WVN #459: Praise for superintendent/House OKs NStar bill
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The School Committee is pleased with Paul Stein's performance during his first year as superintendent.
Also in this newsletter: The Massachusetts House has passed a bill, pushed by Wayland's Tom Conroy and other representatives from affected towns, aimed at curbing clear cutting by NStar that left some neighborhoods denuded.
SUPERINTENDENT'S FIRST YEAR CALLED EXCELLENT START
The School Committee devoted most of its June 25 meeting to evaluating Paul Stein's first year as superintendent.
The initial consensus was that Stein had done an excellent job for a first year in a new system and that he would be able to build on his newly acquired information about the Wayland Schools to make further improvements. Also discussed: the use of buses for the full-day kindergarten and the closing of off-ledger accounts.
The evaluation process follows this sequence: First, in the June 25 meeting responses were given publicly by the School Committee to a series of questions about Stein's performance. On July 9, Barbara Fletcher, the chair of the School Committee, will distribute a summary of these comments for further public review. Then, on July 24, the evaluation will be finalized at another public meeting of the school committee.
During this first meeting, committee members suggested enhancements that could be implemented in following years, building on Stein's experience in his first year.
Among suggestions were giving time for teachers to think more broadly and creatively rather than focusing on just the next day's plan, developing age-appropriate technology, specifying skills teachers should have, and specifying what is best taught by computer and what by teachers. It was questioned whether money could be saved by efficient use of computers in instruction. However, it was also noted that Stein was in the forefront of technology use in education and that his efforts have already borne fruit.
In the Health and Wellness evaluation category, it was stated that more than adequate progress had been made. Suggestions for further work included moving "wellness" to science and social studies and having early assessment of vulnerability and resilience. It was noted that Stein had already handled some difficult situations very well.
More work is needed on the Achievement Gap, the disparity between the performance of black and hispanic students versus whites and Asians. The School Committee asked to revisit this issue with Stein and articulate needs. This long-standing national problem has been a challenge in Wayland for many years.
It was noted that Stein had inherited a problem with the mismanagement of revolving and other off-ledger accounts. This is being corrected and was addressed in more detail later in the meeting. School committee members remarked that Stein was responsible for a cultural shift that was much more transparent than previously and that this was a work in progress.
A request for more transparency in the process of teacher evaluation was made.
The focus on more global culture as exemplified by the teaching of Chinese was appreciated.
The next section of Stein's evaluation concerned his relationship with the School Committee.
The SC asked for more interim reports. They remarked, however, that Stein had a true open door and they appreciated his effort for communication. They also approved of Stein's work on long-range plans.
More information from staff and teachers was requested. A general culture of feedback was the goal. The SC would like more presentations from staff. More communication among administrators was requested.
It was noted that Stein had made efforts to attend other events in Wayland and that he related to the local boards and the school community.
Next year, the bus schedule will be modified so that buses are used more efficiently so that rides should on the whole be shorter. This will be accomplished by no longer paying for any buses which only are used for full day kindergarten afternoon transport. Instead, four buses will be used for both morning and afternoon kindergarten and two for full day at Claypit. The result will be one less bus in cost.
The current enrollment for kindergarten for next year is 105 full-day and 80 traditional. Parents must pay a fee for full day kindergarten. There will be 21 children in each full-day class and 20 in each traditional class. There is also a waiting list for full-day kindergarten.
Principals' discretionary accounts, student activity accounts and other off-ledger accounts have been closed or are being closed. Thanks in part to citizen involvement, it has been recognized that these were not correctly managed. For example, donations to a particular school should have been handled by the town treasurer.
One example discussed was the so-called "Lost Books Account" at each school. When a student loses a book, the student's reimbursement was put into a lost books account. But the account was not used for book replacements. Instead it was used for such things as parent meetings and retirement parties.
Principals thought they could use any so-called discretionary accounts for arbitrary school-related expenses. Now there is a centralized procedure for spending monies earmarked for student activities and other purposes.
An auditing procedure has been initiated to study how these off-ledger accounts were managed up to 2011. It was agreed that an independent financial review was needed. The school committee wants to communicate with the newly-formed town audit committee that will supervise the audit. The SC wants to agree on the scope. Exactly what will be looked at? One issue was which years: only 2010 and 2011 or should it go further into the past? Should the decision to close Loker except for kindergarden be reviewed, for example? Also, recommendations for future practice are needed.
The School Committee will review a written draft of Stein's evaluation in public session on Monday, July 9. They will also continue discussing school accounting procedures. The meeting agenda is available at:
-- Betty Salzberg
HOUSE PASSES NSTAR AMENDMENT
In the wake of NStar's recent clear-cutting of vegetation in the utility's right of way through private properties in Wayland, Framingham, Natick and Sudbury, state representatives Tom Conroy, Chris Walsh, Tom Sannicandro and David Linsky filed a joint amendment which passed on June 27 requiring utility companies to file their vegetation paring plans with the state Department of Public Utilities, which will review plans every four years, work with the companies to modify the proposals, and hold public hearings prior to plan approval.
House Bill #4225 has been sent to the state Senate for action. The amendment, section 54 of that bill, reads as follows:
"SECTION 54. The department of public utilities shall promulgate rules and regulations requiring transmission companies to file and the department to approve vegetation management plans. Said plans shall also be filed with any affected municipality. Said plans shall include landscape management provisions which encourage to the greatest extent possible, the use of native species plants and shall consider local terrain including soil conditions and visual impacts. Prior to department approval, affected municipalities may comment on said plans. Municipalities may file a complaint with the department if the transmission company does not comply with the terms of vegetation management plan.
"Vegetation management plans shall be reviewed every four years and prior to approval the department shall hold a public hearing. Transmission companies shall provide sixty days notice to affected abutters of the transmission lines, and said department, of actions to be performed pursuant to the vegetation management plan approved pursuant to this section. This notice shall also be sent to municipal officials of affected communities including but not limited to elected officials, selectmen, planning board members, and conservation commission members.
Transmission companies shall be exempt from the requirements of this paragraph in preparation for an imminent emergency event.
"In the course of maintaining reliability of power along transmission line right of ways (sic), including easements covering private and public property, each transmission company shall restore deleteriously affected vegetation in the form of replanting of trees and other vegetation and shall complete stump grindings wherever trees have been cut to the stump such that the company partially restores the pre-vegetation management activity property value of affected property owners.
"This paragraph shall apply only to activity that has occurred after January 1, 2012 and prior to January 1, 2014 or the approval of a company's first vegetation management plan filed in accordance with this section."
The Wayland Board of Selectmen plans to discuss NStar's tree removal program and mitigation plans at its July 9 meeting in preparation for meeting the following week with NStar officials. NStar officials will appear on July 18 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss concerns about potential future impacts such as erosion, wellhead and wetlands protection, mitigation pledges with individual property owners, proposed use of chemical herbicides, as well as the possibility of work beneath other transmission lines in Wayland.
-- Linda Segal
POLICE ALERT ON VEHICLE THEFT
In the wake of several recent incidents, Wayland police issued an alert about thefts from vehicles: "We are requesting you lock your vehicles, remove personal items such as GPS, cash, coins, cellular telephones and remove your keys to your vehicles."
A number of incidents, but not all, were in the Winthrop Road, Winthrop Terrace and Trinity Place neighborhood. Most of the cars were unlocked.
Two cars were stolen recently, one of them with the key in the ignition.
In WVN #457, regarding the Intermunicipal Agreement with Sudbury to increase shared recreation services, WVN reported: ".......The new agreement was approved by the selectmen and signed by (town Administrator Fred) Turkington last November, before the Commission knew anything about it....."
Based on an email provided by the town administrator, it appears he copied the Recreation Commission on the new agreement after town building closed on Nov. 9, 2011 (Friday Nov. 11 Veterans Day holiday), making it impossible for the elected board to meet Open Meeting Law posting requirements to discuss it before the selectmen voted approval on Monday, Nov. 14.
Thus the recreation commissioners were informed, though not in time to take action. The commissioners have voiced objections at various public meetings since then.
MEETING SCHEDULE (all in town building)
Monday, July 9:
Operational Review Committee: 6:15 p.m.
Selectmen: 6:30 p.m. (public comment 6:45 p.m.)
Personnel Board: 6:50 p.m.
Board of Public Works: 7 p.m.
School Committee: 7 p.m.
Finance Committee: 7 p.m., agenda includes discussion of FY12 closing of accounts and FY14 budget process. Links to various documents about OPEB, are available at
Tuesday, July 10:
Permanent Municipal Building Committee: 6:30 p.m.(discussing proposed DPW facility)
Board of Public Works: 6:30 p.m.
Community Preservation Committee: 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 11:
Wastewater Management District Commission: 7:30 p.m.
Board of Health: 7:30 p.m.
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor