Tomorrow the town of Groton votes on whether or not it values education enough to:

1) Keep its middle school library open every day and staff it with a librarian

2) Comply with state recommended minimum guidelines for nurses and guidance counselors

3) Restore short-sighted cuts to support staff for our students with special needs. Said cuts have resulted in a continuous decline in student achievement for this growing segment of our student population (whose performance is now at a 5 year low and below the state average)

4) Provide the minimum custodial staff to keep our school bathrooms clean and in working order (it’s an utter disgrace that we’ve fallen this far)

5) Provide adequate instructional materials for our teachers. G-D currently spends 70% BELOW the state average for textbooks, new curriculum, technology and other technology supplies. These expenditures positively impact student achievement.

6) Provide adequate professional development for our teachers. We currently provide 60% fewer PD hours than the identified threshold for significant gains at the middle- and high-school levels and 40% fewer at the elementary level.

We can debate the importance of foreign language and the arts, and the costs vs. benefits of smaller class sizes another day.  But we don’t need an audit to know that a town of our means should keep its library open, provide adequate nursing staff and clean bathrooms, give our teachers the tools they need to teach effectively

Peter Cronin

Groton-Dunstable School Committee Member

Dear Editor:

On Thursday, June 30, voters will once again have an opportunity to weigh in on the values they feel best represent our community. As was noted by the Editor in a previous editorial, the defeat of the override on May 17 was not a rejection by townspeople of a vibrant and healthy school system, but more a message that the funding inequities that the District finds itself confronted with cannot unilaterally be solved by increasing local property taxes.

It also rightly pointed out that the reputation Groton Dunstable enjoys as a quality school system, and one that has attracted many newer members to our communities, was, in fact, nurtured and fostered by longer term residents who were rightly concerned about the sheer magnitude of property tax impact.

Unfunded state mandates and unfulfilled promises to fund adequately specific accounts, most notably regional transportation, have placed an undue burden on our schools and created the unfortunate conflict that has emerged on the local level. It is frustrating that Beacon Hill remains largely unresponsive and accountable for much of the funding mess they have created.

The needs assessment that the District undertook highlighted some of the consequences of this dynamic and foretold of the potential degradation that could befall our schools unless addressed. It is much to the credit of the School Committee that they responded to the message of the voters by reexamining the needs assessment and focusing on what, at the end of the day, most reasonable people can agree is truly essential.

It is also clear that the School Committee has recognized the need to work very closely with both towns in defining a sustainable path forward that ensures educational stability without seeking frequent overrides.

And the other important message that the vote on June 30th sends to townspeople is that both the town and schools are in this together as reflected by the support of the Finance Committee, School Committee and the majority of the Board of Selectmen. Past complaints that the burden of seeking an override fell solely on the schools is no longer the case as both the town and school district stand to gain or lose based on the outcome. Please join me in voting ‘yes’ on June 30.

Peter Cunningham

Dear Editor:This coming Thursday, June 30, I am voting in favor of the ballot measure authorizing the Town of Groton to fund the Regional School District and municipal operations. For me this is both an expression of community values and the setting of expectations on the obligation to educate our children.

Starting well over a year ago, in the first half of 2015, an exhaustive number of public meetings were held, almost all of which are available on recorded video, that catalogue in great detail the efforts of the school district to identify, articulate and propose solutions for challenges facing the schools. Because of the meticulous efforts of both elected and volunteer servants to the town, I am confident that the best interests of the children in the school district are at the heart of this request.

Furthermore, because of the diligence and scrutiny paid to the implications of not adequately funding the schools, the town, led by the Finance Committee, made significant cuts to the municipal budget. This was done in order to accomplish the dual goals of increased school funding while making some town expenditures dependent on the passage of the override. 

There are many ways to look at how our tax dollars are spent and a near universal aversion to paying more in taxes. The debate that has ensued since the first session of town meeting in April should make everyone aware of the vigilance required. We are all, as members of Town Meeting, jointly responsible for how our tax dollars are spent. This should make everyone more confident in standing up for adequate school funding and joining me in voting ‘yes’.

Anna Eliot


Dear Groton & Dunstable Voters,Both of our town elections are being held on June 30th; just a few days prior to the birthday of our United States. On July 4, 1776, we claimed our independence from Britain and Democracy was born. The right to vote during the colonial and revolutionary periods was restricted to property owners; most were white males over the age of 21.

Here we are 240 years later and every Dunstable & Groton citizen that is a registered voters now has the right and privilege to vote on June 30, 2016.

The historical figures of the voting turn out in Groton and Dunstable may tell us that with only one question on the Groton ballot and two questions on the Dunstable ballot there is not enough incentive for voters to make the time to cast a vote on Election Day or through an absentee ballot.

Speaking as an individual, I believe that clean and functioning bathrooms in our schools, an open library in our schools where research and study skills are taught to our students, Math Specialists, Reading Specialists, Psychologists, state recommended Guidance Counselors, Literacy Teachers and state recommended Registered Nurses to tend to our student’s health needs are ALL significant incentives.

I believe that valuable municipal services such as proper DPW, Fire/Police resources, public library hours for more than two days a week and having access to Town Hall resources are ALL significant incentives. This, in part, is what is at stake for our towns and equates to so much more than just three ballot questions.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” 

I encourage all voters of Groton and Dunstable to cast your vote on June 30th or visit the sites provided and follow the instructions to vote by absentee ballot prior to June 30th.

Groton Absentee Info:…

Dunstable Absentee Info:

Let us all take advantage of the right and privilege that we have before us and avoid any “burnt behinds” in our future.

Marlena Gilbert

Groton-Dunstable School Committee Member 

Dear Editor:

It’s been said that budgets are an expression of our values. Sometimes, however, our values are in conflict. On May 17th, voters in Groton rejected the $1.9 million override question sending a clear message against large increases in property taxes.

During the ensuing conversations, it was equally clear the passion residents have for living in a town that balances the beauty of our open spaces, the safety of our citizens, and the efficient operation of our municipal government along with a first-class education for our students.

The failure of the override necessitated the re-consideration of the entire Groton municipal budget including the assessments of our regional school districts. The Finance Committee, Groton-Dunstable School Committee, and the Board of Selectmen began work after the vote to re-structure both the municipal and GDRSD budgets.

After many hours of thoughtful deliberations, the School Committee and the Finance Committee both brought forward new budget proposals.

During the third night of Town Meeting (June 13th), a budget was passed with certain appropriations made contingent upon passage of a new reduced override in the amount of $812,013. The override vote will take place at the polls in a Special Town Election to be held on Thursday, June 30th, 2016.

The contingent appropriations include $120,696 for municipal staffing in the Information Technology and Municipal Building and Highway departments as well as for lifeguards at Sargisson Beach and funding of employee benefit reserves. The override also contains $691,317 for our schools, to fund the most critical needs assessment items targeted primarily at improving student performance and providing better social and emotional supports for our students. The school district’s re-considered budget reduces the requested number of new, full-time equivalent positions by 65% and lowers the increase in new spending by 57%.

Based on the votes of the Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee and the Groton-Dunstable School Committee, both the town and the school district feel that the new budget (including the contingent appropriations) reflects the town’s desire to provide for both effective town governance as well as excellent schools. If voters choose to pass the override, the impact to the taxpayer will be as shown inc chart to the right.

For voters’ knowledge, if the override is not approved, all contingent municipal positions outlined above will be cut as of July 1st. Until an approved budget is in place for the school district, it will by law operate on a monthly allowance of 1/12th of the current year’s budget.

The School Committee will be required to re-consider its budget. The re-considered school budget may then require a district-wide meeting of both Groton and Dunstable voters, with the towns required to pay the assessments finalized in any such meeting. It is possible that the final approved budget would require additional municipal cuts to prevent the town from having an out of balance budget.

We feel it is also important to let the voters know how seriously we view the need to develop a sustainable path forward that diminishes the need for yearly overrides. The Town of Groton and the Groton-Dunstable school district have both created Sustainability Committees that are looking at ways to reduce future growth of spending, including operational audits to recommend ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and with a target of having initial recommendations before next year’s budget cycle begins.

We recommend voters approve the override question at the ballot on June 30th. “Yes” is a vote for preserving valued town services. “Yes” is a vote for addressing the most critical needs of the school district. “Yes” is a vote for finalizing both the municipal and school budgets for next year. “Yes” is a vote for moving forward while we seek solutions to future fiscal challenges together.


Jeff Kubick – Chairman of the Groton-Dunstable School Committee

Gary Green – Chairman of the Groton Finance Committee

We began our regular SC meeting at 7 pm following an Executive Session that started at 5:30 pm.

In attendance is SC members – Jeff Kubick, Marlena Gilbert, Peter Cronin, Alison Manugian, Stephanie Cronin and Angela Donahue.

  • Recognition to Student Representatives and the HS Principal, Mr. Mastrullo was presented
  • HS Field Trip for the Cross Country was approved to compete in Martha’s Vineyard – SC unanimously vote to approve the field trip. 
  • Social Studies Curriculum Adoption – Dr. Novak & staff recommended the Harcourt Social Studies text for 5th grade & Discovery World Geography Social Studies text for 7th grade.  The text reaches the greatest percentage of standards and has an online component that students can access at home.  The current Social Studies text that is currently being used is more than 13 years old and the proposed purchase falls within the Social Studies budget.   SC unanimously adopted both the 5th & 7th grade curriculum text. 
  • Curriculum/Homework Update – Dr. Novak and staff presented a new recommendation for home work and summer work for our district.  The most prominent driving factor in the new recommendations are the peer-reviewed articles, coded research studies in meta-analysis however staff, students and teachers were also surveyed. Parents & students will be surveyed every quarter to ensure the maximums are not being surpassed and to see how this affects our student’s stress levels as well as overall performance.  Teachers have a responsibility to coordinate with their teams when assigning homework. Parents have a responsibility to their K-8 students and HS students have a responsibility to themselves to communicate with teachers if they feel the home work is exceeding maximums. A team effort from teachers, parents and students is required to be successful, Teachers will welcome respectful feedback. A full version of the slide presentation can be seen here:  Curriculum & Homework Presentation
    • K-4th grades – Not to exceed 10 minutes per grade/per night
      • No homework schedule for weekends or vacations.
    • 5-6th grades – Not to exceed 60 minutes per grade/per night
      • No homework schedule over vacations. Homework will be assigned or due a sufficient amount of time before vacation to allow an ample amount of time to be completed while school is in session.
    • 7-8th grades – Not to exceed 90 minutes per grade/per night
      • No homework schedule over vacations. Homework will be assigned or due a sufficient amount of time before vacation to allow an ample amount of time to be completed while school is in session.
    • 9-12th grades – Not to exceed 2.5 hours per course/per week
      • No homework schedule over vacations. Homework will be assigned or due a sufficient amount of time before vacation to allow an ample amount of time to be completed while school is in session.
    • AP & Dual Enrollment – Not to exceed 4 to 5 hours of homework per course/per week not including studying for tests (Carnegie Rule – up to 6 hours per week)
    • Summer Work – All summer work for all grades K-12 are NOT MANDATORY with the exception of AP & Dual Enrollment Classes.
  • Groton At Play – HS Turf Field –  SC unanimously approved the permitting process with Gale Associates.  A turf field would cost approximately 1.3 million dollars that would be paid for through private donations and CPC funds, there would be no cost to our district for the turf field. The field would then be gifted to the district in which it would maintain it. The life expectancy is about 8-10 years (has a 8 year warranty) and would cost approximately 500K to replace the carpet when the day comes. Revenues from offering the field to local sport clubs would generate revenues for the district. Notably there are contingent commitments from private donors of approximately 250K.  The presentation can be seen here: GD at Play Overview
  • Recycling Initiative Program – SC unanimously approved the Single Stream Recycling Program at $120/per month, however the cost savings will allow the ONE custodian we have for the HS to use her time else where in the building versus sorting recyclable from trash.  The presentation can be seen here: Recycling and Composting at GDRHS
  • Capital Plan –  Our district has never had a Capital Plan. This Capital Plan is a ten-year plan that calls for Capital Funds, General Funds, MSBA funds, Revolving Funds and CPS Funds. The SC did not have the proper time to ask the many questions they had because we were coming up on the 11:45pm hour and still needed to return to Executive Session.  The presentation was given by Jared Stanton and questions will be asked at our next regular SC Meeting or Workshop as there were other house keeping items on the agenda that we were not able to include at this meeting.  You can see the presentation here:  Capital Plan Presentation

I realize my readers like short and sweet, however this is the most condensed version I can offer of a 4.5 hours of discussion and deliberation over these topics.

Meeting adorned to enter int Executive Session at 11:45 pm.

Executive Session adjourned at 12:30 am

Your SC completed a marathon meeting of 7 hours last evening.






Although I have answered questions on staffing many times, this appears to still be an issue of concerns for some members of the public. Some claims have been made that we are at an all time high for teachers since 2007.  I would like to share that this statement is not consistent with state reports. Just to illustrate, in FY09 for example, it was reported in EPIMS that we had 181.171 Instructional Staff. In FY16, we have 175.046. As a similar example, it is reported in the DESE District Profile Page: Teacher By Program Area that in FY09, we had 157.3 general education staff and in FY16 we have 148.9.

I have also heard that we are over-staffed.  Some have looked at overall enrollment and our FTE (Full Time Equivalent) count to make this assertion.  When people use straight FTE’s against enrollment, this demonstrates a lack of educational programming background. Let me explain the flaw in this approach.  The concept negates the role of who the FTE is or impact of that role.   From an educational perspective, a 1.0 library para is not certified and does not have the educational training as a librarian.  From a pure FTE perspective both are identical. Recently, it was said publicly that our FTE’s are up.  It has been noted that our FTE’s increased in FY16.  What was not mentioned was the roles.  In this case, a vast majority (as defined in our budget booklet) were paras. These were added as legally required so we can meet the mandates of an IEP. There is a great distinction in these paras added versus the losses of teachers, nurses, or reading specialists as identified in our needs assessment. Yet, without understanding this distinction, claims are being made that we just need to “reshuffle” staff or that all FTE’s are equal.

Another thing wrong with looking at FTE numbers in isolation is a long held issue of assuming staffing is a simple calculation of dividing staff by students. People assert that with overall enrollment down, we should just cut equivalent staff.  Below are a few examples that I have shared previously of why this is an incorrect assumption.

  • When we consider a cut for lowered enrollment we have to realize that a simple number does not equal a cut.  For example, if we lose 20 students in a given year, those are likely spread out amongst the PK-22 range.  If drops occur at the elementary level, the loss may not only be spread across grade levels but across two different schools.
  • The size of the school is also a factor. In a larger school we may be able to spread those losses across a host of different leveled sections.  For example, in the HS, we offer English 9 but we have different levels and a few different sections of each. Maybe one of those students who left was in honors, one in college prep, etc.  The loss may not be concentrated enough to impact staffing.
  • When you consider staffing, especially at the high school, you need to understand the impact on programming. Some classes may be low but their removal (AP classes for example) would not be appropriate in order to provide comprehensive offerings to our students.
  • In a smaller school (elementary school for example), we have less staff to adjust. For example, say we have we have 3 teachers per grade. If we lose 3 students in that one grade leaving 63 students enrolled in a grade, we can’t reduce a teacher. Otherwise our sections exceed the recommended maximum of 25.
  • When discussing enrollment, and staffing, I want to point out that the proportion of our population identified as special education has been consistently increasing. Staffing for special education students may require additional staffing including special education teachers, aides (para-educators), occupational therapists, physical therapists, personal care assistants, counselors etc.  Below are the percentages of our population that is special education taken from a state district profile website.

FY11  12.8%            

FY12: 12.8%

FY13: 13.4%

FY14: 14.3%            

FY15: 14.8%

FY16: 15.6%

Another problem exists when people try to compare FTE’s from one year to the next due to the way FTE’s are reported from year to year.  For example, if the staff member worked in the district and was on payroll, they are listed as a 1.0 FTE in our payroll system.  But, if for some reason, that position becomes a contracted service provider, they will not show up in our FTE count anymore. We will still budget for them (and articulate them in our budget) but it does change the FTE count. Another example are “stipended” positions.  In the past the treasurer was counted as a 1.0 FTE.  This is literally a position that may work as little as 4 hours a week, yet they were in our FTE count as a 1.0.  


It was also noted by some that we have not provided average class sizes this year.  This is true.  Thankfully, we do not do this because it is a flawed measurement. For example, as defined in a previous staff cut history document, Integrated Arts staff at the middle schools have been cut. Past class size calculations were done by taking total staff and averaging it against students. The problem with that model is that it assumes equal distribution of classes which is not possible in a real scenario. Students may have scheduling conflicts that will not allow even distribution (such as how many choose to take band and what class that session runs against). Thus, this was not an accurate way to measure the impact of these cuts.


I have also been asked why we are not relying heavily on overall staff to student ratios.  We do use this as one metric but we do not rely heavily on it.  Why? If you look at student to staff ratios in isolation, you are not getting the full picture. Finn and Pannozzo (2003) note that, “aggregate pupil-teacher ratios do not describe the day-to-day setting in which students are learning; many districts have low pupil-teacher ratios, while most students spend the entire school day, every day, in crowded classrooms” (p.322).


One of the criticisms I have heard from those that are not directly involved in the schools is that we are asking too much and not accounting for the staffing we have internally to address our large class sizes and needed staff.  As I have said multiple times at open forums, and as evidenced in the amount of needed sections to be staffed versus the actual staff requested, the district has engaged in multiple means to bring the requested staffing down before asking for more in the general fund. Below are some artifacts of this practice.


Below are some examples of this from the budget booklet published in February.

  • “As part of the Needs Assessment for Florence Roche; 1.5 FTE Specialist Area teachers, a 1.0 FTE Library/Media Specialist, a .6 FTE Math Specialist, a 1.0 Kindergarten Assistant, and a .6 FTE Technology Integration Specialist were budgeted. These additional 4.70 FTE’s cost $225,299. This will be offset from restructuring other positions for a savings of $69,359.”
  • As part of the Needs Assessment for Swallow Union; a 1.0 FTE Specialist Area teacher, a .5 FTE Library/Media Specialist, a .4 FTE Math Specialist, a .5 Kindergarten Assistant, and a .4 FTE Technology Integration Specialist were budgeted. These additional 2.8 FTE’s cost $136,293. This will be offset from restructuring other positions for a savings of $66,468.
  • “Lastly, in the Needs Assessment we budgeted a 1.0 guidance counselor for an additional $55,970… A portion of this was offset from restructuring another position.”


In addition, we engaged in modeling.  We looked at class sizes that are undersubscribed as a method to meet the needs of over-subscribed classes.  The shear number of over-subscribed classes to actual requested staff demonstrates a disconnect.  We have many more oversubscribed sections then staff we are asking for.   That was determined by modeling out undersubscribed courses as well as taking into consideration we would not recommend choice seats so we would lose 12 seniors who are graduating out of school choice. There are many under-subscribed courses that relate to special education needs, sections that are combined but when separated look smaller, related to singleton classes (only one offered that may be a pre-requisite) etc. that cannot be used in this modeling process. The process of scheduling is complex for a non-educator to understand.  That is why we are suggesting we hire a firm who use professional educators to conduct a programmatic review, including looking at staffing and scheduling.   We look forward to their work enhancing the internal reviews we have already conducted. We do not do this to solve the FY17 concerns, but to address long term sustainability issues and the need to offer enhanced innovative sections in the future.

In attendance was Superintendent – Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, Assistant Superintendent – Dr. Katie Novak, Director of Business & Finance – Jared Stanton, Director of Technology, Information and Media Relations – Luke Callahan, SC members Stephanie Cronin, Jennifer McKenzie, Jeff Kubick, Alison Manugian, Peter Cronin and Marlena Gilbert.

  • A $1000 donation from Mary & Keith Slattery was accepted by the SC with great appreciation. ($500 directly to the music department & $500 towards educate and re-educate middle school children on the importance of acceptance and inclusion regardless of diagnosis or disability.  Their letter touched upon many staff members in GD that helped her daughter achieve things that were to be not expected and to allow her to feel included and accepted through her years at the Elementary & Middle School.
  • The FY17 Budget was officially voted and approved unanimously approved for the amount of – $39,099,830 of which the following items of the needs assessment are to be included the budget:  FY17 Needs Assessment Additions
  • Technology Plan was released to the public with a road map of expected time frame.
  • User fees for all HS clubs will be $100/per student. This fee will allow all students to participate in all clubs at one costs and a student may opt out if they do not want to participate in any clubs.
  • SC liaison appointments were established and can be seen at this link:  2016-17 Sub-Committee & Liaison Assignments
  • District Sustainability Advisory Committee – voted to be established 5/1. Peter Cronin was the no vote as he had concerns about doing this prior to an outside firm completing an audit which could change the charge of the committee.  I agreed with Peter, however it will take some time gathering the best people for this committee so I voted yes with the other SC that were present to get it established so we can get that ball rolling.  I brought into discussion the possibility of establishing an RFP for an outside operational audit, however it was a separate discussion that will be discussed at an upcoming meeting. Note the SC would be looking for 1 recommendation for the committee from the Superintendent, Dunstable Advisory Committee, Groton Fin Com, Groton BOS and Dunstable BOS to be considered for appointment.  The SC consider, deliberate and vote to appoint all individuals to the committee. If you have an interest please feel free to email me at
  • Staff Members & SC Members that have served GD were acknowledged for their years of service.
    • Joyce Bertrand – Teacher 23 years
    • Susan Bessolo – Teacher 11 years
    • Barbara Closs – Nurse 10 years
    • Alison Enright – Nurse 15 years
    • Beverly Johnson – Nurse 15 years
    • Phyllis Lane – Teacher 21 years
    • Pamela Patrode – Dir Food Service 21 Years
    • Jared Stanton – Dir Business/Finance 3 years
    • Charles Valacer- Teacher 32 years
    • June McGrath-Coronis – Teacher – 26 years
    • Andrea Myette – Teacher 24 years
    • Pamela Lunstrom – Para 8 years
    • Nancy MacGregor – Para 11 years
    • Bonnie Shattuck – Para 4 years
    • Jon Sjoberg – SC 6 years + 1 year
    • Leslie Lathrop – SC 6 years

Discussions of Central office space needs and District Vision Statement were delayed until our next meeting as it was getting too late to enter into those discussions.

Meeting adjourned at 10:15pm

My personal thoughts are listed in blue font.

In attendance are Board of Selectmen – Anna Elliot, Peter Cunningham, Barry Pease, Josh Degen and Jack Petropoulos.

  • Annual Reorganization of the Board of Selectmen – Jack Petropoulos was elected as Chair, Josh Degen Vice Chair and Barry Pease, Clerk
  • Sustainability Committee – Update provided by Kevin Forsmo. They will be looking to minimize expenses so they do not exceed revenue growth while maintaining the quality of life desired by the town. Information will be shared with the school district but it was very clear that the schools governing body is the school committee.  The school committee will make governing decisions for our district. The SC has already discussed forming a SC sustainability committee as well as an operational audit for our school district. I encourage the community to attend the upcoming SC meetings, watch it on TV or check out my future cliff notes from those meetings. SC Meeting Calendar can be viewed here –
  • BOS approved unanimously to accept an EMT Gift of $1,000 Received by an anonymous donor.
  • BOS approved unanimously to Adoption of the Montachusett Region Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan 2015 Update and Execution of the Certificate of Adoption.
  • BOS liason new assignments – Board of Health/Barry Pease, ZBA/Anna Elliot, Tri-Board Alt/Barry Pease, Planning Board Alt/Barry Pease, Sewer/Barry Pease, GELD/Jack Petropoulos, Council On Aging/Anna Elloit, Country Club/Josh Degen, Library/Barry Pease, Assessors/Barry Pease, IT/Barry Pease and HR/Barry Pease
  • BOS approved unanimously to approve the Board of Selectmen’s Records Policy.
  • BOS approved unanimously to approve a One Day Beer and Wine License for an Invitation Party on the General Field on Saturday, June 11, 2016 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for the Groton Conservation Trust.
  • BOS ratified all Annual Appointments of the Town Manager and Board of Selectmen that were presented tonight.
    • Finance Committee – reappointed Dave Manugian & Art Prest and has one vacancy. There is a an opening for the Fin Com so if your interested in serving and are interested in safe guarding the tax payers money you can fill out the interest form at this link:
    •  Economic Development Committee – charge and appointments deferred for a later date.
  • BOS discussed the school budget and voted to support the school budget and override. All members voted yes except Jack Petropoulos as he again will sustain until TM.
    • Peter Cunningham – supports the school budget & override
    • Anna Elliot – supports the school budget & override
    • Jack Petropoulos – Is requesting that the SC be required to have an audit in order for him to support the school budget and override. The BOS Chair has no authority over the school budget and yet here is a BOS member that in essence is trying to govern the school district and its budget.  The school committee has been researching and discussing a sustainability committee as well as having an independent operational school audit since April and have already clearly showed a committment (no official vote) to financial responsibility. At no time should the BOS dictate how the SC should govern the district. (Note: BOS –  Barry Pease, Josh Degen &  Peter Cunningham mentioned interest in a municipal audit as well as Fin Com & Sustainability Committee member Bud Robertson. Jack Petropoulos would like to see if the sustainability comes up with that as a recommendation) If you want to weigh in on this you can email your selectman at and school committee member (me) at 
    • Barry Pease – supports the school budget & override
    • Josh Degen – supports the school budget & override with the understanding that the SC is working on establishing a sustainability committee and school operational audit. He asked the Chair to put the children’s educational needs first and have trust in the SC and the new administrations in their abilities.
  • GD Baseball was acknowledged for their undefeated season and their most recently win this evening.
  • BOS approved minutes

Meeting adjourned at 8:15pm



Sustainability Committee

At an April 27th Budget and Finance Subcommittee meeting, the school committee agreed to develop a sustainability committee. This item is on Wednesday’s regular school committee agenda so the committee recruitment can begin.  The intent of this committee is to explore opportunities to find cost savings in our operations (address expenses) and be creative and audacious about finding sources of revenue (public and private forms).

As a result of our needs assessment and visioning event (specifically the theme of inadequate school funding that kept coming up), I began to do some research and have conversations with a few organizations who specialize in this work.  One that I have been working with since March will be highlighted as an example at our meeting next week. This work supports the school committee’s desire to engage in “independent review/audit of financials and programming” (meeting minutes 4/27/16). We must approach this work not only as an opportunity to save costs but also as one focused on improving our programs.

Sample elements of a consulting firm’s work

In our experience, and we have a lot, any drive for greater cost effectiveness for managing a school district should be paired with equal emphasis on raising achievement and expanding services. Doing more for less is better than doing the same for less. This approach builds support and reduces push back.

  • Detailed review of general education staffing, including high school, middle school and elementary staff based on class and course enrollment as well as elementary specials staffing and scheduling
  • Review of course offerings at the secondary level
  • Review of interventions at all levels
  • A review of the schedule’s impact on staffing needs
  • Use and management of federal and state grants
  • Review of special education service delivery models and staffing.
  • Review of special education and tiered staff use of time
  • Review of operations such as transportation, maintenance and custodial and so on.
  • Review of budget development process and budget management
  • Use of program evaluation to drive resource decisions

Recently, a report came out of the State Auditor’s office that defines the many unfunded or underfunded mandates that affect municipalities and school districts. I have invited Auditor Bump who will be here in September to speak to our community about the impact of unfunded and underfunded mandates on our spending patterns and to have her highlight her recommendations about how the state can reduce its impact on municipal finances  As we have shared in multiple public forums, in 2007 state aid represented 48% of the state mandated minimum spending (our district’s required net school spending) yet in 2015 state aid only accounts for 36% of required net school spending. This puts 64% of the obligation of the state minimum spending for schools at the local level. We have worked with the legislature to articulate the impacts of inadequate state aid (chapter 70 and chapter 71) and called for a review of the foundation budget formula.  Last spring, I spoke with the Department of Revenue, our attorney, leadership of GDEF and Representative Harrington about the need for dedicated development support for the district (such as organizing a specific alumni network and large scale fundraising campaigns).  Later this month, Stephanie Cronin and I will meet with Project Learn to learn more about this organization and their impact on the Lowell Public Schools. I look forward to creating a focused approach through the sustainability committee for a working group who can focus on these and other revenue generation opportunities.