This blog post is my personal interpretation and summary of discussions from meetings that I attend and are not official minutes.

In attendance was Supt. – Dr. Rodriguez, Asst. Supt. – Dr. Novak, Director of Business & Finance – Frank Antonelli, Business Manager – Michael Knight, Interim Supt. – Bill Ryan and SC Members – Alison Manugia, Jeff Kubick, Marlena Gilbert, Peter Cronin, Jennifer McKenzie and Stephanie Cronin.

  • SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PLANS: Principals from the Swallow Union, Boutwell, Flo Ro, MS, and HS presented comprehensive improvement plans for each of their schools.  The continuity between the schools was encouraging and shows great care in giving students the tools needed throughout their journey of learning as they move up through all grades K-12. {CLICK HERE FOR FULL PRESENTATION}
  • SUBCOMMITTEES: 
    • Policy – Has not met since last SC meeting.
    • B&F – Met last week and reviewed the month of November.  Transfers were made to reflect correct line item association.  Enrollment declines & class sizes were discussed as several SC members had concerned the decline of general student enrollment in correlation to the number of general ed teachers as well as the number of special education students and decrease number of special education teachers.
  • 42 MONTH PHOTOCOPIER LEASE: The Business & Tech Departments worked together to identify photocopiers that would be cost-effective and work with the computer labs and Chromebook based classrooms. They brought forth an option that offers a 42-month lease on copiers that will reduce the use of paper with the ability to photocopy directly to a pdf format and is $1495.42/month less than the current contract, yielding an anticipated savings of just under $18,000 for the district. – vote taken & unanimously approved 6-0
  • DISTRICT STRAGETIC FIVE-YEAR PLAN:  The district five-year strategic plan has been several years in the making and was presented to the SC and community two weeks ago. A vote was taken & unanimously approved 6-0  {CLICK HERE TO VIEW DISTRICT STRATEGIC PLAN}
  • GD @ PLAY:  GD At Play provided a presentation of their offer to gift a multi-use synthetic field to the district including the replacement carpet of the field to the SC two weeks ago.  Public hearings and information sessions were held in November/December, in which concerns were voiced, and GD @ Play addressed these concerns.  A vote was taken and unanimously approved to accept this donation.
  • CLEAR GOV SOFTWARE: Marlena Gilbert viewed a web-based software that pulled all the same data directly from DESE but was much more user-friendly for community members to retrieve information on our district at the MCAS conference. The information was brought back and shared with the administration. The administration felt the software could save many man hours on drafting easily digestible reports and fell in lines wth the SC want to increase budget transparency. The cost for the first year subscription will be covered by a donation made to the district. Should the district be interested in maintaining the subscription, it will have to consume that cost. That cost will need to be justified through analytics and community feed back so be sure to check it out. Here is a sample (the full site will not be up until January) of the website can be seen here as GD will not be up and running until the January.  http://www.cleargov.com/massachusetts/school/groton-dunstable/2015
  • SUPERINTENDENT SCREENING COMMITTEE NOMINATION SOURCE:  The SC discussed the makeup of the Supt. Screening Committee and nomination source.  The makeup of the screening committee can be seen here:  {SCREENING COMMITTEE}
  • NESDEC UPDATE:  Marlena Gilbert provided an update as the SC liaison for NESDEC.  The focus groups have been scheduled for January 11th and January 12th. There will be a press release sent to the Neighbor to Neighbor and Groton Herald Publications with a request to be included in their print and online editions.
    • Community members not able to attend the focus groups may opt to complete an online survey.  Completion of the survey should take about 20 minutes.  A link to the survey will be on the school department website January 9-13, 2017.

COMMUNITY SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH FOCUS GROUPS – Dunstable & Groton residents are welcome to attend both community focus groups to discuss what you desire in a new Superintendent of Schools.

    • January 12, 2017, 10 am at the Dunstable Library, 588 Main Street, Dunstable MA 01827
    • January 12, 2017, 7 pm at the Black Box Theatre @ Groton-Dunstable HS, 703 Chicopee Row, Groton MA 01450

Meeting adjourned at 9:30 pm

This blog post is my personal interpretation and summary of discussions from meetings that I attend and are not official minutes.

All Groton Fin Com members were present

  • Finance Policy Discussion – There will be a member of the Fin Com and BOS will get together and discuss areas of any possible financial policy modifications that should or want to be made; such as the usage of Free Cash language or perhaps some firmer language as to rational as to what is acceptable as an out of budget cycle expense such as items over $100,000 at Fall Town Meeting. This may be of importance where Free Cash was a most recent hot topic at Fall Town meeting, multiple one-time expenses coming up and a continual flurry of one-time expenditures that fall out of out the Spring Town meeting budget cycle…. especially items exceeding $100,000.
  • Building Committee – The Fin Com discussed the appetite to investigate the interest and ability of Groton having a permanent Building Committee that would be established to oversee all major building projects. The committee could include members with expertise in this various fields that would eliminate the need to appoint a new committee as projects come up on various buildings and allow continuity with a larger overview of multiple projects and how they affect each other. The consensus of the Fin Com was to bring this recommendation to the BOS as establishing a committee would be in the purview of the BOS.
  • FY18 Budget –  The municipal budget that is being reviewed is a 2.7% increase, however, there is a reimbursement that offsets the .3% from GELD. Groton has the obligation to pay the expense but GELD is covering for it because Groton employees are working at GELD.  John Sjoberg made a very good point when he said that a fine line of precedence may be set that could be perceived as “we can go over the budget guidelines, as long as you find a funding source for it.”  I completely understand the concept but also agree with John Sjoberg… in a way this could be perceived as setting an unhealthy precedence. 

Note the School Committee, Groton Fin Com & Dunstable Fin Com meeting portion of the agenda did not take place because of conflicting schedules, however, three SC Members attended the meeting.

An overview of what was discussed at the 8am Budget & Finance Meeting was provided to the Groton Fin Com. In attendance was Budget & Finance Meeting was Supt. Dr. Rodriguez, Business & Finance Director – Frank Antonelli, Asst. Business Manager – Michael Knight, BOS Member – Barry Pease, Dunstable Fin Com – Christine Muir, Alison Manugian, Jeff Kubick, Angela Donahue, Marlena Gilbert and Peter Cronin (Cronin by remote access).

  • Barry Pease – expressed his concerns about budgets being constructed in a silo and although folks are saying they don’t want an override it seems to be looking that way and he would like to address it now rather than later. He also expressed his want to work through this budget together and avoid some of what transpired last year. I believe Barry Pease to be a respectful BOS Member that strives to work together with both the Fin Com and the School Committee for the better of both the municipal and the district.  I appreciated that a fact that he attended the Budget & Finance meeting.   
    • Angela Donahue pointed out that the Groton Fin Com, Dunstable Fin Com and SC have met in accordance with the MASC Governance best practices as the discussions were budget related.  The intent was to follow proper governance procedures and was not to leave BOS out of the loop.
    • Marlena Gilbert pointed out that the SC has not been working in a silo.  An invitation to attend every Budget Finance Meeting has been emailed to every BOS from her personally.  An email response from a BOS Member was referenced as it expressed the want and inability to attend, however, provided budgetary guidance in the email that read ” My guidance is no more than 2.4% growth or it will trigger an override”.  Concerns about the guidance was expressed to the entire meeting.
      • The BOS does not have any authority over the district budget and should not be providing any budgetary guidance to the SC.
      • The 2.4% guidance was based on the premise that the district and municipal budget are now on a level playing field and they are NOT.
        • The District has an E&D Fund that is $500,000 below healthy values.
        • We have a quality District that has made improvements where resources were allocated, however, we still do NOT meet the needs of all our students per DESE and have a responsibility to do so.
        • The District does NOT have a Capital Fund.
        • The Municipal has a $2,000,000 Capital Fund.
        • The Municipal has certified an annual 1.2 million dollar in Free Cash over the last 6 years.  Some would say that the Free Cash does not belong to the municipal because if more funding was allotted to the district operation budget then there would be less money in Free Cash.
  • K- 12 Class Sizes  – There was a very difficult discussion pertaining to class sizes from K-12. Marlena Gilbert voiced concerns about the class sizes under 15, regardless of the narrative due to our current financial climate that seemingly does not offer an appetite for a district budget that is capable of offering the services needed to meet the needs of ALL students in addition to offering such small class sizes. You may click on the links below for the class sizes.
  • Enrollment – Marlena Gilbert voiced concern and lack of understanding of why our general student population numbers have declined by 411 students, however, our general education staffing numbers does not correlate with those numbers, nor does special education population and staffing. During discussions, multiple SC Members expressed the need to obtain a solid justification and resolution as staffing is a huge part of the district budget and should be examined prior to increasing the district budget to accommodate items identified in the needs assessment. Every dollar needs to be utilized in a manner that meets the needs of ALL students in all schools prior to requesting additional funding to address any portion of the Tech Plan or Needs Assessment. You can look up the enrollment on DESE – http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx?orgcode=06730000&orgtypecode=5&

Both enrollment and class sizes will be discussions for the SC during the budget process.  It is important to note that it is not a realistic assumption that reallocation of staff or funding would allow the district to fund the entire Needs Assessment, Tech Plan or Capital expenses; however, the SC is working diligently to approve a fiscally responsible budget that meets the needs of ALL children and has a five year plan for the Needs Assessment, Tech Plan and is expected to approve the Capital plan in time for Spring Town Meetings.

The municipal budget will be presented proposed on December 31, 2016.  The SC budget will be proposed in February/March 2017 time frame.  Please contact your SC Members, Fin Com Members and BOS to express how you want your tax dollars spent.

Fin Com: http://www.townofgroton.org/Town/BoardsCommittees/FinanceCommittee.aspx

BOS:  http://www.townofgroton.org/Town/BoardsCommittees/BoardofSelectmen.aspx

GDRSC:  http://gdrsd.org/school-committee/

Do not wait until Spring Town Meeting, get involved today!