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

In attendance at our last meeting for 2017 is Supt. – Dr. Laura Chesson, Director Business & Finance – Michael Knight, Asst. Supt. – Dr. Katie Novak and SC Members – Marlena Gilbert, Jeff Kubick, Angela Donahue, Peter Cronin, Jennifer McKenzie, Brian LeBlanc and Ryan McLane.

  • Florence Roche News – The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Board voted unanimously on December 13th to move Florence Roche Elementary School forward in the school building grant program process. This past year, there were over 130 applicants to the MSBA grant program of which Groton-Dunstable was among the 15 districts selected to partner with MSBA to address building deficiencies in one of their district schools. This vote is the first step with another formal vote to come at a subsequent MSBA Board meeting.  A separate tab will be added to the District website that will house all the information on this grant program within a couple of days. Below are some documents that you will find on the website.  It is important to note the MSBA required Feasibility Study would indicate if Flo Ro needs to be rebuilt or renovated.  Regardless of renovation or rebuilt, all Groton students would attend elementary school at Flo Ro whereas the new or renovations Flo Ro would include space for all Groton students.  Once Groton students come back into the new or renovated building, Dunstable would then be 100% responsible for all capital expenses for the Swallow Union. The project would take approximately 5-6 years to be complete. Should Dunstable taxpayers preferred to close the Swallow Union and accompany Groton in building a new regional elementary school they would be financially responsible for 22.98% of the cost to build a new Flo Ro.  The project estimations provided by the MSBA for an elementary school for our size of a District was in the 50,000,000 range with a minimum of 31% reimbursement.  Discussions will continue in the new year with Dunstable & Groton leadership as we begin the process outlined in the docs below.  For a bit of perspective 31% reimbursement for a 50,000,000 project would equate to MSBA funding of $15,500,000, the North Middlesex just built a new HS with a project cost of $89,000,000 with the help of the MSBA and you can read more at this link: –  http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/news_events/NMRHS_GB_6.4.15 
  • Field Trips Approved – Unanimously approved by SC
    • Nashua NH – Spanish 3 and Spanish 2 will preview a movie about Spain; Spanish Civil War, Ferdinand represents the victims of Civil War
    • Manchester NH – Students in advanced art classes will have the opportunity to explore the Currier Art Museum collection in order to view and study works of art first hand as it relates to their individual coursework.
  • Financial Policies – Gilbert presented a draft of a financial policy for Excess & Deficiency Funds and the newly approved District Capital Stabilization Fund. SC members provided feedback, Kubick will come back with revisions that captured the changes suggested by various SC Members.

This last portion of my cliff notes did not get discussed at the meeting as I forgot to share it with the community so I am sharing it on my blog. 

  • Special Ed. & Gen Ed. Programmatic Review Update – Please note this was not The staffing, curriculum, and scheduling final report will be presented to the community and School Committee at our last meeting in January.  The consultant was granted more time to allow for the final draft to cover all portions outlined in the RFP which includes everything from examining staffing levels, best practices and any possible opportunities to increase efficiency. The SC voted to hire the consultants to conduct the District Programmatic Review (Audit) in an effort to find some efficiencies within our budget to reallocate towards our District needs.  Throughout the audit process, the SC stayed true to the mindset that no matter how well an organization is run there must be some level of efficiencies that can be found. Both consultants are being held to that task, any cost savings realized will be reallocated back to our Students.  Stay tuned for more in the new year. 

I would like to wish everyone a Happy & Healthy New Year!

 

 

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

We had a Budget & Finance Subcommittee and SC meeting this evening, all items discussed at Budget & Finance were also discussed with the full committee at the SC meeting.

In attendance for Budget & Finance were Supt. – Dr. Laura Chesson, Business & Finance Director – Michael Knight, Subcommittee members Jeff Kubick, Jen McKenzie and Marlena Gilbert.  For the SC meeting, Asst. Supt. – Dr. Katie Novak, SC Members Ryan McLane, Brian LeBlanc and Angela Donahue joined the already present meeting attendees.

  • School Improvement Plans – The principals from the Swallow Union, Flo Ro, MS, and HS presented their building improvement plans, FY19 budget priorities, and data for SC members on the amount of time out students have recess & lunch. Notably, all requests will be considered by the Supt. for possible inclusion in the FY19 budget. All school improvement plans tie back into the Five Year Strategic Plan. The SC and community members will have access to further details earlier on and throughout the school budget process.
  • Groton Plays Recess Initiative – The Groton Plays Recess Initiative Group requested an update on their status for more recess at the Elementary & MS. The SC listened to the compelling reasons as to why more recess is beneficial for our students and how other districts including but not limited to Lexington, Wrentham, Franklin has more recess than GD.  Gilbert explained that we just heard from our Elementary & MS Principals emphasize that we are required by the state to provide a minimum number of instructional hours and we are currently at the minimum requirement at the Elementary School level. There is no disputing the benefits of having more recess. Gilbert went on to express that she too has researched the length of Dart Elementary Schools in which some of the towns mentioned do have more recess but their school day is 30 minutes longer than ours and in many cases have more days in their school year which allows for more flexibility. (Dart Elementary Schools are the schools that the state compares GD, similarity in enrollment and student population). The SC requested info on the Recess & Cafeteria to inquire if we could make changes to allow for more recess. Flo Ro cafe is limited in space so combining grades to share lunchtime is not possible unless we have our students travel to MS South cafe. Supt. Chesson pointed out that having Flo Ro students travel to the MS South Cafe would negate the desire to discontinue having students go between building during school hours. Currently, students traveling between the MS North & South Buildings when changing classes is not in the best interest of safety due to inclement weather and it compromises building security, anyone can enter buildings during class changes. Dr. Novak expressed that there is just not enough time in our school day and we can not unilaterally extend the school day, it has to be contractually agreed upon. Gilbert concluded this discussion by saying that both the SC and the teachers both want what is in the best interest of our students and we will continue to work towards that common goal. We will update them and the rest of the community as we know more.
  • Tully Land – SC accepted the land donated to the District by the Tully family and approved a $1.00 for the transaction.
  • FY19 Budget Update –  Business & Finance Director updated B&F Members that the FY19 Preliminary numbers are almost done and it is looking like a rough 4%-4.5% increase. Gilbert noted that this is prior to State Funding being approved, contract negotiations for the largest portion of employees, current transportation, and custodial costs are still very much up in the air. Notably, It doesn’t take into consideration any cost to outsource should that decision be made to do so and that discussion will be part of the discussion for the SC prior to approving a final budget.
  • Policies – the following policies were reviewed and revised to meet the MASC recommendations and to allow our administration the ability to address current challenges that exist in our schools. Parents should know that there are various ways that our youth are participating in drinking, drugs and tobacco use. Methods can range from vaping, clear spirits in water bottles, edibles (i.e. laced gummy bears, gummies/lollipops), using empty pen holders to carry & ingest drugs, juuling in bathrooms, etc. What’s juuling you ask? – https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/11/15/where-teenagers-are-high-school-bathrooms-vaping/IJ6xYWWlOTKqsUGTTlw4UO/story.html
    • ADC – Smoking on School Premises
    • GBED – Tobacco use on school property by staff members
    • JICH – Alcohol, Tabacco and Drug Use By Student Prohibited.
    • JIH – Interrogations & Searches
    • JK (formerly JIC) – Student Conduct

It is important to note that the updated versions of all these policies will be sent to MASC to upload to the website. In addition, all handbooks are going to be reviewed and updated to coincide with updated policies and best practices. They will then be presented to the SC for approval within the next 1-2 months.

Our Administration and the SC need your help to promote an alcohol-free, drug-free and tobacco-free environment for our students. I ask parents to consider having conversations with their students that encourage them to feel comfortable about going to their principal to report all tobacco, drug or alcohol use as it could save another students life.  

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, Assistant Superintendent – Dr. Katie Novak, Business & Finance Director – Micheal Knight and SC Members – Marlena Gilbert, Jeff Kubick, Peter Cronin, Jennifer McKenzie, Ryan McLane, Brian LeBlanc (by remote) and Angela Donahue.

  • Data Presentation District Performance – Dr. Novak presented the current state of our district in comparison to previous years, it is clear where funds have been strategically allocated we see improvements. Our District is committed to restructuring and reallocating all funds in a manner that directly impact student learning and performance; this will be evident in our upcoming budget and future budgets.
  • Enrollment Data – Dr. Chesson provided this months enrollment data, we are seeing an increase in enrollment in lower grades, although our higher grades have decreased through our prior years of decreased enrollment. This seems to correlate with the increase of residential construction in Dunstable and Groton which will affect the overall assessments to both towns as they are based on a five-year enrollment average.  
  • Central Office Relocation – The SC voted unanimously to move the Central office to the MS using the plan that utilizes modular rooms, classrooms and will leave the full use of the MS South Library as current. All savings will be reallocated back into the MS by way of updating our ancient library collections, updating equipment to allow for Maker Space/Computer Research area. 
  • Cafeteria Outsourcing – The SC chose to take no action. Legal counsel’s recommendation was to hold off until the contract is up for renewal to consider outsourcing. The District has a two-year contract with Seiu Local 888 Cafeteria which is up for renewal on June 30, 2019. In the meantime, the SC requested that administration task the Director of Food Services to establish a “business” plan or model that could implement changes that would increase participation, decrease costs and increase the quality of food. This plan/model will be presented to the SC at a future meeting.
  • Transportation – The SC took the following positions on Transportation. It is important to note that details on the process on how school start/end times, bus stops, and bus runs will be shared with the community once determined.
    • No Bus Fees
    • Reduce the current number of bus runs from three to two bus runs by way of delaying the start time of the HS. This will benefit our students educationally and will increase assigned ridership which is required to maintain our State reimbursement. 
    • Authorized administration to spend up to $30,000 to hire a Consultant and or purchase bus routing software. The administration is to utilize these tools to establish bus routes/stops that will increase assigned ridership on our buses to 75%. This should be done with the safety of our students as the priority. Our District MUST increase our assigned ridership to meet the State requirements of 75%, or we risk the loss of State Funding. Our students/parents may experience the inconvenience that will come with the change of bus stops and routes, but it is a necessity to prevent our District from losing approximately $1,000,000 in transportation reimbursement.  
    • Custodial Outsourcing/Privatization –  The SC unanimously voted for the administration to submit an RFP to outsource the entire Custodial Department. This vote ONLY allows the administration to obtain formal bids for outsourcing to enable the SC to have final costs for privatization. This information is required to make an educated decision versus working with estimates. The information will be brought forth to a future meeting for discussion, anticipation for this meeting would be February 2018.
    • Groton Community Dinner –  Gilbert updated the SC with the date in which they would be volunteering to cook and serve at the March 30, 2017, dinner.
    • Policies – The SC members agreed to reschedule policy discussions to December 6th meeting to allow time to enter into Executive Session to discuss contract negotiations. An abundance of policies are expected for first & second reads at our next meeting.

 

This letter was in the Groton Herald week 12/1/17, it is a must read and clarifies a few details that were left out of the Indian Hill permitting discussion. 

Losing Sight Of The Gift Of Indian Hill Music Center

Thu, 11/30/2017 – 4:48pm Heraldgroton
To the Editor,
With all the recent mudslinging, we seem to have lost sight of the gift that the Music Center at Indian Hill will be. An enhanced music education experience for our students. A recital and concert hall with world-class acoustics. An amazing resource for our community!
The new Music Center will also be an economic boon to Groton. Stephen Sheppard, Professor of Economics at Williams College, is a nationally respected expert on this topic. The BSO asked him to analyze the impact of Tanglewood on the Berkshires. His research is reported in a May 15, 2017 Boston Globe article: “The Tanglewood summer music festival brings in more than $103 million in economic activity to the Berkshires each year – up 70 percent from 2008 estimates.” Lenox alone benefits from over $40 million annually.
While Tanglewood accommodates 5,000 people in the shed and 12,000 – 15,000 on the lawn, Indian Hill’s maximum capacity will be 1,000 in the concert hall and 1,300 on the lawn. If Groton were to realize even 1% of the economic benefit that Lenox derives from Tanglewood, it would equate to $400,000. What if it were 10%? That’s $4 million, annually for Groton.
According to this study, approximately 1,200 jobs were created. Meals and rooms taxes in Lenox exceeded $2 million in 2016. Visitors bought second homes; property taxes on second homes alone generate $13 million per year in Lenox and surrounding towns.
Lenox brought in needed revenue while retaining the character of the Town. The impact on the taxpayers is quantifiable – residential taxes in Lenox cover only 77% of the total tax levy for the Town. In Groton, residential taxes must cover 94% of the Town budget. Taxes from local economic development have made the difference.
Professor Sheppard also analyzed 20 years of data on 380 metropolitan areas in the US. The study says “There is a long-run positive relationship between the output of cultural organizations and the local economic output per capita.”
Maybe this scholar’s words sound dry, but to me, they are exciting. Visitors staying at the Groton Inn, dining at our restaurants, paddling the Nashua River or hiking our trails. Job creation! Millions of dollars in new taxes that we can spend on our schools, our seniors, a community center, and our police, firefighters and other critical Town services. Pretty exciting, wouldn’t you say?
Note that Indian Hill Music is also paying 100 percent of the road improvement costs at Prescott Park. Selectman Josh Degen estimated this gift to be in excess of $350,000.
For the record, neither my husband nor I receive any financial benefit from Indian Hill Music, not even a free ticket to an orchestra concert. Groton residents may wonder why we would endure such vicious attacks on our character with no financial reward. The answer is simple: We believe that bringing this amazing music center to Groton will enhance our students’ music education experience and put Groton on the map as a cultural destination.
In this cynical age, it may seem suspicious to have charitable intentions, but that truly is all we ever wanted and we intend to see it through.
Submitted by:
Carole Prest
Chairman of the Board, Indian Hill Music