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WVN #78: Questions re. HS Project and School Budget

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  • waylandvoters2
    Wayland Voters Network April 4, 2005 Dear Wayland Voter, Upcoming meetings of interest: Mon., April 4 – The Board of Selectmen s agenda for the regular
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2005
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      Wayland Voters Network
      April 4, 2005

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Upcoming meetings of interest:

      Mon., April 4 – The Board of Selectmen's agenda for the regular
      Monday night meeting includes a public hearing 8:00-8:30pm on the
      proposed $2.3 million tax override to be on the ballot April 26.

      Tues., April 5 - The Finance Committee is holding a public hearing on
      the FY06 budget and $2.3M override, 7:30pm, Town Building.
      Information on the meeting and budget can be found at

      Mon., April 11 - School Committee public hearing on FY06 budget,
      Middle School Auditorium, 7:30pm.

      Wed., April 13 - League of Women Voters Candidates' Night, Middle
      School Auditorium, 7:30pm.

      The following report was prepared by WVN subscriber Tom Sciacca and
      treasurer Michael Short.


      This regular meeting of the School Committee consisted of two major
      items: a discussion of a survey to understand the January vote
      against the high school proposal, and a discussion of items to be cut
      in the event that the $2.3 million tax override ballot question to be
      voted on April 26 fails.

      SURVEY - This was a joint meeting with the High School Building
      Committee and led by HSBC chair Lea Anderson and member Dianne
      BladoN. They have been working with local resident Janet Correia,
      who has professional experience with surveys. Bladon presented a
      number of questions to the group:

      Should a survey be sent to everyone in town or only those who voted
      in the last couple of years? Or should it be sent to only a sample of
      voters or Townspeople? Should it be anonymous or should respondents
      be identifiable? Should it be a phone or a mail surve y?

      Bladon mentioned pros and cons for each option. She suggested that
      if the survey were not anonymous then perhaps the recipients should
      be a third party so respondents would not be concerned about who saw
      their responses. She explained that you can ask different kinds of
      questions in phone surveys (more open-ended) than you can in a paper

      School Committee members Bob Gordon and Heather Pineault both said
      that the survey should go to everyone.

      Following a period of rather unfocused discussion Bladon, with
      seeming frustration, asked "What is it we really want to know?"

      Gordon responded that he wants to know if people would vote for the
      project as proposed in January if it's guaranteed that the Town would
      not proceed without state reimbursement.

      HSBC member Joe Lewin said, "I would ask people what price point they
      wanted to spend."

      Others objected that citizens would have no basis for choosing a
      price point, but Lewin, who has extensive construction experience,
      said people pick price points for construction projects all the time
      without having expert knowledge.

      Correia interjected that some people she had spoken with just thought
      the project was too expensive, regardless of tax impact. But HSBC
      member Eric Sheffels, the Fincom appointee, responded: "Should we
      just go out and ask the - excuse my words - Great Unwashed what we
      should cut?"

      Finally Pineault said she just wants to know the basics: whether it
      was the uncertainty of state reimbursement or the scope of the
      proposal that was the issue. School Committee member Fred Knight
      agreed, saying the survey should include just a few questions, rather
      than the dozen or more that others seemed to support.

      Although there was no clear outcome of the discussion, Anderson
      summed up by saying her group should take another pass at the survey
      with the comments they had just received.

      At that point the floor was opened for comment from the SRO crowd of
      public observers. A sampling:

      -- You need to consider the context. The high school isn't the only
      project. Some people want a new library. Some want more
      conservation land. Some want other things.

      -- The Building Committee started with a lack of trust. The first
      news was about people being excluded.

      -- I'd like to see a project done as soon as possible, before
      reimbursement is known, but the voters aren't gamblers.

      -- You need to get people to focus on the high school project despite
      the current operational override question.

      -- Wayland has never done a statistically valid survey. Don't waste
      time on a survey, but realize that the people have to feel good about
      the process of dealing with the high school buildings.

      -- The design was good, but there were no priorities. Some people
      saw the plan as imprudent. Cost is going to be a huge concern. You
      say that voters lacked information; that isn't necessarily so.

      -- You need to have more than a wish list from school
      administrators. The people support demonstrated academic needs --
      new facilities for science and math, for example.

      -- You talk only to yourselves. Forget the survey and get out and
      talk with the community. Meetings like this are as important as any

      -- You say you have $23,000 left from the $355,000 authorized by Town
      Meeting. The voters authorized funds for design work and planning.
      How can the money now be spent for a survey?

      -- "I'm terribly worried about the committee's isolation." You need
      to know what the people want and win their trust in a process.
      Solicit public input in any way a resident might wish.

      -- With one exception I saw no sign that the suggestions made by the
      public during your meetings showed up in the design. The exception
      was the protest of the Charena Farms neighborhood, and that came late
      because nobody asked these abutters earlier about the effect on them.

      -- The committee didn't push back hard enough on the consultants to
      delete unessential things.

      HSBC member Cindy Lombardo, commenting on the large and diverse
      gathering of citizens, asked for opinions on the question posed
      earlier by SC member Bob Gordon: Would you vote now for design funds
      for rebuilding the high school, with the contingency that building
      would not proceed if Wayland fails to receive state reimbursement?
      The yes vote from the two committees was nearly unanimous. There
      were only a handful of yes votes from the public. Most hands went up
      in opposition.

      BUDGET REDUCTION PLAN - Superintendent Gary Burton presented his plan
      for dealing with the contingency of a $1.5 million reduction in the
      school budget (from about $27.4 million) for FY06 (beginning in July
      2005). The override would lead to a total tax increase of at least
      8.5% next year if passed. The Finance Committee is concerned that
      voters might not approve it on April 26, and has asked every
      department to come up with a list of cuts to be made in that event.
      Burton's list, which he termed "difficult and painful," includes
      elimination of all spring sports at the middle school, all freshman
      sports at the high school, the entire elementary instrumental music
      program, and PE teachers at the high school next year. At the
      elementary schools art, music, and PE could go from 40 to 30
      minutes. Technical Education (formerly known as Industrial Arts)
      could be eliminated at the middle school and the teacher eliminated.

      With respect to academics, however, Burton said, "We've tried to
      protect the heart and soul of our schools which is reading, writing,
      and arithmetic." At the high school, for example, 50 academic
      teachers would only be reduced by one, to 49.

      In total, about 16 teaching positions could be eliminated. It was
      unclear, however, how many actual layoffs would occur, since the
      school website currently lists about that same number of open
      positions in its recruiting section. Only one or two support staff
      would be eliminated, since support staff would on occasion be used in
      place of more expensive teachers in this scenario.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your
      friends and neighbors in Wayland. If they want to receive their own
      copy, they can send an email to waylandvoters@... and they will
      be signed up for the listserv. Or, they can sign themselves up by
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      mail confirming the subscription.

      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer
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