WVN #525: School reconfiguration/More selectmen discord
Dear Wayland Voter,
Residents discussed several ideas about reconfiguring Wayland’s elementary schools.
Also in this newsletter: An Open Meeting Law complaint continues to bring discord to Board of Selectmen meetings.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL RECONFIGURATION
School Superintendent Paul Stein, speaking for the advisory committee he has had looking into the options for elementary school building use, laid out the possibilities to a Loker School cafeteria room packed with school parents. Opening it up to questions after laying out four possible options, the questions and comments followed a common theme: how does this affect me?
Stein's Powerpoint presentation for the Sept. 30 forum is here:
A more detailed explanation is here:
Stein made it clear that a return to the old scheme of three K-5 schools equitably serving well-defined geographic districts was not possible. Two K-5 options were laid out, either with 18 classrooms in each building, or with one smaller school housing only 12 classrooms while Claypit would house 24. Both options would unfairly benefit Claypit Hill, which is about 50% larger than the other two schools, while the latter would unfairly treat the smaller school which would operate well under capacity. (Whether this was a benefit or a handicap was subject to debate.) In either case there would be new "buffer zones," areas between schools where the school administration would assign incoming students to whichever school had the most capacity in that particular year. Those areas would therefore have no defined "neighborhood school".
The two other schemes would either add grade one to Loker, so that with kindergarten and grade one it would become an Early Childhood Learning Center, or make one of the smaller schools into a grade four and five school, essentially a pre-middle school. Each option has pros and cons, as laid out in Stein's presentation. No option is educationally superior, according to School Committee member (and member of the advisory committee) Ellen Grieco. The straight K-5 options would cost about $200,000 more per year to operate than the other options, which would each cost about $435,000. Stein emphasized that the dollar estimates are very rough.
The preference among the parents was clearly for neighborhood schools, and the cost difference was irrelevant for most. One comment to that effect got loud applause. As one parent put it, "budget differences are chicken feed compared to the value of my time" in driving a kid to a school further from home. But the buffer zones and inequitable size distributions brought parents up short. One of the first questions was from a parent who wanted to know if Oak Street was likely to be in a buffer zone. Stein answered that they hadn't yet looked at such details, but others in other neighborhoods asked the same question later.
Stein explained in response to a question that any change from the current configuration would add money to the budget. He also commented that he would never recommend totally ignoring the cost, despite the sentiments of many parents present. He also explained, however, that the current overcrowding at Happy Hollow was a major motivation for considering a move. A parent’s question of how much money had been saved by the 2008 decision by the former administration to close Loker went unanswered, despite the presence of several School Committee members from that time period.
One parent commented that we are in a very fiscally aware time in our town. We are in a minority as school parents in town, and need to organize around what we want, the parent said. About 30% of Wayland households have school-aged children. Another said there is an environment in town where financial “strappedness” is a strong force. We need to be strong, that parent said.
Joe Nolan, who introduced himself as a school parent as well as a selectman, said "you need to go to Town Meeting to enforce your desires."
But despite the clear preferences of the parents for the most expensive options, Stein concluded by assuring them that any option would work. The administration would work to make any option successful. For example, if the Early Childhood Learning Center were chosen, they would make it the best early education center in the state.
Stein and Grieco asked for feedback. "We read every email", Stein said. Email addresses are posted on their website:
-- Tom Sciacca
ANOTHER CONTENTIOUS SESSION ON TURKINGTON DISMISSAL
The firing of the town administrator set off volleys of criticism and defense along often predictable political lines. But some residents called for finding common ground and moving on.
In one widely circulated letter Ramah Hawley implored residents to “....care about all your fellow Waylanders and treat everyone with respect and dignity...really listen to others and embrace their concerns...keep the beautiful character of Wayland alive.”
If The Oct. 2 Board of Selectmen meeting is any guide, there is scant evidence of progress on that front.
The Board responded to a resident’s Open Meeting Law complaint by revisiting the motion and 3-1 vote of Aug. 26 to terminate Town Administrator Fred Turkington’s contract. The idea was to explain and discuss the thinking behind the vote and then ask for another vote. Complainant Kim Reichelt, who asserted that the original motion was too vague, had already rejected the response even before it was acted on.
The selectmen’s Oct. 2 do-over became yet another chance for the two minority selectmen to attack the other three.
Vice Chairman Tony Boschetto, who had introduced the motion for termination, began by expanding on the brief explanation he offered on Aug. 26 that the town should move in a “new direction.” He called for “responsible budgeting, prudent financial reporting and solid business practices such that we can fund services and manage the tax burdens for our citizens.”
Boschetto said it was logical for selectmen to expect a discussion of Turkington’s contract on Aug. 26 because on Aug. 7 Turkington had reminded the Board that the pact would be up for review with a Sept. 9 deadline. Boschetto said he then examined the contract. As he had said before, his motion called for termination “without cause” as the most cost-effective way of ending Turkington’s employment with minimal legal risk. Previous Wayland terminations for cause resulted in protracted and expensive settlements.
On Aug. 26 Nolan and Correia angrily said they were caught unaware and unprepared when Turkington’s future was brought up. However, Page 2 of the town administrator’s contract, under Compensation, called for another salary increase to over $156,000 by his Sept. 19 anniversary date, pending a satisfactory performance review.
Boschetto referred to Turkington’s own words published days after his contract was terminated:
“....Differences of opinion over management philosophy and style and conflicts over the boundaries between administration and policy of the administration often occur in local government between town administrators and elected officials. The governing board has the right to choose a professional manager with whom it shares a vision for the future direction of the community...”
Boschetto said he acted without consulting other selectmen in private, which would have been a violation of the Open Meeting Law.
Selectmen Joe Nolan and Steve Correia heatedly attacked Boschetto. Correia called the re-do a “sham.”
The two said they couldn’t believe that Boschetto hadn’t consulted with Selectmen Doug Leard and Ed Collins.
Boschetto said, “I did not discuss my motion with any other member of the Board of Selectmen.” During his eight years in Wayland, Turkington had become a controversial figure because of his heavy-handed management style.
Nolan and Correia again praised Turkington’s performance, saying he had brought efficiencies and savings. (Boschetto was elected after successfully petitioning Town meeting for property tax relief that the Board majority at that time opposed.)
Following special legal counsel’s advice on countering the Open Meeting Law complaint, the selectmen then voted again. This time it was 3-2. Correia had stormed out of the Aug. 26 meeting before the vote.
The discussion was recorded by WayCAM. Fast forward to elapsed time 00:31:45:
COMMUNITY FLU CLINICS
Community Flu Clinics will be held for all residents age 6 months and up on the following dates:
Wednesday October 9, 3-7p.m.
Wednesday October 30, 3-7p.m.
Wednesday November 13, 3-7p.m.
Injectable and Mist Seasonal Flu Vaccine will be available as well as a limited supply of
Pneumococcal and Tdap (Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis) Vaccine for those who meet the criteria set forth by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The vaccination is free but please bring your insurance card so the Health Department can bill your insurance company for administrative fees.
These clinics will be held in the Large Hearing Room of the Wayland Town Building.
If you have questions about a Flu clinic date or a vaccine please contact the Wayland Health
Department at 508-358-0215 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
ROUTE 30 ROAD RECONSTRUCTION
The Highway Division has announced that Wayland’s Route 30 (Commonwealth Road) will be repaved this month from Winter Street (Wayland Nursing Home) traveling eastbound to the
Natick line (Loker Conservation and Recreation Area). Work will occur at night for about two weeks beginning on Oct. 14. This project is state-funded. Drivers are advised to reduce speed and exercise caution.
All meetings take place in Wayland Town Building unless otherwise noted. Posted agendas are available by clicking on the date in the calendar: http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/index
MONDAY, Oct. 7:
School Committee, 6:30 p.m. Agenda includes public forum to discuss FY15 planning
Selectmen, 7 p.m. Agenda includes town administrator search committee, dates for the spring 2014 annual town meeting, FY14 goals and priorities, executive session minutes discussion and possible release, Glezen Lane traffic
Finance Committee, 7 p.m. Agenda includes special town meeting articles, free cash certification process, capital projects balances, FY15 budgets, OML violation
Permanent Municipal Building Committee, 7 p.m. Agenda includes proposed DPW facility
Board of Public Works, 7 p.m. Agenda includes DPW facility, NStar tree trimming
TUESDAY, Oct. 8:
Economic Development Committee, 7 p.m.
Zoning Board of Appeals, 8:20 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 9:
Senior Tax Relief Committee, 8 a.m. (morning), Council on Aging
Conservation Commission, 7:30 p.m. Agenda includes public hearings for Happy Hollow Wells Chemical Feed Building and chlorine analyzer, access roadway improvements to Transfer Station (and proposed DPW facility).
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor