School Committee how instruction at the elementary level is increasingly being individualized for each child. Most of their visual aids showed children, from kindergarten on, working at computers, as a primary tool for customizing each child's experience. Right now this requires kids to physically move to computer labs in Loker, Claypit, and Happy Hollow schools, but the long-term plan calls for all children to have their own access devices (these might look like netbooks or overgrown cellphones rather than laptops by the time the plan progresses to that stage).

      The School Committee voted unanimously to approve the Technology Capital request and submit it to the Finance Committee.

      (Disclosure: this reporter is a member of the Technology Task Force, which advises the technology director.)

      Honor Society chapter inactive

      The National Honor Society Chapter at the high school seems to be in limbo this year as no member of the faculty is willing to serve as advisor.

      In a memo to Burton, high school Principal Pat Tutwiler said "There will not be a WHS National Honor Society selection process nor an induction ceremony this year." Tutwiler was willing to conduct a selection process and induction ceremony himself, but discovered it was against the rules and "doing so could result in an immediate revocation of our chapter". He went on to say "It is inappropriate for me to speculate as to why faculty members were/are unwilling, although I have some ideas."

      For next year, Tutwiler has identified Mark Liddell, the WHS METCO coordinator, as the Honor Society advisor. It was unclear why Liddell was unable to take on the role sooner.

      Tutwiler closes with "For the student's sake, I am disappointed that there will be no induction ceremony to celebrate their acceptance. Nonetheless, I am encouraged, as I believe that the club is headed in the right direction."

      In the meantime, the high school continues to offer dozens of sports, and apparently able to find coaches for all of them. The high school Athletic Handbook states "Boasting thirty-two (32) varsity programs and fifty-five (55) teams throughout the fall, winter and spring, it is by far one of the largest program offerings at the high school level."

      -- Tom Sciacca

      TOWN CENTER DEVELOPER PAYS CONSULTANT, HOPES FOR SMOOTHER PROCESS

      The developers of the Town Center commercial-residential project have paid bills and suggested ways to work more effectively with the Conservation Commission on acquiring building permits.

      Twenty Wayland's Town Center project manager, Frank Dougherty, took a conciliatory line at a Nov. 23 Conservation Commission continued hearing. Dougherty said that he realized that Twenty Wayland could have handled the on-site part of the negotiations with the Conservation Commission better. Dougherty was hoping to do the off-site negotiations differently. Off-site work ("Proposed Roadway Improvements") includes road widening at the Route 20 and Route 27 entrances to the project as well as traffic signals and road widening at the intersection of Route 20 and Routes 27/126.

      To start, Dougherty offered to immediately deposit $15,000 in an escrow account for the consultants, CMG Environmental, Inc., who will be needed to review the off-site proposal. Twenty Wayland had delayed for eight months in paying CMG for on-site work completed by early 2009. The Commission felt it was unable to proceed with the off-site work until CMG had been paid. CMG has now been paid for all previous work. Dougherty admitted that non-payment of consultant fees was unfortunate and promised to be more timely in the future.

      Dougherty suggested that the first step in the off-site negotiations would be for Twenty Wayland to submit a memo outlining how it interprets stormwater laws and regulations. The purpose is to get feedback immediately and avoid misunderstandings. Dougherty said that in the on-site negotiations both sides contributed to misunderstandings by not listening to one another. He said that ConCom did not deserve so much of the blame for delays.

      Conservation Commissioners Andy Irwin and Joy Viola both expressed a wish to get the total package of off-site documents together and not in pieces as had happened with on-site documents. Viola said it was very difficult to make decisions when only partial information was available. Viola also noted that there had already been three continuations of the hearing on the off-site work while waiting for responses from Twenty Wayland.

      Commissioner Bob Goldsmith suggested that CMG be asked for input on the Twenty Wayland's memo interpretating stormwater regulations. The Commission scheduled a Jan. 7 hearing to discuss the Twenty Wayland memo with input from CMG consultants. After that, Twenty Wayland will prepare a full set of documents for the off-site work.

      Andrew F. Rockett, a principal of KGI and officer of Great Island Development, affiliates of Twenty Wayland, LLC, was in the audience. Also present was Brian Levey, Twenty Wayland's attorney.

      In a Dec. 3 guest column in the Wayland Town Crier Dougherty was friendly toward the ConCom, writing, "We appreciate the Commission's efforts." But in the same column he attacked the Wayland Historic District Commission (HDC) for issuing a Certificate of Hardship with conditions that the developer is litigating in Superior Court. He named the members of the HDC who issued the Certificate (omitting names of the remaining commissioners), a reference that some residents may find inappropriate and hostile.

      Twenty Wayland hopes to break ground by late spring.

      TD North Bank branch to be green-certified

      TD North plans to raze the Finagle-A-Bagel building on Route 20 and build a bank with two drive-through lanes. The bank building will be west of the current building, placing it in the center of the parcel and further from the steep slope leading to a storm drain on the east. As planned this new bank building could be Wayland's first LEED-certified building. LEED stands for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, which provides a standards for environmentally sustainable construction. The TD North Bank building will have a new septic system, a bike rack, photovoltaic elements on the roof, chain-link fences (and no outside dumpster) to discourage dumping of trash or snow towards the wetlands in the back, and a large rain garden (bioretention basin) in the back between the parking and the wetlands.

      -- Betty Salzberg

      RAYTHEON UNAWARE OF TOWN CENTER SCHEDULE

      Raytheon representatives say they were unaware that Twenty Wayland hopes to start work on the Town Center next spring, demolishing the 410,000-square-foot Raytheon building on the Route 20 site.

      This emerged during a Dec. 2 meeting with Wayland residents, part of the former tenant's Public Involvement Plan to inform people about progress in its years-long environmental cleanup. Town wells are near the site.

      Twenty Wayland and town officials have mentioned the hope of a spring start publicly since voters approved a zoning change on Nov. 19.

      Because of the site's contamination and Raytheon's cleanup, the developers must work with Raytheon to plan for construction. Deed restrictions placed on the property more than a decade ago need to be renegotiated.

      Other responses and information provided at the Dec. 2 meeting are inconsistent with recent remarks in the press by the developer and Wayland officials.

      1) In years past, the on-again, off-again negotiations for changing the deed restrictions were linked to the developer's project designs – the Town Center vision that has been heavily marketed in Wayland. A few months ago, the developer changed course in negotiations with Raytheon and pulled those detailed plans off the table. Twenty Wayland now seeks generic deed restrictions not tied to a specific project.

      2) Twenty Wayland has given Raytheon the impression that residential construction is not currently planned. Twenty Wayland has told Raytheon it is not sure if residential construction will occur. So the deed restrictions are staying in place for now until the developer decides on residential construction.

      3) Town Meeting voted more than a year ago to build a new wastewater plant on a different part of the property. A required land swap has not occurred. Raytheon says it has heard nothing from the town about this.

      4) Raytheon has seen no information about placement of the 9,990 gallons-per-day septic system the Town Center project was said to need during the Master Special Permit hearing.

      Raytheon needs accurate information to plan for such key items as testing after demolition of the main building and ensuring that the town's construction of the new wastewater plant and pipe does not disturb plumes and groundwater near remediation activities.

      Raytheon is required to continue groundwater monitoring in the years ahead. If the research/office building is demolished, existing test wells will need to be closed and reinstalled as the site is redeveloped. There are about 90 monitoring wells on the property.

      More background on last week's meeting is available at:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waylandvotersnetwork/

      To review Raytheon cleanup reports and correspondence, consult the PIP repositories at either the Board of Health or at the Wayland Public Library reference section. Or find documents at:
      www.ermne.com username: raytheon password: wayland (all lower case).

      The Raytheon PIP meeting was taped for rebroadcast by WayCAM and is expected to be available on demand this week: http://waycamtv.pegcentral.com/index.php

      -- Linda Segal

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