This blog post is my interpretation and summary of discussions from meetings that I attend and are not official minutes.
In attendance was Superintendent – Dr. Laura Chesson, Business & Finance Director – Michael Knight, SC Members – Peter Cronin, Jennifer McKenzie, Angela Donahue, Marlena Gilbert and Jeff Kubick.
- Public Forum District Audit Recommendations
- Building Utilization – Central Office Relocation to MS South Building. In response to feedback provided by the community pertaining to alternative underused space, Dr. Chesson investigated further and discovered that MS South building offered alternative space that could be used for central office versus using a portion of the Library. Four teaching classrooms would be relocated to the second floor (teachers will have the same quality space), and central office will utilize the first-floor classrooms in conjunction with the modular rooms without using any library space. Equivalent savings from this change will be used for student teaching & learning in our upcoming & future school budgets. There will not be a decrease in assessment to our towns, however, there will be an increase of services and or offerings to our students. The SC is expected to vote on this recommendation on November 29th.
- Transportation – Discussions about reconfiguring of bus stops, changing HS start time, bus routes and bus fees with community members took place.
- Bus Fees – Discussions on bus fees began with the SC members expressing a unanimous consensus that the goal of the audit was to find cost savings within our budget and reallocate those savings to needs within our District before asking our towns for additional funding. Charging bus fees is simply asking a segment of taxpayers for more money versus all taxpayers. Gilbert expressed that it is the responsibility of all taxpayers to provide our students with a safe pathway to schools, we currently do not have sidewalks, crossing guards or police detail at each school that provides that safe pathway. Until we do the financial responsibility for transportation should fall on all taxpayers, not just parents. The overall feedback from community members both in person and through email was that they did not support bus fees. The SC is expected to vote on this recommendation on November 29th.
- Bus Route & Stop Reconfiguration/HS Start Time – Discussions are pertaining to what changes would take place in reconfiguring the bus routes. Some concerns were how long the ride would be for students? How would the schedule work if HS start time was changed to combine bus routes with the MS? Would centralized bus routes be of any benefit? Gilbert expressed that changing the HS start time is a contractual change; it will be discussed with the GDEA (Unit A Teachers) as we are still in negotiations at this time. There was mention of possibly hiring a consultant that specializes in establishing bus routes & stops that could minimize commute times, maximize ridership without compromising our students’ safety. Discussions about obtaining contract services to find a viable bus route/stop schedule will continue with a vote to instruct the Supt. on how to proceed is expected to be taken on November 29th.
- Outsourcing – Discussions about outsourcing custodial and food service took place.
- Food Service – The majority of community members had concerns about the quality of food and the time in which the Elementary School students have to eat it. There was mention that if the quality of food was better and or children had more time to eat that may increase participation in purchasing school lunch. The SC acknowledged that our Elementary School day is shorter than both our MS and HS school day, in addition to being shorter than other elementary schools in other districts. Gilbert expressed to community members that this would also be a contractual change, it would have to be discussed with the GDEA (Unit A Teachers) as we are still in contract negotiations. Dr. Chesson has already tasked the Food Service Director to come up with some viable solutions that would prevent food service from running a deficit. In further discussions, a community member mentioned that the savings are not as high as forecasted because the District is responsible for the costs of insurance for employees with a minimum of 10 years of employment, Gilbert pointed out that dereasing the hours of the cafe employee shift would result in an elimination of benefits and cost thereof to the District was also a recommendation. The SC will discuss this more on November 29th with the expectations on voting to provide the Supt. with direction as to how to proceed with the outsourcing recommendation.
- Custodial Services – The Local 877 Union Representative addressed the SC to provide them with some costs to consider when thinking about outsourcing that included but were not limited to vacation buyback, unemployment, and loss of sense of community in privatized employees. Gilbert shared that there are districts that found great success in outsourcing – Tyngsborough, Maynard, Newton, Melrose, Whitman-Hanson, Brookline and Arlington, however, there are districts that have not such as Chelmsford & Leominster. School Committee Members – Gilbert, Donahue, and Cronin all reminded the community that we are here considering recommendations because the community and peer boards expressed the need for the District to minimize the growth of our operating budget. The SC will discuss this more on November 29th with the expectations on voting to provide the Supt. with direction as to how to proceed with the outsourcing recommendation. The SC is committed to funding the needs of our District through reallocating all cost savings to the teaching and learning of our students, for me, that means that the cost to implement changes will be included in the assessments to our member towns. We as Groton & Dunstable taxpayers, peer board members, will need to decide if we support such changes. The decision to implement changes may be made by the SC. However, the responsibility to understand the full cultural & financial impact falls on the shoulders of every Groton & Dunstable taxpayer.
To ask questions, share comments, concerns or support please email the SC Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org or attend our next meeting at the GDRHS Library at 7 PM.
- Award of HVAC at Boutwell – SC approved the replacement of the HVAC at Boutwell and awarded the contract to the same vendor that performed Boiler replacement at Flo Ro last year. The costs came in $800 below budgeted costs and will take place over Christmas break.
- Policies – SC approved several policies that were brought forth for the second read, all policies are sent to MASC to be uploaded to the District website. http://gdrsd.org/school-committee/policies/
- JJH & IJOA – Field Trips & Athletic Trips
- JIB – Student Involvement in Decision Making
- JF – School Admissions
- EEAENA & EEAENA Exhibits – Bus Driver Examination & Training