WVN #48 Selling the High School Proposal: Who Pays?
- Wayland Voters Network
November 23, 2004
Dear Wayland Voter,
For a lively look at two dozen citizens presenting their case against
certain design features of the proposed high school project because
of impacts on their neighborhood, be sure to watch or tape the
broadcast of the Nov. 18 meeting of the High School Building
Committee. As one participant said later, this was democracy in
action, "and democracy can be a little messy at times."
The tape will air on the Wayland cable channel Wednesday, Nov. 24,
SELLING THE HIGH SCHOOL PROPOSAL: WHO PAYS?
The following information was provided by Cherry Karlson, president
of the Wayland PTO Board.
Last week at their separate meetings, four Wayland school PTOs
considered a proposal by a parent member to change the organization's
bylaws so that PTO resources could be used to support political
issues. The Loker, Happy Hollow and Middle School PTOs all voted
against the proposal, nearly unanimously. The Claypit PTO had an
informal vote, also against; a formal vote will be held next week.
The individual school PTO votes are non-binding, meant to advise the
PTO Board (consisting of the four PTO presidents). The PTO Board
meets Dec. 16 and will hold a binding vote on the proposal. The PTO
has been advised by its accountant not to support this initiative.
The following report on the Nov. 15 regular meeting of the School
Committee (SC) was prepared by WVN subscriber Tom Sciacca.
High School Proposal Update Superintendent Gary Burton reported
that $57.3 million had been decided upon as the estimated total cost
to be presented to the town. The High School Building Committee
(HSBC) decided not to revise the program requirements specified by
the school administration as a way to reduce the cost of the proposed
high school reconstruction.
There was a lengthy discussion on selling the high school proposal to
voters between now and the Special Election/Town Meeting on January
25/27. "What is our role as School Committee members in this
communication process?" asked member Heather Pineault.
Chair Lori Frieling suggested members use their private mailing
lists, and write pieces in the Town Crier. Also, town signboards
will be used and coffees will be held. And there will be a town-wide
mailing from an HSBC-associated group that will use private funds.
(Under state campaign finance laws public money may not be used to
advocate a position on a ballot question.)
Superintendent Burton exhorted the School Committee: "You should be
loud and active advocates for this project."
"You have to spoon feed people if you want this to go through," said
Later Burton reminded the committee, "You have the budget and you can
communicate with the public as you see fit." (Burton did not specify
which line item in the budget includes funds for this purpose, nor
how much is budgeted.)
The group decided to submit "full pieces from the School Committee"
to the Town Crier for the Dec. 9, Jan. 6 and Jan. 20 issues. Members
Jeff Dieffenbach and Fred Knight offered to draft the guest opinion
The question was raised as to whether opponents of the proposal could
demand an email list used by the group. It went unanswered.
Knight (SC representative on the HSBC) reported that a near final
version of the eight-page town-wide mailing is ready. The group
debated whether to use black and white or much more costly four-color
printing, but came to no immediate conclusion. (It's not clear why
the SC was debating the design and cost of the mailing if it is to be
privately funded by a separate advocacy group.)
Member Bob Gordon opined, "We should focus on getting to our base we
should get absentee ballots in the hands of everybody. There aren't
that many undecideds. We should flood the damn Town Meeting There
should be babysitting in every school, not just Happy Hollow." (The
night last November's Town Meeting voted to appropriate $355,000 for
the HSBC to come up with a plan, free babysitting was provided in the
Happy Hollow gym.)
Knight added that Wayland High School Principal Charlie Ruopp is
working on identifying all college students who are still registered
voters in Wayland.
On Nov. 29 a meeting is scheduled with the School Committee and the
Selectmen, Finance Committee, and a few state officials to discuss
the high school proposal. This meeting will be aimed at updating
other major Town boards.
Substantial discussion went into a choice of meeting room and
arrangement of tables to make it clear that this is NOT a fourth
public forum - it is focused on other boards, not the public. (But
it is a public meeting and presumably will include a public comment
period. It is tentatively scheduled for 7:30pm, large hearing room,
first floor Town Building, Monday, Nov. 29.)
Wayland Schools Will Fail This shocking statement from
Superintendent Gary Burton came as part of a presentation by
Assistant Superintendent Wayne Ogden on Wayland's status under the
federal No Child Left Behind Act. Readers may have noticed with
bemusement the media reports that Weston schools have already failed,
and only seven days after they were named the best in the state in
Boston magazine! Wayland, Burton assured the School Committee, is
sure to follow suit.
The explanation lies in the fact that under the law, all schools in
the country must reach a 100% pass rate for all students by 2014.
Between now and then they must meet an "Adequate Yearly Progress"
requirement. But it is impossible for schools that already rate very
high to meet the yearly progress requirements. Wayland now rates 95%
in language skills and 90% in math, so either 100% or some real
practical limit will be reached well before 2014, "progress" will
cease, and Wayland will fail - just like Weston. If Weston fails
twice more its schools will be taken over by the state, because under
the law the state will be assumed to be able to do a better job
running the schools than the town.
Selling Land In other business, the committee received a request
from Finance Committee Chair Bob Lentz to consider the possibility of
selling unused school land. Burton cautioned the committee, "You
should be absolutely certain before you give up land under your
control." He advised the SC to offer to swap the Alpine Road parcel
for other land suitable for a potential future school, and not to
consider giving up the larger Orchard Lane site. He advised against
giving up any land unless it would be swapped for another parcel.
After hearing Burton the committee showed little enthusiasm for
following up on Lentz's inquiry.
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove, Chair
Michael Short, Treasurer