WVN #477: Too much emphasis on class size?
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Like his predecessor, School Superintendent Paul Stein believes that too much emphasis can be placed on class size.
Also in this newsletter: Flu vaccine update, town election, NStar hearing, Finnerty's hearing continues
STEIN: TEACHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN CLASS SIZE
Many people would say that current School Superintendent Paul Stein and his predecessor, Gary Burton, are very different people. But they agree on at least one thing: the overriding emphasis that many parents and ratings entities place on class sizes as a determinant of school quality is misplaced.
In response to a question from WVN, Stein, in words nearly identical to those used in the past by Burton, said that the size of a class is far less important than the quality of the people in front of that class. That reasoning led him to include cutting two elementary teachers as part of the list of savings that would be required to reach the Fiscal 2014 "FinCom Allocation Budget" of $33.2 million, rather than his "Superintendent's Recommended Budget" of $33.46 million.
The two other budgets he laid out were what he called a true Maintenance of Effort budget of $33.7 million for reference only, and a 10% Cut budget as requested by the FinCom of $30.115 million. See WVN # 476 for further explanation of the four budgets.
His comments were in the context of a budget forum which led off the School Committee meeting of Jan. 7. Although Stein led the session with an abbreviated version of his budget presentation as previously made to the School Committee, the forum was primarily an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposals.
Two former members of the School Committee opined that the proposed budget was too modest. Jeff Dieffenbach said "town finances are the healthiest I've ever seen." He said the Committee should seek to expand programs rather than make any cuts. They should ask for more money, he maintained. Louis Jurist agreed. "You aimed too low," he said. He compared Wayland's cost per pupil favorably with Weston's, although in the past he has objected to such comparisons because Weston is the richest town in the state. We shouldn't be chipping away at the heart and soul of our town, he said. We should not cut coaching positions, especially for swimming, he went on. He also advocated raising athletic fees.
Others, however, would have preferred more cuts. Donna Bouchard, one of the leaders of the successful efforts to force return of excess cash to taxpayers, said they should be looking for more efficiencies not directly impacting students. She suggested, for example, consolidation of some functions, such as finance, with the analogous non-school town departments.
One of the clear lines of disagreement was over what criteria would constitute a financial problem. The two advocates for increased spending pointed to the comfortable margin between current budgets and Wayland's tax levy limit, meaning there is no need for a Proposition 2 1/2 override vote in the foreseeable future. But Anette Lewis called the levy limit "irrelevant." These advocates for financial responsibility referred to the heavy financial pressures on residents as the nation remains in the grip of the "Great Recession" from 2008. "Seniors are stretched," Lewis said.
If a Proposition 2 1/2 override were required it would mean a town-wide vote, while budget approvals under that level only require votes by Town Meeting. Many more citizens participate in town wide votes, while the limited participation in Town Meeting makes it easier for particular interest groups to pack the meeting and promote their agendas.
At a meeting with the Finance Committee on Jan. 10, the School Committee presented its requests for capital equipment for FY14. The capital budget is separate from the operating budget discussed above. The requests fell into two broad categories: building repairs and improvements, and technology infrastructure upgrades.
Building repairs include replacement of floor tiles at Claypit Hill (an ongoing project), replacement of classroom furniture at Claypit and Happy Hollow, and a further appropriation for the replacement of the Middle School roof. Building upgrades include bathroom renovations and a new nurses' office at Happy Hollow. Technology work includes expanding the number of access points in the elementary schools. Most of these are part of multi-year projects, spread over years largely to avoid financial hits in any one year.
However, the FinCom asked the School Committee to consider pulling in some work planned for future years because some anticipated non-school projects will not be ready for the upcoming Town Meeting, freeing up funding capacity. In addition, there are some economies in doing the work all at once. For example, some of the floor tiles at Claypit were done last year, more were planned for this year, and the rest would have been done next year. Finishing the job this year would save money. Technology upgrades are an ongoing process as technology is always advancing, so doing more this year means more of the system is up to date and might allow for doing less in a future year if money is tighter.
-- Tom Sciacca
FLU VACCINE UPDATE
As WVN reported on Friday, the Wayand Health Department has no more injectable flu vaccine. Additional supplies have been ordered and are expected to arrive by Jan. 28.
Mist vaccine is also on order; the arrival date is unknown.
You can call the Department at 508-358-3616 if you want to be called when vaccine is available. In the meantime, officials recommend trying to obtain vaccinations from department store, pharmacy or grocery locations.
Reminders about recommendations: frequent hand washing and/or use of hand sanitizer, coughing into your elbow rather than your hands, and staying home from work or school when sick. CDC recommends that people with influenza-like illness remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100° F [37.8°C]), or signs of a fever without the use of a fever-reducing medication.
FINNERTY'S HEARING CONTINUES ON TUESDAY
Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 7:30 pm the Planning Board will consider additional traffic data on the proposed CVS and mixed use building at the Finnerty's restaurant site. At its meeting last week, the Board discussed reducing the required number of parking spaces as well as allowing parking within the residential zone. No decisions were made.
Expansion plans for additional CVS sites have encountered resistance. In Nantucket, CVS reportedly withdrew its application. The site was originally a grocery store, and another grocery store appears to be the new applicant.
LEARN HOW TO RUN FOR OFFICE
If you're thinking about running for office or managing a campaign, you're invited to a League of Women Voters of Sudbury workshop at 7 p.m. on Tuesday Jan. 15 (snow date Jan. 17). Location: Sudbury Town Hall, 322 Concord Rd.
Jason Tait of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance will discuss financial requirements. Sudbury officials will discuss procedures, many of which are the same for all Massachusetts towns. Residents of all towns are invited to the free Run For Office workshop.
Contact: Nancy Brumback, nancy.brumback@... or 978-440-8304.
375th ANNIVERSARY RECIPES
The celebration of Wayland's 375th anniversary beginning in mid-2013 will include publishing a cookbook, "375 Years and Still Cooking." You can suggest your favorite recipes for inclusion.
Forms with instructions and collection boxes are located at the Council on Aging office in the Town Building, the Wayland Public Library, and at Middlesex Bank in Cochituate.
Proceeds of the sale of the cookbook will be used for anniversary events.
Contact: Cyndi Miller, 508-655-7718
2013 ANNUAL TOWN ELECTION
Nomination papers are available at the Town Clerk's office in Wayland Town Building for residents interested in running for local municipal office. Candidates are required to have at least 50 valid signatures to be certified for nomination. The following offices will appear on the April 2 ballot; information about current office holders, who also would need to submit nomination papers should they seek re-election, is added on the right.
Town Clerk (3 yr term) Lois Toombs (in office since 2007)
Selectmen (3 yr) John Bladon (2010)
School Committee (3 yr) Shawn Kinney (2010)
Assessor (3 yr) Susan Rufo (2004)
Planning Board (5 yr) Ira Montague (2003)
Board of Health (3 yr) Arnold Soslow (2007)
Trust Funds (3 yr) Jared Hobson (2010)
(2) Library Trustees (3 yr) Anne Heller (2001), Thaddeus Thompson (2009)
(2) Public Works (3 yr) Michael Lowery (2011), Michael Wegerbauer (2010)
(2) Recreation (3 yr) Asa Foster (2010), Robert Virzi (2007)
Housing Authority (5 yr) Jacqueline Ducharme (2012)
TOWN MEETING WARRANT DEADLINE
Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 4:30 p.m. is the deadline to submit warrant articles to the Selectmen's office, including from petitioners, for the April 2013 Annual Town Meeting. Helpful hints regarding the process are available here:
By Tuesday's deadline, one must submit only the information asked for on the suggested one-page article form, with a minimum of 10 registered voters as signatories. Supporting comments can be submitted later.
NSTAR PUBLIC HEARING
The Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 7:15 p.m. to hear a proposal from NStar to install a new guy wire stub pole and anchor in the Stonebridge/Oak Hill Roads area, according to a legal ad that appeared in the Jan. 10 Wayland Town Crier, page B2. Presumably the documents about this are available in the selectmen's office.
In December, NStar's new community relations representative, Joanne O'Leary, sent the town administrator notification about the utility's plans to "install roadway access" (using gravel and other materials) beginning later in December in the same transmission line corridor (ROW 8-1) in the Oak Hill/Meadowview neighborhood where the utility stripped vegetation last spring.
NStar has deactivated the link to the online 2012 information it had posted for the proposed work, including plans showing where the roadways were to be constructed. O'Leary followed up this week to say that NStar is not planning to work in Wayland in January but instead is reviewing its 2013 "maintenance" plan. Yearly Operational Plans are usually subject to public comment periods once announced, which last year occurred in February and May.
The Oak Hill/Meadowview neighborhood was unaware of these recent NStar communications.
In the past, different NStar notification letters and emails have been received in different offices in Town Hall, so that there was no common repository of all the information received by the Town. Hopefully in 2013, with a new community relations liaison, communication between NStar and the Town - and among town boards, staff and the public - will go more smoothly.
In the wake of NStar's devastating defoliation of its ROW 8-1 corridor last June, which cut through many private residential properties, there was a petitioners' article at the Oct. 3 special Town Meeting seeking protective land clearing and tree removal legislation.
The Planning Board recommended the wording be reviewed further so it would have a better chance of being effective. Voters passed a motion to send the matter to a special temporary committee so a revised warrant article for the 2013 annual town meeting would be ready for submission by the Jan. 15 deadline.
The resulting Clearing, Grading and Protection of Specimen Trees Temporary Study Committee was posted to meet for the first time on Friday morning, January 11 at 8 a.m., but a quorum did not appear. The town planner has posted the same committee to meet on Monday, Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m. Both agendas say the committee will review the existing Stormwater and Land Disturbance By-Law.
-- Linda Segal
LOTTERY FOR RENTAL HOUSING AT TOWN CENTER
Twelve rental apartments classified as affordable will be constructed over retail spaces at the Wayland Town Center project on Route 20, with occupancy expected for June 2013. They will be one-bedroom units ranging in size from 887 to 1474 square feet costing $1,167 plus utilities per month. Among the eligibility requirements: one-person households with a maximum moderate income of $45,500 and two-person households with a maximum income of $52,000.
Applications are available at the Wayland Housing Authority, 106 Main Street. For more information, contact Katherine Provost at 508 655 6310 or kprovost@....
The deadline for submitting applications is Feb. 1, 2013.
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor