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

In attendance was Interim Supt.  – Bill Ryan, Director of Business & Finance – Fran Antonelli, Director of Business & Finance Asst – Michael Knight and all of our SC Members.

  • Final Audit Melanson Heath & Company – The final audit for 2016 was presented to the SC that provided information on the Financial Status of our District.  You can read the entire Financial Statement by clicking here:  Financial Statement 2016
    • Financial Highlights
      • As of the close of the current fiscal year, the total net position was $17,367,389, a change of $(1,059,720) in comparison to the prior year.
      • As of the close of the current fiscal year, governmental funds reported combined ending fund balances of $3,349,899, a change of $481,848 in comparison to the prior year.
      • At the end of the current fiscal year, unassigned fund balance for the general fund was $1,073,178 a change of $241,726 in comparison to prior year.
      • Total long-term debt (ie. bond payable) at the close of the current fiscal year was $16,050,000 a change of $(2,411,000) in comparison to prior year.
  • Audit of Flo Ro & Swallow Union Student Activity Fund – An internal audit of the Swallow Union Student Activity Fund was conducted for the period 7/1/2015 through 6/30/2016, as required by MGL Chapter 71, section 47 and in accordance with Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education audit guidelines. It was presented by the District Accountant – Polly McGrath. Aside from the findings listed within each audit report, the financial records, policies, procedures and internal controls in place are sufficient to support the objectives of the management of the Student Activities of the Swallow Union & Flo Ro Elementary School.
  • School Choice – The Interim Supt. recommended we continue to participate in School Choice but do not offer it for the upcoming school year.  The principals at all schools are comfortable with the class sizes and it is in the best interest of our District. SC voted & unanimously approved
  • Director of Business & Finance Appointment – The Interim Supt. recommended that the SC appoint Michael Knight to the position of Business & Finance Director.  Frank Antonelli the current Director of Business & Finance has been our interim and working side by side with Michael for a year and highly recommends him as well.  SC voted & unanimously approved
  • Recommendation to approve five (5) year Capital Plan – The SC has been reviewing and deliberating the plan for quite some time. With the inclusion of all capital expense of $5000 per project (per DESE not per unit is the current practice amongst districts) within the plan, the SC was prepared to finalize the plan. The finalized Plan will be uploaded to the GDRSD website, however, the spreadsheet including all costs of the Capital Plan & Technology Plan is below. I suggested that the SC meet with peer boards to come up with a game plan to fund the Capital & Technology Plan whereas the combined cost of the two plans average $725,000 annually for our District with the most expensive year being FY19. The total cost of the plans would be distributed by enrollment as laid out in the regional agreement, SC agreed that discussions would commence after the May elections in both towns. SC Voted & unanimously approved 
  • Superintendent Contract for Dr. Laura Chesson – The contract has been negotiated with the SC and Dr. Laura Chesson. SC voted & unanimously approved 
  • GD @ Play MOU – The MOU to lease (lease amount $1.00) the HS field to allow GD @ Play to conduct the construction of the Dual Surface Field was drafted and presented to the SC.  SC voted & unanimously approved 
  • Programmatic Review/District Audit – Abrahams Group has been collecting data to conduct their two portions – the District Financial and Operation.  The original RFP Programmatic Review Screening committee will continue to be involved throughout the process.  Since Alison Manugian is no longer going to be on the SC after the election, the SC will discuss the possibility of another SC member taking her place.

Meeting adjourned – 8:40 PM


The local athletic fields, grocery stores and gym were buzzing today about Groton Spring Town Meeting. For those that have not heard, it is being held at the GDRMS Performance Center at 7 pm on April 24, 2017.

The Groton Spring Town Meeting Packet includes 41 warrant articles this year! 

They include our town operation budget (article #4) that includes the school & municipal operation budgets, municipal capital expenses (article #7) , purchase land & design plans for a new senior center (article #9 & #10), welcome markers (article #17), a citizen’s petition to create a town seal committee (article #35) and a purchase of a new ladder truck (article #8) are just a few on tap for our marathon Spring Town Meeting. What you won’t find in the Spring Town Meeting Packet is our towns anticipated future spending.

What you won’t find in the Spring Town Meeting Packet are the anticipated capital expenses we should anticipate over the next 3-5 years.

Do we have a plan that lays out how we are going to pay for all these capital expenses at the same time?

What will our tax bills look like with debt exclusion on top of debt exclusion?

  • We have a senior centre that needs to be updated or rebuilt, with an approximate cost of $5,000,000  + million dollars. 
  • We have the Prescott Building that Town Meeting decided not to sell therefore we have the responsibility to rehab that building. This will cost another $5,000,000 + million dollars.
  • We have Flo Ro Elementary that requires a rehab or rebuilt and even with MSBA funding, this will cost more than $15,000,000 million dollars. The thought that the building utilization audit is going to find an alternative location to place almost 500 students is not realistic.  The thought that our enrollment is in such decline we will not need the school is also not realistic.
  • We have a Municipal Capital Plan, that calls for annual funding.  This Spring we are looking at approximately $510,000 in miscellaneous capital expenses, in addition to the $995,000 capital expense for the ladder truck. 
  • We have District Capital & Technology Plans with a combined cost of approximately $425,000 a year to Groton over the next six years based on enrollment projections.

We are talking about $25,000,000 + million dollars being spent over the next 3-5 years. 

I hope to see every seat filled at the GDRMS Performance Theatre on April 24, 2017.  It is time for taxpayers to shake off that apathy, attend Town Meeting, ask questions and have a say in how your tax dollars are spent.

See you Monday night, 7 PM sharp!





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

In attendance, this evening was Interim Supt. – Bill Ryan, Director of Business & Finance – Frank Antonelli, Asst. Director of Business & Finance – Michael Knight and SC Members – Jeff Kubick, Marlena Gilbert, Stephanie Cronin, Angela Donahue, Alison Manugian and Peter Cronin & Jennifer McKenzie via remote access.

  • Destination Imagination Global Field Trip – Destination Imagination allows our students to learn teamwork, creativity, and S.T.E.M learning.  Our Grade 5 team will be competing in the Destination Imagination Global Tournament in Knoxville TN from May 23rd to May 28th. The SC approved this trip and wished our 5th-grade team good luck in the competition.  It should be noted that all of our GD teams did very well in addition to grade 5 making it to through to the tournament.
  • Special Education Transportation – The Business and Finance department requested bids for special education transportation.  Van Pool Transportation is the company that came in with the lowest bid.  The service references,  student commute time, safety requirements and insurance coverage was equivalent to what GD received  with Dee Bus however since the cost was lower the change in vendor will be made. GD is not able to entertain any vendors request to match the lowest bid in an official bidding process unless the service or response time is not equivalent, therefore Dee Bus was not able to match the lowest bid to retain the contract with GD.  However Van Pool Transportation would consider hiring drivers that currently service our Special  Education Students if additional drivers are needed to service the GD account. Parents are encouraged to contact administration with any concerns or questions regarding this change.  
  • FY18 GDRSD Budget & Assessment Revision – The SC requested that the Interim. Supt. to decrease the budget through savings found in obtaining bids for Insurance, Special Education Transportation and utilizing the money not being used to move Central Office from Prescott in FY18 as the SC has voted to renew our lease at Prescott for a period up to two years.  There was a consensus amongst the SC to renew the lease at Prescott for up to two years versus a longer term because it will allow the SC the time needed to review the results of a building utilization review being conducted by The Abrahams Group. With this information, the SC will be able to better determine where the most cost effect & practical location would be for Central Office. The location of Central Office is unlikely to be at Prescott beyond the lease renewal, therefore the relocation expenses would be included in a future school budget. The SC voted to decrease the budget as follows:

 FY18 Budget – $39,425,831 (This is a $1,214,926 difference from FY17 – 3.18% increase)

$20,175,864 – Assessment to Groton

$5,949,646 – Assessment to Dunstable

  • Capital Plan – The SC was expecting to approval the capital plan after reviewing it at the Budget & Finance Subcommittee and SC Workshop, however, the request to change the inclusion of times $50,000 and $5000 was not complete. This work will be finalized for our next meeting on April 26th in which the SC will approve the Capital Plan at that time as the only reason why they did not approve it last night is because the changes were not complete.   The SC wants to include all capital expenses that exceed $5000 in the Capital Plan, they want to give the towns a clear picture of what is an operational and what is a capital expense. The towns can choose which way to fund the capital expenses through Free Cash, Capital Funds, Debt Exclusion etc.
  • Town Meeting Presentation – A brief summary report for our GDRSD will be presented at TM by SC/Asst. Supt. Dr. Katie Novak and the budget will be presented by Interim Supt. Bill Ryan & SC Chair.   Sharing a report on our District is well overdue and has been requested by many in our community…  it is on tap for Spring Town Meeting. 

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

Sorry for the combined notes this go around.  We have been in meetings after meetings working our tails off to get things done for our school communities.  I am going to work my way backward and start with some AWESOME news!

SC Special Meeting 4/6/17 

The SC as a whole is thrilled that Dr. Chesson has agreed to enter into negotiations with the Groton-Dunstable School Committee for the Superintendent position at the GDRSD. 

Budget & Finance Meeting 4/4/17 & Workshop 4/5/17

  • Capital Plan – An updated overview of the Capital Plan was presented to Budget & Finance. It includes all anticipated Capital Expenses that will need to be addressed from FY18 to FY26. Community members should understand that this is a living document as unexpected capital items can turn up at times, and they will need to be addressed as well.  The current proposed plan to the Budget & Finance Subcommittee did not include any Capital Expenses under $50,000.   Marlena Gilbert expressed concerns about including them in the operations budget and would like them all Capital items included that are over $5000 as that is the minimum value identified by DESE as a Capital Expense.  At the Workshop, the Capital Plan was also presented to the entire SC, and there was consensus to include all Capital expenses that exceed $5000 in the capital plan, so they are outside of the operations budget.  The SC will vote on the Capital Plan at our next meeting scheduled for April 12th.
  • Summary Page Technology/Capital Plan/Needs Assessment – There was a discussion of having a master summary page that combines the spreadsheets holding the annual costs for the Technology, Capital and Needs Assessment to better plan for all items in unison. This will allow the towns to better plan on when Debt Exclusions may be coming off the books in each town and what funding mechanisms work best for each town.  All the data is available in each of the plans, however combining them will be easier to manage the total cost of District improvements necessary to move our District forward.
  • FY18 Budget Update – The Supt. believes we will have an additional $90,000 available in funds that we could either use towards additional positions or decrease the budget to help alleviate some financial stress for Dunstable as they had an unexpected enrollment change.  The $90,000 savings was acquired by not moving out of Prescott, so the moving expense budgeted was not needed, Insurance Cost Savings observed through obtaining alternative bids and Special Education Transportation savings obtained through alternative bids.  Due to the savings we are able to keep the following added positions in our FY18 budget…
    • .5 Reading Specialist – Swallow Union
    • 2.0 Library Media Specialists @ Elementary – This will allow study and research skills to be taught as a special at the Elementary Level.
    • 1.0 Adjustment Counselor

Jeff Kubick and Marlena Gilbert discussed the opportunity to decrease the School Budget at the Budget & Finance and were in agreement to recommend this to the SC at the upcoming Workshop.   This was expressed to the entire SC at the workshop and the entire board voted to instruct the Interim Supt. to reduce the budget through savings found while still including the three priorities mentioned above.  Marlena Gilbert expressed that, this situation is different where as our SC had “left money on the table in Groton” and cuts were made.  We are adding 6 positions this year and funding approximately $375K in overdue Capital Expenses. However, French was discontinued as enrollment did not justify the costs to our community, if the community wants to support classes under 5 then they should contact their elected officials so that is considered when they make decisions similar to eliminating a course offering due to decreased enrollment. 

It is through the proper due diligence of our committee and the Finance Department that we are able to decrease our assessment and provide additional services to our students. For me it is not about the “dollars left on the table”, it is about the services we need to provide to our students and we are accomplishing that.

This morning I got an email update sharing with me that the Dunstable Advisory Board had voted 5:1 to approve the town’s proposed FY18 budget. The budget includes the anticipated decrease in the assessment that is expected to be voted on at the next SC meeting. The single dissenting vote had concerns about the costs of the personnel board recommendations, no one spoke against the school budget.