WVN #78: Questions re. HS Project and School Budget
- 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.
SCHOOL COMMITTEE 3/28/2005: HIGH SCHOOL PROJECT AND FYO6 BUDGET
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
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
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.
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove, Chair
Michael Short, Treasurer