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WVN #48 Selling the High School Proposal: Who Pays?

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  • waylandvoters2
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 23, 2004
      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,


      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.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer
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