The SC met this evening to review the development and timeline of the strategic plan for our schools.  The 4 hour meeting started with a presentation of the best practices of goal setting, as well as clarification of what the roles & responsibilities are of a school committee and the Superintendent by MASC representative Dorothy Presser.  I think this was a fantastic idea because anyone who has not taken this course over the last 3 years could use a refresher in order to be the most effective SC member they can be. I took it when I was a candidate for SC in May 2015 and found it to be very informative. 

Following the MASC presentation was the summary of the Strategic Development timeline that was from 2014-2015 presented by the Superintendent, Dr. Kristan Rodriguez.  There were over 75 slides that were reviewed rather quickly because the SC members did get a copy of the presentation to review prior to the meeting.  I asked if copies could be available in the future for taxpayers since it is a public meeting. I was told by the Superintendent that I could get a copy at the meeting but I could not get a copy of the presentation before the meeting. I guess only the SC members can get a copy so that they can review it before the meeting; although it makes it very difficult to follow along and understand what is being discussed without having the ability to review information like the SC does. I’ll have to check into if that falls under opening meeting law requirements since the meeting & literature being discusses is not being held in executive session?  Perhaps they should be required to post a copy of the presentation on the agenda…  transparency can do wonders no?

So back to the Strategic Development timeline presentation.  It provided a clear view of all the work that was done, we are talking hundreds of hours.  But the question is, does the SC collectively feel that the Entry Findings are inclusive of the community input or is there a large number of taxpayers that have not had the opportunity to participate. There were brain storming sessions, a strategic plan committee, parent surveys, teachers input and other various ways that data was collected in effort to gather information to form a community vision for our schools. This vision was then transformed into a strategic plan to fulfill this vision.  The concern that the majority of SC members have – was that enough?  Did taxpayers without children have proper input? If they did, what method were they given to participate?   The school committee needs to be sure because if a large portion of taxpayers don’t share the community vision then it could be a big problem when it is time to go to town meeting and vote on the school budget. 

 

If you are a Groton or Dunstable taxpayer and would like to participate in my independent anonymous survey about the development of the strategic plan you can click on this link: G-D Strategic Plan Survey

 

Peter Cronin & Jennifer McKenzie clearly stated that they feel that they need to go back to the entry findings; they feel that there are a large number of people who may have been left out of the vetting process and it is important that be done first. Jeff Kubick, Stephanie Cronin & Alison Manugian were slightly more objective however still acknowledged their concerns that would result in going back to the entry findings as well.  Leslie Lathrop had a definite interest in reviewing how some of the curriculum came into play which again will bring you back to the entry findings. Jon Sjoberg was the only SC member that did not feel like he needed to go back to the entry findings as he was comfortable with the prior school committees efforts and does feel the entry findings were fully vested. He does however feel that additional review in the plan is needed.  My take – there is a large portion of taxpayers that do not have children that still need to be included in the community vision for our schools. It is the SC job to find a way to engage all demographics within the community and to increase transparency and communication.  

The Superintendent did propose that a vetting committee be formed to review and continue vetting as needed so that a draft of the strategic plan could be presented to the community in which further input could be received and the plan could be tweaked where needed like most plans are.  The school committee felt that as elected officials they should have first go at it.

The school committee will meet on August 29, 2015 at 6:30pm – 9:30pm for another public workshop at Prescott, first floor to begin a detailed view of the narrative and some data of the entry findings.  I commend the school committee for not taking the easy way out with a rubber stamp. They chose to spend many many, did I say many hours in reviewing the plan development and the strategic plan!  

This is time well spent… upon conclusion our SC should be able to stand strong, communicate with the community, advocate for our children and implement a strategic plan that will fulfill our community vision.   

 

The Groton Town Charter review is a great opportunity for our town.  We have the ability to review our goals from years past and see how they benefited our town and our schools. We are able to take part in creating a town government that would be custom tailored to our community vision.  A vision that could preserve town traditions, establish new goals or perhaps reinforce our communities desire to hold our schools as an equal priority in our town.

An interesting article about an experts opinion on how a charter can sculpt a government to fit a towns unique needs can be read at this link:   Groton Herald Charter Review Article

After reading the article sit back and think about the unique opportunity we have before us.

Imagine a charter that included a general financial goal that would ask our boards and officials to find balance between our municipal and school spending. A general financial goal that would express the desire to uphold our long time reputation of having an exceptional school district and the quality of our town as an equal priority. Establishing a requirement for a detailed explanation to be presented at town meeting with the budgets that could clarify why there is not an equal annual increases between the municipal and school budgets so that tax payers are able to make a informed decision on where they want their money spent and vote accordingly.

The next Charter Review Committee public meeting is on July 22, 2015 between 7pm-9pm. The agenda can be found at this link:  Groton Town Charter Review Agenda

Get inspired, be creative, stay informed and get involved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received our tax bill today and I could not help but notice the amount we pay in property taxes. I know there are Groton residents that pay more and less in property taxes than we do.  What I don’t know is what my family is buying for our $13,922.60 in property taxes for fiscal 2015 and what has our money been buying our family over the last several years?

I’m gonna be honest, this is the first time I actually sat down, thought about it and looked into it. I mean why would I right? I didn’t wake up from my complacent slumber until the school budget crisis hit the news. I was content working my gazillion hours, being a wife, active parent and volunteering throughout the community.  My little world was all pink hearts, rainbows and unicorns… were you in a parallel world like mine?

I reviewed all the town budgets over the last few years and the Town of Groton Five Year Budget Projection in the FY 2016 Town Manager’s Operating Budget. I compared actual spending, appropriated funds and the decrease/increase for both municipal and schools. We know that the school budgets have not been able to support our schools which has caused loss of curriculum, staffing and increased class sizes.

A full list of school cuts can be seen at this link:  Data On School Cuts

But what I was wondering was, why did we allow so much to be cut from our schools?  Was there no money available to give to the schools or municipal over the last several years due to the economy? Has the schools been an equal priority for our town when establishing budgets?

Per our GDRSD policies, an adequate school budget that supports the educational welfare of our children in our schools should be the priority and that is the budget that should be presented to the tax payers to vote on.  Providing any other kind of budget negates the first priority provided in the GDRSD policies.

Let me say flat-out, this post is NOT an effort to find fault with past practices of any committees or town employee. I believe in reviewing the road traveled, understanding the route taken and then being able to make an educated choice as to which future road to take that will better our schools and the community as a whole. It is all about being fiscally responsible with our tax money.

I comprised a spread sheet utilizing the numbers provided on the town budgets found on the Town of Groton website. This spread sheet provides a municipal & school operating budget comparison from 2011-2016 and their annual increase/decrease.

Link to spread sheet:   Groton Town & School Budget Comparison

Link to Town of Groton Five Year Budget Projections through 2017:   Five Year Budget Projections

It seems to me that our schools have not been a priority in our town for several years. It was not until 2015 that the schools received a financial transfusion to avoid another wave of devastating cuts. I think that we have been fiscally irresponsible (myself included as a taxpayer) in allowing our the municipal budget to increase at an unsustainable rate at the expense of our schools. As our general government grows we have continued to cut curriculum, staffing and increase class sizes in our schools.

Take 10-15 seconds out of your day to contact your Board Of Selectmen before November 2015 and let them know if you feel that our schools should be an EQUAL priority in our town.

Board of Selectmen Email:  selectmen@townofgroton.org
Please note that your emails are received by the Town Manager and/or Executive Assistant for distribution and action. 
Stay informed, stay involved and have a voice.