Present is Jeff Kubick, Peter Cronin, Leslie Lathrop, Alison Manugian, Jon Sjoberg, Stephanie Cronin, Jennifer McKenzie, Superintendent – Kristan Rodriguez, Asst. Superintendent – Katie Novak and Director of Business & Finance – Jared Stanton.

  • Kristan Rodriguez presented a formal presentation for the television viewers as well as those that were able to attend the meeting tonight.

The needs assessment has identified five key findings that outline what our children currently NEED. Our past practices of cutting staff and curriculum has brought us to drop down to a level 2 school district as of 2012.  Up until now many taxpayers were not aware that our school district had declined due to lack of proper funding.  

Up until now, taxpayers have chose Groton & Dunstable to raise their families and educate their children in a level 1 school district. The quality of our school district will most definitely influence future home buyers, it will affect the value of our current homes and it has already affected the value of our children’s education. 

There were a couple of concerned parents present.

  • One parent commended the SC/Superintendent for their work however did not agree with all of the needs assessment. She was not in favor of foreign language in the elementary and was concerned with the estimated cost of the needs assessment. She expressed that she had not had a raise in many years; funding all the needs in FY17 is not affordable for her and may not be for others either. She prefers multiple overrides over the course of a few years.

I disagree….

Properly Designed & Executed Foreign Language Programs:

  1. Beginning foreign language instruction early sets the stage for students’ to develop advanced levels of proficiency in one or more languages.
  2. Younger learners still possess the capacity to develop near native-like pronunciation and intonation in a new language. 
  3. It has been shown to enhance children’s cognitive development. Children who learn a foreign language beginning in early childhood demonstrate certain cognitive advantages over children who do not. 
  • Stephanie Cronin pointed out that addressing the key findings over a period of years is not an option for Dunstable because they would require several consecutive overrides which is not a realistic solution.
  • Jeff Kubick pointed out that it could be a similar situation for Groton. 

If we were to spread the key findings over the course of several years, not only will that further delay addressing the needs of our children but could also potentially result in some of the key findings not being able to be addressed due to failed consecutive overrides. Gambling with the needs of our children would be irresponsible.  

  • Another parent had noted that as a school teacher (Concord) she can appreciate all the details in the needs assessment and felt that funding the entire needs assessment was beneficial for the children and she would support it 100%.  I have to agree with this parent/tax payer… our children have been neglected long enough we can not afford to put his off any further. There is no other word that would better describe putting this off than “neglect”. “DEFINITION OF NEGLECT – WEBSTER”
  • We have not had an override (other than a debt exclusion) in Groton for over a decade. We as a community need to find a way to fund our NEEDS in FY17.  Fire, Schools, and Police should be at the top of that priority list as all three are crucial in maintaining the quality and value of our town. 

Meeting adjourned – 9:05pm

Present at tonight’s meeting is Superintendent – Kristan Rodriguez, Director Business & Finance – Jared Stanton, Jennifer McKenzie, Stephanie Cronin, Alison Manugian, Jeff Kubick and Leslie Lathrop.

  • HS shared their community service week with the SC. They were able to accomplish many things however some of the services for the community.
    •  Through their clothes/food drive they were able to donate clothes to Families in Transitions and food to Loaves/Fishes.
    • They raised over $3000 that was spent on Christmas presents for over a dozen of individuals that fell upon some bad luck through loss of employment.
  • GAPP (Germany American Partnership Program) Exchange – Unanimously Approved by SC
    • The exchange is a full exchange – a Groton child will go to school in Germany and stay with a host family and in exchange a Germany child will be hosted by that Groton’s child family.
    • All travel is arranged by schools (teachers) – there are no profit organization involved.
    • GAPP requires that each school carries travel, accident and liability insurance for all participants.
    • GAPP offers additional liability coverage for official chaperones
    • GAPP offers stipends for qualified schools. There are requirements to receive stipends.
      • 10 or more students
      • minimum stay of 10 days with host family and school related activities
      • Active student involvement in their host community; visits to town hall to learn about the local community and government
      • Active participation in the host school classes; give presentations about their home county/region/school, visits to elementary, middle schools to learn about the different school systems
      • Combined project completed by German and American student as par of the exchange experience (proposal needs to be submitted to both the Germany and American offices)
      • Survey’s for evaluation submitted by stunted, parents and school
    • Who is the Germany partner?  Friedrich-Ebert-Schule a grades 5-12 (exchange would only involve 9th or 10 grade) – 1290 student and 100 teachers Interesting that in Germany this school has a 13 students average according to the number of teachers/student ratio for grades 5-12.
    • While Groton students are there they will tackle the topic of poverty & hunger. Some of the activities discussed that students will volunteer to serve dinner at homeless shelter and volunteering in outreach activities as well as have a car wash.
    • Time frame was February 8-25, 2017 so the students will miss a some school outside of February vacation. I think they would be getting an education of a life time so missing a few days here while “being educated in Germany” is acceptable and included in the itinerary should be time for them to work on G-D class/homework while in Germany via internet/Skype.  
    • The cost would be $2400 (not be a cost for our district) for the trip and that includes flight, ground transportation, hotels, meals, insurance with GAPP and incidental cost.  Parents would only have to worry about spending money.
      • Estimated refund after the trip
        • $630 per chaperon & $555 per student
        • $200 per student deposit is included in the total and would be refunded if not utilized
        • Any money left over will be refunded & the expenses will are available for all to view.
      • Germany students would fly into NY, see Boston, a Plymouth Plantation, attend a popular Groton event, car wash (Germans feel car washes are a very popular American thing to do because they are always in American movies) and community service at a soup kitchen.
      • Groton host families are not required to go through CORI checks or any background checks to be in the program.
      • All students would keep a travel diary from a memento from the trip.
  • FY 2017 Budget – summary and further discussion to direct Superintendent & Budget/Finance Director
    • The 2.5% ear mark figure is not a sustainable figure for our schools due to the lack of state/federal funding.
    • Both towns seemed to feel that the needs budget is valid and it is what we need for our schools to bring our schools where they should be.
    • Leslie Lathrop/Alison Manugian expressed their concerns and preference to wait for the Capital Plan & Technology and do one big ask for everything at a future date. Quite frankly as a taxpayer and parent I want to review the Technology & Capital plan separately. I do not want to vote on them as a package plan. Maybe I feel strongly about the capital improvements of our schools, fields and courts but I think that the most important thing to a student is a quality teacher verse a 1/1 ratio on technology.  If these plans are a solid investment and are financially obtainable for the towns they will vote to approve them. They should not be wrapped up in a needs assessment as a selling tool.  Are we running a school district or a car dealership where we get stuck with options because they are “included in the package plan”.  SMH   
    • Stephanie Cronin doesn’t feel that the student’s needs should be neglected any further as they have been for the last 6 years.  Thank you Stephanie (Dunstable SC member) for being so verbal in showing your support for funding the needs assessment. The past practices & philosophy of waiting for a a futuristic date to properly fund our schools while knowing our children have current needs is “neglect” and it brought us to where we are today.   DEFINITION OF NEGLECT – WEBSTER
    • Alison made a motion to include all financial implications for the needs assessment so the Superintendent & Business/Finance Director can have direction on the 2017 budget and identify what the cost would be to fund the needs assessment. Vote was taken all in favor except Leslie Lathrop.  Thank you Alison for making the motion that will allow administration to provide a monetary figure for the needs assessment. The voters of Groton/Dunstable should have the opportunity to decide what we want funded at town meeting.  

Meeting adjourned – 8:54pm

 

 

 

Present is Jared Stanton – Director of Business Finance, Kristan Rodriguez – Superintendent, Fin Com, BOS and SC members – Alison Manugian, Peter Cronin, Jennifer McKenzie, Stephanie Cronin and Leslie Lathrop.

Superintendent presented the five key findings from the needs assessment much like she did for Dunstable last night. Following that presentation Alison Manugian presented the districts financial review. These presentations were provided to Dunstable BOS & Advisory Committee last night at that joint meeting. The highlights can be found in my cliff notes from last nights meeting. You can see them here: Dunstable/Advisory Committe & SC Cliff NotesDunstable Cliff Notes

The SC presented four potential options to discuss.

  • Hold towns’ assessments at roughly current levels and continue to trim programs and staffing continuing to reduce the quality of education in our district.
  • Increase the towns’ assessments for a single year to fund currently identified needs and anticipated technology and capital projects for the long-term.
  • Increase the towns’ assessments for a single year to meet the current identified needs of the district. Future funding options for technology and capital projects would need to be determined and addressed separately.
  • Increase town’s assessments annually each year to encompass the needs assessment and technology and capital cost gradually.

Discussions pertaining to the ear marked 2.5% took place.  Due to the fact that the state funds are decreasing and the districts fixed costs are increasing at a higher rate of 2.5% the ear marked amount of 2.5% no longer is able to fund the current needs of our district. Alison Manugian opened the floor for discussions from all committees.

Fin Com member (Robertson) made a comment that the needs assessment documents offer a great deal of information but it is missing one important thing, an accountability matrix. Something to show what progress voters can expected in our district… what they are getting for their investment and accountability for the spending. This is quality information that voters should have and should accompany every proposal for funds needed for our town and schools. I look forward to seeing it. 

BOS member (Degen) mentioned possibly having several small overrides of smaller amounts over the next four years or so to fund the current needs, Capital & Technology fund as he feels it may be more acceptable to taxpayers than an override for the needs budget and then another large override to fund the Capital & Technology fund.  I feel that our needs have been identified and the Capital & Technology plans are still being developed. The Capital & Technology plans are to improve our district however they are in the developmental stages. I run my business & household in a similar manner.  I have current needs and I have my eye on future investments and improvements. I address the needs and then if a beneficial investment or purchase is presented to me after my needs for my family/company are met I consider them.  

Discussions were cut short due to the limited time available. As a taxpayer I would like to see a large Q/A forum (s) that include Fin Comm/BOS & SC on two different times/days so that the voters can ask questions and understand where our district is, how we got here, how do we stop loosing ground and how do taxpayers prefer to address this problem.  This should not wait until Town Meeting.  

As I was leaving Peter Cronin (SC member) said to me, “We all need to keep in mind that an override is not for the schools it is for the town/schools”.   You know what, he is 100% right.  My three priorities as a taxpayer are Fire, Police and Schools (equally important).  At no time would I want our Fire/Police department operating short-staffed with inadequate equipment. I am a bit disgusted that our schools are not held in the same regard.   I don’t think that anyone in our town would want the value of our schools to decline any more than they would want the safety in our town to decline… BUT YET THEY ARE.  

Groton & Dunstable taxpayers are in need of information. The individuals that govern our towns should work together collectively to provide that information to us. This override is needed to pay for all the debt services, current municipal expenses and current school needs. It is not solely for the schools and the sooner the people who govern our towns acknowledging that the sooner we can move forward together as a town and find away to fund our municipal & school needs. 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The meeting was called to order at 7pm.  Present – Dunstable Advisory Committee, Dunstable Selectman, Superintendent – Kristan Rodriguez, Director of Business Finance – Jared Stanton and SC members – Jennifer McKenzie, Stephanie Cronin, Leslie Lathrop, Jeff Kubick and Alison Manugian.

The Superintendent presented a summary of the needs assessment to the Dunstable Selectman.

  1. We need to reverse declining student performance in core areas caused by the loss of essential staffing and resources. 
  2. We need to restore and improve programs to meet the needs of students in the areas of the arts, library science, physical/behavioral health, technology and engineering and foreign language.  
  3. We need to provide comprehensive social and emotional support to our students. 
  4. We need to improve performance of students with disabilities while meeting the needs of all learners. 
  5. We need to provide essential support services including kindergarten assistants, technology support staff, nursing staff, custodial and maintenance staff, business office staff and administrative assistants.

Selectman asked out of the five key findings what are the most important in priority out of the five. Super and SC Chair explained that they are all equally important however, they are listed in order of how they directly impact students in the classroom from 1 through 5.

Alison Manugian as the chair of the Budget & Finance Subcommittee for the SC presented the schools financial review.  Based on the fact that prop 2 1/2 limits our ability to properly fund the town/schools needs, the state funds for our schools have declined significantly and the majority of the school budget is covering fixed contractual costs and insurance increases much like many other entities are experiencing. The SC offer potential options.

  • Hold towns’ assessments at roughly current levels and continue to trim programs and staffing continuing to reduce the quality of education in our district.  This would not represent the town that my husband and I chose to raise our family… as a result we would be forced to seriously consider relocating to an alternative town that hold education at a higher value. 
  • Increase the towns’ assessments for a single year to fund currently identified needs and anticipated technology and capital projects for the long-term.
  • Increase the towns’ assessments for a single year to meet the current identified needs of the district. Future funding options for technology and capital projects would need to be determined and addressed separately. Personally I feel that the technology & capital plan are separate and should be treated separately because I could not possibly make a decision about a plan that has not been presented to me.  I would seriously consider supporting these plans after I review it and find value in them. 
  • Increase town’s assessments annually each year to encompass the needs assessment and technology and capital cost gradually.

Dunstable Selectman made note that they will not challenge the educational professionals in regards to what the district needs as they are the professional in this area, however understanding the complexity of where our district is today and the needs are a necessity. The town voters need to be educated so they understand the situation in its entirely.  The Dunstable BOS member stated, “if an override is needed it is for the town, we have never put it on the schools”.   That is how it should be and that is what I expect from our own Groton BOS.  The towns and schools should not be played against each other….  one tax bill, one tax rate the last time I opened my bill.

When Jeff Kubick (SC Chair) asked the Dunstable Selectman if they support funding the needs assessment in 2017 and educate the voters that the future Technology & Capital Plans will be available for presentation this May for future consideration & funding.  Without actual numbers it is difficult to give a straight yes or no, however overall they support the needs and acknowledge an override is a necessity to accommodate the needs of the town & schools.

What I took away from this meeting is that the Dunstable Selectman support the needs assessment however they feel that the voters need to be educated to why this is happening (lack of commercial revenue, decrease of state funds, increase fixed cost, insurance costs etc) so they can support the fact that our schools/towns have needs that require an override and vote accordingly in Dunstable. 

Meeting adjourned at 8:30 PM