The meeting began upon conclusion of the executive session.  In attendance is Supt. Dr. Rodriguez, SC Members – Jeff Kubick, Alison Manugian, Jennifer McKenzie, Stephanie Cronin, Marlena Gilbert, Angela Donahue and Peter Cronin.

  • The Superintendent began the meeting by announcing that she has submitted her resignation to the SC.  Dr. Rodriguez was quoted in the Lowell Sun stating that there was no one singular reason for her decision, but cited a desire to spend more time with her family as a key part. She will officially leave the district on Dec. 31, and she does not plan to take another superintendent’s job. “I’ll be pursuing other education opportunities that continue to drive my passion,” she told The Sun. “I don’t think I will go into a different superintendent position. The two things that are going to be the drivers for me are going to be following the passions I love in my profession and offering some levels of flexibility for family time.”   VOTE taken and was reluctantly unanimous approved

Full Article: http://www.nashobavalleyvoice.com/groton_news/ci_30177133/groton-dunstable-schools-superintendent-announces-plans-resign#ixzz4FipaGKmY

  • The Superintendent’s report included many slides expressing all the hard work of our administration and teachers; there were many accomplishments that our district should be proud of.  You can see the entire presentation by clicking here:  Superintendent’s Report
  • The certified FY17 School Budget includes some of the vital needs of our districts and the creative funding mechanisms to accomplish the funding for FY17 was oulined in the hand out provided at the meeting.  A copy of this can be found by clicking here:  Needs Met in FY17 Budget
  • High School Drinking Water Supply System rehabilitation Bid — VOTE taken unanimous approved
    • Total cost is $65,541 and the reason for the cost can be seen in the documents provided to the SC which can be seen if you click here:  Water Treatment Info

Stephanie Cronin & Jennifer McKenzie provided a statement to the SC and the community. The full statement can be read by clicking here:   SC Statement_Cronin_McKenzie

In summary of last night”s announcement. I personally believe that our town can no longer endure the type of behavior we have witnessed this year and we need to look within ourselves to find a way to diagnose the reason why our District has such a hard time retaining valuable staff.  Placing blame although is a natural reaction is not the path we should take to recover from such a loss and to learn from this experience.  The statement read by our two Dunstable SC members should echo throughout our towns and reflected upon by all elected officials and community members.

We as a community and elected officials should allow our Town Manager/Staff and Superintendent/Staff to do their job without micromanaging. This does not mean that we should not be asking questions and clarifying information provided by those that are employed in our town, however it DOES mean that we should ALL be more respectful and aware of the results of our actions and words.

The loss of our Supt. does not fall on one person(s) shoulders nor one governing board. Her decision to leave is multidimensional. We as a community carry equal responsibility for this loss and we as a community will need to find a way to recover from it together. I agree with my Dunstable Board Members, as the governing board of our School District we need to lead by example.

I ask that all community members, elected and appointed officials join the SC in making the same commitments outlined in this statement. 

Speaking on my behalf as a SC Member, I choose to spend this time reflecting on how to transform our District into a sought after work place versus a District that has struggled keeping quality administration over the last eight years.  I hope that all elected officials and community members will join me in doing the same.

Dr. Kristan Rodriguez has been an impactful and positive leader for our District. A leader that should be treated in a professional and respectful manner, instead she is trapped in the shadows of her predecessors.

She has had to endure public scrutiny from community members that have made false statements through the newspapers and social media.  Such false judgments have been based on incorrect information and should be clarified for all community members in Groton and Dunstable.

There have been verbal & written attacks on the “lack of visibility” of Dr. Rodriguez within our community.  Beyond the 10-15 Budget Information Sessions that were provided to our communities, Dr. Rodriguez has attended many functions and meetings in our community that include but are not limited to BOS meetings, joint BOS/Fin Com/SC meetings, quarterly Senior Center meetings, rotary, Groton Fest and even sat in a dunk tank for our children’s enjoyment during field day.  To even insinuate that she has not been an active visible participant in Groton or Dunstable is inaccurate and hurtful.

Dr. Rodriguez was asked by the School Committee members not to speak at Groton Town Meeting as the School Committee wanted to take ownership of the school budget. Dr. Rodriguez has attended all town meetings and was available to answer any questions.  She did speak at Dunstable’s Town Meeting in response to the communities desire to hear from her directly.  This was the school committee’s decision and has no bearing on the commitment and dedication of our Superintendent.

Dr.  Rodriguez has arrived at every School Committee & Joint Board meeting fully prepared to discuss and actively participate on every agenda item.  She has done more “homework assignments” on her own personal time that stemmed from indirect inquiries and accusations to defend her Needs Assessment and reputation as an Education Professional.  All the data has been available for those that would like to review it and she has NEVER denied setting up an appointment with any community member that had questions.

Dr. Rodriguez is entitled to a scheduled vacation.  In hindsight the School Committee should have not scheduled an emergency meeting on June 30, 2016.  It was too soon to have information from the Commissioner on the 1/12th budget and without this budget there is no way for Dr. Rodriguez to determine how the 1/12th budget would affect the district during the budget certification process.  In short the information that would have been useful was not available to the Dr. Rodriguez or the School Committee until July 1, 2016 making the physical presence of our Superintendent not a requirement for that meeting.  Dr. Rodriquez took it upon herself to call in to our meeting while on her prescheduled vacation with her family and there was a solid phone connection.  Dr. Rodriguez also cut short her family vacation and returned to work for all future meetings and has been working endless hours to complete the timely tasks set forth by the School Committee. Some would consider the time line for these tasks unrealistic, but she has taken on this task and will be prepared for our next School Committee meeting as instructed.

Groton-Dunstable School District has searched for many years to find a quality Superintendent and we finally have one that can help move our district forward.  Dr. Rodriguez is a professional but she is also a person that deserves to be treated in a fair and respectful manner.

Words hurt.

All SC Members were in attendance as well as the Supt. Dr. Kristan Rodriguez and interim Business & Finance Director.

  • Marlena Gilbert email response read into public record. Various SC members have been receiving many emails providing feedback from community members. Marlena Gilbert inadvertently replied all to one of these emails. Upon realizing the error, She immediately emailed the Attorney Generals office to report this error and obtained guidance on resolution of this error. She was instructed to read the email at our next SC meeting. The email response below was read into public record at the SC meeting.

Email Gilbert Email Gilbert

  • 1/12th School Budget Impact: The schools will not be forced to consider laying off any staff or borrowing money while being on the 1/12th budget until roughly November 30, 2016. However the temporary budget model does not negate the impact to personnel moral and the possibility of losing quality staff due to budget uncertainty. We are able to temporarily financially manage our district on this temporary budget is through smart business practices and the structure of funding available to GD on the 1/12 budget.
    • The district anticipates receiving 50% of our anticipated 1/12-budget revenues (state and local) in the first half of the fiscal year.  However, district expenses are generally less in the first half of the fiscal year than in the second (due to salary structure).  This means that logistically the district should be able to minimize student and personnel impacts prior to December.
    • The District is able to borrow money in emergency situations. The cost break down is $3000/$1,000,000 borrowed.  The model presented to the SC does not include the need to borrow money. Any borrowed money would be paid back within FY17.
    • On December 1, 2016 the Commissioner will take over control of our District if we are not able to certify a budget. The Business & Finance Director advised the SC that this is something that Dunstable nor Groton would want to happen.
    • SC anticipates certifying a budget on July 30th, however may have the opportunity to request an additional 15 days if more time is needed for deliberation among SC Members and Collaboration among peer boards.   
  • External Operational Audit Review – SC voted unanimously to collaboratively establish a scope of work that will be included into the RFP.  The SC will invite the Groton Fin Com, Groton BOS, Dunstable BOS and Dunstable Advisory to provide feedback through a joint meeting as to what they would like to see included in this review.  This collaboration will start with a google form that will collect feedback and this feedback will be discussed at an open joint meeting.
  • SC Meeting Dates – The SC will be meeting on Tuesdays instead of Wednesdays so they can attend other peer board meetings without conflicts.  There will be a SC meeting at 7pm on the calendar for every Tuesday of the month with the exclusion holidays.  The regular meetings will be the 2/4th of each month and the other meetings will be Workshops. Vote was 5/2
  • Last Day of School – The 2016-2017 school calendar has an extra day and needs to be adjusted. The SC voted to change the last day was taken. Vote was unanimous.

 

All BOS members are in attendance for tonight’s meeting.

  • Water band continues and there may be further restrictions. Due to the lack of precipitation we can expect additional water bands will be voted on and all community members need to abide by the water bans or may be subject to fines.
  • Donald Palma Jr., Chief of Police contract was renewed. It was a general consensus that all BOS appreciates and commends Chief Palma Jr. and the contract reflects the quality job that he has done for our town. The BOS & Chief provided comparable compensation and it showed that the Chief was fairly compensated however and the negotiation was where the Chief felt he fell on that spectrum, where the BOS and how it would affect other contract negotiations moving forward.  The  total increase is 8.31% total increase but was described as a front loaded contract.
  • Fitch Bridge Adoption Of Rules & Regulations – Chief Palma Jr. suggested that signage prohibiting jumping off the walking bridge due to the depth of the water makes it dangerous for children to jump off the bridge. BOS voted to allow the TM & Chief Palma Jr. to put appropriate signs up at the bridge.
  • Complete Streets – BOS voted unanimously to approve the Complete Streets Policy. A committee will be established to oversee this with Peter Cunningham being the BOS participant.
  • June 30, 2016 Failed override – On the Municipal side the Web Director was laid off.  Two individuals donated a total of $6000 to keep the beach open until the end of July.  There are other folks that may donate money to extend the beach to be open until the end of Labor Day,
  • TM Requests Spending, Hiring & Overtime – The TM is recommending a spending freeze, a hiring freeze and no overtime freeze for public safety.  However Fire & Police Chiefs would use their judgement to make sure public safety is not affected by allowing overtime when absolutely necessary. BOS will wait to see what the school budget is certified at on the 27th.  Note the SC has thirty days from the failed override, however is able to request an additional 15 days from the state should they need it for proper due diligence so the community should know that a certified school budget is not guaranteed on the 27th of July at this time. 
  • Charter Change Recommendations – TM proposed changes to be made for the Charter to the BOS and would like to submit them to the Charter Review ‘Committee.
    • Allow Town Manager to Approve All Expenses and payroll Warrants.
    • Change the position of town Clerk from an elected Position to an Appointed Position. – Barry Pease will submit the suggestions to the Charter Review Committee with a Pro/Con accompanying the suggestion. 
  • FY16 Review of the Groton Country Club Budget – The expense to tax payers is estimated at $95K which is a step in the correct direction. This is a 2/3 drop in the deficit from last year.  One year from now the club manager expects to break even for FY17 and maybe make it’s way into the black with some long term planning.

In attendance was the Supt. – Dr. Kristan Rodriguez (remotely) and School Committee Members – Peter Cronin, Alison Manugian, Angela Donahue, Marlena Gilbert, Stephanie Cronin and Jeff Kubick.  The Groton Board of Selectmen were also called to order at the meeting although it was not a joint meeting.

  • The SC discussed if they were prepared to certify a budget.  The majority of the SC was not comfortable certifying a budget until they saw how much of the needs that were contingent of an override could be funded through possible reallocation of funds after the scheduling is complete.
    • Marlena Gilbert – Suggested the SC direct the Supt. to establish a budget based on the budget that was approved at TM (Carry Over Budget) that was not contingent of an override and incorporate as many needs from the NA as possible.
    • Alison Manugian – Made a motion to instruct the Supt. to prepare a budget based on the contingency budget approved at town meeting.
    • Peter Cronin – Amended the motion to instruct Supt. to also include librarian, psychologists, guidance counselors and nurses that comply with state recommendations within the budget.
    • Marlena Gilbert – Initially I was opposed to providing stipulations of specific NA items to be included because I believe the Education Professional should make that determination. However if we are to be making stipulations then I believe that all the needs should be included therefore I made an amendment to the motion. Amended motion to instruct Supt. to include all NA items that were contingent of the override except the ELA HS teacher and see what class sizes look like with that.  Supt. expressed concern as it would take months to do this because it would be working from ground zero, could increase unemployment costs, increase class sizes to a level she didn’t recommend and it could not be done by July 25th as required by the SC.  Marlena Gilbert withdrew motion after further discussion as this option was not received well by other SC members.
    • Stephanie Cronin – Not in favor of restricting what is going into the budget and prefers the Supt. to make that determination.
    • Angela Donahue – In favor of all approaches as long as the SC are able to review it and suggest changes at our July 27th SC Workshop before certifying our budget.

Peter Cronin’s motion did not pass 3/3 (Jeff Kubick, Stephanie Cronin & Alison Manugian voted no)

Alison Manugian’s motion to instruct the Supt. to prepare a budget based on the contingency budget approved at town meeting passed 5/1 (Peter Cronin voted no) 

  • RFP/District Audit – There is general consensus that the SC doesn’t want to wait until the District Sustainability Committee vote to move forward with an operational audit. A RFP is on the agenda for July 12th to discuss scope of the audit and to vote to establish a RFP. The goal is to have an audit complete for FY18 budget cycle.
  • District Town Meeting – The SC did not vote to rule this option out as of yet because we did not certify a school budget. We are waiting to review that on July 27th to see where any reallocation gets us. Opinions were shared by the SC.
    • Stephanie Cronin – not in favor of it at this time.
    • Alison Manugian – not in favor of it at this time.
    • Jeff Kubick – not in favor of it at this time.
    • Peter Cronin – in favor of a DTM to fund schools under levy if needed
    • Angela Donahue – in favor of DTM to fund schools under levy if needed
    • Marlena Gilbert – in favor of DTM to fund schools need under levy, however believes that Fin Com/BOS should collaborate further to accommodate the school critical needs in FY17 after all reallocation is complete to resolve the town budget without involving Dunstable through a DTM.
      • Options to fund our schools within our levy limit are available. The SC nor do am I recommending anything to the Fin Com/BOS, that is not within the purview of the SC. However the voters of Groton should be aware of all their options.   
        1. Free Cash is re-certified on September 30th and can be used toward operating budget should a vote at Fall Town Meeting be taken to do so.
        2. A Municipal Capital Expense can be delayed one year, funds transfer to free cash and can be used towards operating budget should a vote at Fall Town Meeting be taken to do so. A municipal audit could show that we are making purchases that are not necessary to service our town efficiently and may also avoid purchase that are not appropriate for our town’s needs. Example:  It is my understanding that a new fire truck may be an upcoming Fall purchase at Groton Fall Town Meeting. We as voters can decide if we want to purchase a new fire truck before or after an audit. (If the BOS decide to have an audit)  
        3. Municipal could make cuts or set a hiring freeze – The TM just posted positions on the town website for two positions.  An audit could allow us to identify how many employees are required to provide the level of service our town has and what is needed to accommodate the services in our near future. Currently I am not aware of any measure in place to know what level of services we are receiving or need. http://www.townofgroton.org/Town/TownDepartments/HumanResources.aspx
  • Status of (Survey Monkey) Feedback –  My independent survey was not a scientific data collection. It was a way to collect community feedback in an organized fashion.  The link will remain live for those that want to provide feedback until July 25th. I would like to share the feedback I received so far.  There is a “Word Cloud” analyze tool that I utilized to present the feedback received through “Other Reasons”.  Once I close the link and finalize all the feed back I will publish every comment for the community to read.

Feedback Chart

Word Cloud Analyze

My take away from the feedback that I received so far is….

  • The community does value education.
  • The community does NOT want higher taxes.
  • The community wants to fund our school needs under the levy limit.
  • The community does not have faith in where their tax dollars are being spent in our District.
  • The community does not have faith in where their tax dollars are being spent in our Municipal.

I heard you and appreciate the feed back.  I believe the schools will have to go above and beyond to rebuild the trust between voters and the district through communication and transparency. We will start with publishing all class sizes k-12 to show where there is any under subscribed classes and reallocate any available funds in effort to accommodate our crucial needs within our own budget and we will establish an RFP for an operational audit before this month is through.

I believe our Fin Com, BOS and SC need to work together to fund our DPW, Fire, Police and schools crucial needs.  We can solve this challenge within our own town without involving Dunstable; if we work together in a respectful manner we can avoid a District Wide Meeting.