Franklin (MA) School Committee Blog

The pieces below represent the views of the individual authors, not the committee as a whole.

Davis Thayer Tours on Thursday

Posted by Sean Donahue on February 6, 2013

The Franklin School Committee and School Department are hosting tours for the public of Davis Thayer Elementary School on Thursday at 6 p.m. starting in the school’s lobby. Members of the School Committee and Administration will lead the tours and be available to answer questions and listen to feedback about the schools and programs.

Davis Thayer is the oldest school in Franklin, built in 1924, and served as the town’s high school until the 1960s.

The full schedule of tours being offered is below:

February 7 (Thursday) – Davis Thayer Elementary School
March 7 (Thursday) – Helen Keller Middle School/Annie Sullivan Middle School
April 24 (Wednesday) – Franklin High School

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Parmenter Elementary School Tours on Thursday

Posted by Sean Donahue on January 9, 2013

The Franklin School Committee and School Department are hosting tours for the public of the Parmenter Elementary School on Thursday at 6 p.m. starting in the school’s lobby. Members of the School Committee and Administration will lead the tours and be available to answer questions and listen to feedback about the schools and programs.

The Parmenter School features some unique features among Franklin’s schools, including solar panels.

The full schedule of tours being offered is below:

January 10 (Thursday) – Gerald M. Parmenter Elementary School
February 7 (Thursday) – Davis Thayer Elementary School
March 7 (Thursday) – Helen Keller Middle School/Annie Sullivan Middle School
April 24 (Wednesday) – Franklin High School

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School Committee and Administration Offering Building Tours

Posted by Sean Donahue on September 28, 2012

The Franklin School Committee and School Department are inviting the Franklin community to participate in tours of the school facilities.

Tours are being offered at all of Franklin’s public elementary and middle schools and the high school. Members of the School Committee and Administration will lead the tours and be available to answer questions and listen to feedback about the schools and programs.

The first tours will be offered at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School on Thursday, October 4. The full schedule is below. Tours begin at 6 p.m. starting from the lobby of the designated school.

Tour Schedule:
2012:
October 4 (Thursday) – John F. Kennedy Elementary School
October 25 (Thursday) – Horace Mann Middle School/Oak Street Elementary School/Early Childhood Development Center
December 6 (Tuesday) – Remington Middle School/Jefferson Elementary School

2013:
January 10 (Thursday) – Gerald M. Parmenter Elementary School
February 7 (Thursday) – Davis Thayer Elementary School
March 7 (Thursday) – Helen Keller Middle School/Annie Sullivan Middle School
April 24 (Wednesday) – Franklin High School

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AP Participation Continues to Rise

Posted by Sean Donahue on June 28, 2012

A recent Boston Globe article discussing AP testing rates for the class of 2010 (percentage of students who took at least one AP test) at area high schools — and listing Franklin at 26% — led to a few concerned e-mails. While the data is correct for the class of 2010, participation in AP classes has risen considerably since then.

For the class of 2012, 42% (175 of 419) of students participated in at least one AP course — a 61% increase over two years. In November, increases for the class of 2011 led to Franklin being one of 367 school districts in the U.S. and Canada named to the AP District Honor Roll for achieving “increases in access to AP® courses for a broader number of students and also maintained or improved the rate at which their AP students earned scores of 3 or higher on an AP Exam.”

Franklin has taken further steps to increase access and will be offering AP Latin, and AP Biology and AP United States History I to sophomores at the high school next year. There are currently 697 total enrollments in Advanced Placement courses for the 2012-13 school year, compared to 593 in 2011-12.

Franklin now offers 21 different Advanced Placement courses, significantly higher than many of the top performing schools discussed in the Globe. Offering a wide variety of AP courses and increasing participation remains a priority.

While participation is important, so are results. Despite enrollment increases in AP courses, Franklin has maintained an 80% passing rate (students achieving a 3 or better) as of 2011 (2012 data is not yet available).

Additionally, college matriculation rate for the class of 2012 exceeds 96%, an all-time high for Franklin High School.

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VOTE TODAY

Posted by Sean Donahue on March 27, 2012

Remember to vote today on the debt exclusion for the new Franklin High School project between 6AM and 8PM at the current Franklin High School.

The project has the unanimous support of the School Committee, the Town Council and the Finance Committee, but now it’s up to the voters to decide if the town proceeds with the project. The School Committee, Town Council and Finance Committee endorsement of a “Yes” vote is below.

——-

As elected and appointed officials charged with developing prudent fiscal policies and strategic planning decisions for the town of Franklin, the Town Council, School Committee and Finance Committee unanimously support the March 27, Debt Exclusion ballot question for a new Franklin High School (FHS).

While the Town continually reviews its capital needs, a 2005 report from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) caused us to prioritize the high school facility. At that time, FHS was placed on warning status for 19 facility-related issues. Franklin spent the next three years identifying and addressing those issues that could be fixed outside of a major renovation.

In 2008, NEASC continued FHS’s warning status and asked Franklin to “resolve all facility issues.” As documented in an independent architectural study, the structural issues of FHS are indisputable and can only be addressed with a comprehensive renovation or new building and include:

— lack of accessibility for handicapped and/or injured (e.g., sprained ankles) students

— lack of facility-wide emergency sprinkler system

— poor condition of field house structure and roof

— classrooms below the minimum square feet required by MSBA

— poorly equipped and outdated science labs and classrooms

— poor ventilation

We highlight these points to demonstrate that the issues facing Franklin are not a matter of aesthetics, or maintenance, or easily addressed with simple wiring and new ceiling tiles. In fact, the state added more than $1.5 million to Franklin’s original reimbursement level after it positively assessed the historical maintenance of our town and school facilities.

A joint committee was formed to determine the most cost-effective way to address the problem. After four years of extensive study and detailed oversight from the state, the recommendation before the voters on March 27, is to build a new school under the state’s Model School Program.

A variety of diligent and independent analyses assure us and state officials that the particular masonry framework of FHS (versus an adaptable steel frame), 19 roof levels and the sprawling H-wing design of the high school makes the renovations necessary for compliance about as expensive to taxpayers as a new school, with a significantly increased chance of cost overruns, extensive disruption to students and a shortened return on investment.

The invitation-only Model School Program has many benefits that make it the most judicious cost-efficient use of taxpayer’s dollars, including:

— increased reimbursement from the state

— shorter construction time versus a newly designed school

— previous duplication in other towns limits change orders and unknown costs

— maximizes student safety and minimizes disruption to educational environment

 

Specifically, the new FHS proposal would result in:

— state reimbursement rate of 59.52 percent of eligible costs

— fully furnished and equipped high school, including athletic fields

— Six additional classrooms, with all classrooms meeting minimum size guidelines

— 21st century classrooms and science labs with integrated technology

— an 830-seat auditorium/theater

— a 17,700-square-foot gym and 6,000-square-feet-indoor walking track

— full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act for access and special education

— remove Franklin High from accreditation warning status

 

The Model School proposal resolves undeniable facility issues that we must address. It also limits the opportunity for unknown costs and limits the cost for taxpayers to about 40 cents per every dollar spent, whereas an unapproved renovation is ineligible for the state reimbursement and would be borne 100 percent by the taxpayer. Furthermore, the new design maximizes the educational opportunities available to our students, preparing them for our current professional world, with an emphasis on group learning and technology. There are many ancillary benefits as well, including protection of property values and enhanced community pride.

Franklin has a proud tradition of investing in its town for the betterment of all our citizens. We urge you to continue this support for your community and vote yes on March 27, for a new Franklin High School.

The opinion above was approved by the Franklin Town Council, Franklin School Committee, and Franklin Finance Committee.

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Franklin High School Tours and Info Session Set for March 8

Posted by Sean Donahue on March 4, 2012

FRANKLIN, Mass. – The Franklin School Building Committee will be hosting an information session on the proposed new Franklin High School and providing tours of the current high school on Thursday, March 8.

Starting at 6 p.m. tours of the current facility will be offered by members of the Franklin School Committee and others. This will serve as a great opportunity for Franklin residents to see firsthand the issues with the current building and provide a chance to ask School Committee members questions about the educational benefits of the new building.

At 7 p.m. in the Franklin High School lecture hall, the School Building Committee and architect will provide the latest update on the project and answer any questions that Franklin citizens may have. Among those scheduled to present are School Building Committee chairman Tom Mercer and Ai3 architect Jim Jordan.

“I do hope citizens take this opportunity to tour the existing FHS and see exactly why we need a new facility and hear the Architect’s unveil a presentation of the design of our new facility,” said Mercer.

School Committee chairwoman Paula Mullen, Superintendent Maureen Sabolinski, Franklin High School Principal Peter Light, and Owner Project Manager (OPM) Sean Fennell will also be available to answer questions. Other school and town officials will also be in attendance.

The debt exclusion to pay for the new high school is set for Tuesday, March 27 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Franklin High School Field House.

March 8 Schedule at Franklin High School:

6PM – High School Tours

7PM – New High School Presentation in the Franklin High School Lecture Hall

About the new Franklin High School Project:

Franklin High School was placed on Warning Status for Accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) in 2005 for issues including lack of handicap accessibility in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and outdated science labs. The School Building Committee was created to find the best solution to address the problems.

Kaestle Boos Associates was commissioned to do a study on the school finding several issues that needed to be addressed. That report from 2006 is available here: http://franklinhigh.vt-s.net/Pages/FranklinHS_WebDocs/FHSRenovation/FHSExistingCond.pdf

After nearly six years of the School Building Committee exploring various renovation and new school options to rectify the issues with the current school, Franklin was invited into the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA)’s Model School Program. Both the School Building Committee and MSBA agreed the Model School Program was the best path forward for the town.

The MSBA’s Model School Program gives towns the option to choose between four different model schools that have been previously designed and built saving costs on design and reducing issues during the construction process. The School Building Committee decided upon Whitman-Hanson model.

The MSBA has agreed to fund 59.52% of the project, meaning the taxpayers of Franklin would fund $47 million of the $104 million dollar school and the debt exclusion is approved by the voters on March 27.

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Patrick promises more money for public schools

Posted by Sean Donahue on January 22, 2012

Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray revealed on Friday that the Patrick administration hopes to increase funding for local school districts by $145 million in fiscal year 2013. In total, Governor Deval Patrick’s plan calls for $4.1 billion in state aid for public education. According to a report on Boston.com, this represents the highest level of state aid for local school districts in state history.

According to the Worcester Telegram, this aid is expected to fully fund all school districts at foundation levels, which is an individual calculation of the adequate baseline spending amount for each district linked to local  education reform requirements. Each district would receive equal or increased state funding from current levels in 2013.

Murray only summarized Patrick’s proposed budget, which will be released fully on Wednesday. Details on how this plan, if passed as is, would affect Franklin’s funding are currently unavailable. There was no mention on if the problems in the current calculation of the foundation budget would be addressed.

More information can be found at: http://www.telegram.com/article/20120121/NEWS/101219926/1246

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State funding hurt by outdated calculations

Posted by Sean Donahue on November 29, 2011

State aide for public education isn’t enough to cover the intended costs, leaving many Massachusetts districts operating below the baseline foundation budget – the state’s estimate of what a district needs to run its schools – according to a report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget)  released on Sunday.

According to an article in Sunday’s Boston Globe:

“The state’s funding formula for public schools underestimates the rising cost of special education and teachers’ health care by more than $2 billion a year, forcing some schools to cut costs on regular education and creating inequities in a system designed to make funding fairer across communities”

The Education Reform Act of 1993 created the state’s foundation budget and changed the formula for providing state education aid to the to the Commonwealth’s K-12 school districts. The foundation budget is an individual calculation of adequate baseline spending amount for each district.

The Act, however, has yet to be fully reexamined and its 18-year-old assumptions are proving to be problematic. The foundation baseline underestimates current special education costs in Massachusetts by $1.0 billion and health insurance costs by $1.1 billion.

So what does this all mean? The original foundation budget was meant to provide funds for three extra teachers per every 100 low-income students in a district. Additionally, according to the MassBudget report, $380 (in fiscal year 1993 dollars) per low-income student was allocated for “expanded program allotment money to help schools expand instructional time for these targeted students.” Yet it appears low-income students may not be receiving that support. Despite the aid, spending on Regular Education Teachers is below foundation in most districts in Massachusetts.

According to the MassBudget report:

“Teacher salaries, adjusted for inflation, have remained remarkably level with the foundation budget’s original salary assumption. This means that teacher spending below foundation levels has likely been manifest in the form of fewer total teachers than foundation calls for, resulting in larger class sizes, less planning and meeting time for teachers during the school day, and the hiring of fewer specialist teachers, such as literacy specialists, language teachers, art teachers, etc.”

The unexpected increase in cost for special education and health insurance means money that was intended to supplement budgets isn’t keeping up with increases enough even to prevent further cuts from taking place in many of the state’s districts each year. While the wealthiest districts are finding other ways to fund their schools – the wealthiest top 20% of towns spend an average of 39% more than the foundation budget – the poorest districts aren’t keeping up. The study found the poorest 20% spend 32% below the recommended foundation budget.

The MassBudget report believes “these findings indicate that communities with greater wealth make it a priority to raise additional local revenue to fund education at levels significantly above baseline foundation amounts.”

MassBudget divided towns into five quintiles based on “the relative wealth of cities and towns that fund their local contributions.” Franklin does not fall into one of the wealthiest groups. MassBudget actually places Franklin into the second lowest wealth quintile (20%-40%) and finds the town spends $243 below the per pupil recommendation of $3,861 on Regular Education Teachers based on the foundation budget. Franklin also spends $226 below foundation of $481 on Materials and Technology and $35 below the recommendation of $139 on Professional Development. District funding information on MassBudget can be found here.

In tough economic times, it’s difficult for any town to fund the funding necessary to fill the gap created by the unexpected increases in teacher’s health care and special education costs, but the study provides some insight into an Act that may need to be revised and highlights a struggle many of Massachusetts’ school districts are facing.

“We’re well aware that the timing of this is not good,’’ Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents told the Boston Globe. “But we also think it’s important for people to be aware of what’s happening in school finance today so that over time it gets proper attention.’’

In the meantime, the community of Franklin and its School Committee must continue to do everything we can to assure our students are getting the great education Franklin has a history of providing and that includes making the most of every dollar available.

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Franklin named to 2nd Annual AP District Honor Roll

Posted by Sean Donahue on November 29, 2011

Earlier this month Franklin earned recognition from the College Board as one of 367 public school districts in the United States and Canada placed on the 2nd Annual Advanced Placement (AP) District Honor Roll. The AP District Honor Roll recognizes school districts that “that simultaneously achieved increases in access to AP® courses for a broader number of students and also maintained or improved the rate at which their AP students earned scores of 3 or higher on an AP Exam.”

AP courses are designed to educate and test high school students at the college-level. Students who perform well on the AP Exam (score of 3 or higher out of 5) taken at the end of the course may receive college credit, depending on which university they attend. Franklin High School’s AP offerings include: English Literature and Composition, Spanish Language, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science, Calculus, Statistics, U.S. History, European History, Economics, Studio Art, Music Theory, and Government and Politics.

Massachusetts featured 30 districts on the AP District Honor Roll, tied with New York for second in the country behind Pennsylvania (34) . More information on the AP program can be found on the College Board website.

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New Franklin High building presentation

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on November 16, 2011

As you may know, Franklin is in the process of evaluating and approving a new building for Franklin High.

You are invited to attend Thursday evening’s public meeting on the proposed model school to replace Franklin High. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Mercer Auditorium at Horace Mann School and the community will have an opportunity to hear the presentation and to ask questions.
 
The goal of the hearing is to give parents and citizens an update on the effort to win state approval for a new high school, using the Whitman-Hanson High School design as the model for our building. Members of the Building Committee, the project manager and the architects will give the presentation and be happy to answer any questions you may have.
 
Work is underway on the design, the specifications, the drawings and the cost estimate for the new building, all of which are scheduled for submission to state officials by December 9. If all goes well, the Massachusetts School Building Authority will vote on our submission in January. Their approval will set the stage for town-wide vote in March or April 2012 on a debt exclusion to finance the project so that Franklin can qualify for a 57.9% reimbursement of the total approved cost. Assuming the community agrees to seize this opportunity and barring unforeseen issues, a new high school to serve Franklin will open its doors to students in September 2014
 
Thursday’s hearing is the first of several events designed to give parents and citizens the opportunity to hear about the progress of this project and to ask questions.

For more information, go to the Town of Franklin website. You can view a brief video of the model school we are considering by clicking on the image below. Have additional questions? Please come to the meeting or contact Ed Cafasso, Member of the Franklin Building Committee at edcafasso@comcast.net.


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Boston Foundation report examines new framework for collaboration on school bargaining issues

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on October 21, 2011

At a time when fiscal crises in states and municipalities throughout the country have put collective bargaining agreements with public sector unions under the spotlight and under fire, a new Boston Foundation report lays out an alternative framework for contract talks that could provide a “win-win-win” for labor, management and taxpayers.

This report is timely in light of the Franklin School Committee’s agreement with the Franklin Education Foundation to conduct interest-based bargaining for the next contract.

The report, Toward a New Grand Bargain: Collaborative Approaches to Labor-Management Reform in Massachusetts, presents a new, collaborative approach to the bargaining process in place of the current, adversarial tone of contract negotiations. Written by two of Massachusetts’ most respected experts on organized labor and industrial relations, Professors Barry Bluestone of Northeastern University and Thomas A. Kochan of MIT, the report focuses on collective bargaining in education, but presents a framework that could be applied to all public sector negotiations. Researchers spent months interviewing education stakeholders nationally to examine negotiation models and innovations as a basis for the report.

“We believe that if we can move toward the Grand Bargain envisioned here, our schools will be made even better, our public services can become more efficient and more effective, and our public sector agencies can become even better places to work,” said Paul Grogan, President of the Boston Foundation.

The report comes in a year when efforts to roll back collective bargaining rights of public sector workers have led to demonstrations and political battles in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Ohio, and have led to recall elections and deep cuts in education and social service budgets.

“We see this report as a call to action for labor and management in the Commonwealth to develop a new ‘Grand Bargain’ that empowers public sector managers, workers, and their union representatives to engage in continuous problem-solving with the goal of promoting the effectiveness and efficiency of government service,” said Professor Bluestone. “Changing the culture is no small task, but it is both critical and manageable, with the right training and oversight in place to support this new framework.”

The authors recommend the creation of a statewide ‘academy’ to train parties in interest-based bargaining and ongoing problem solving, and to support innovation efforts as needed by local districts. A multi-stakeholder oversight commission would monitor progress and recommend changes in policies and the creation of an online learning network would allow for all parties to share their experiences with common issues and innovative solutions would provide critical information sharing and assistance.

The new framework would replace a traditional labor-management relationship that many on both sides of collective bargaining issues acknowledge is broken. In place of the traditional, adversarial approach where contract talks are defined by proposals, counter-proposals and a slow move toward compromise, the report lays out a more collaborative process. The process is based on expanded use of “interest-based bargaining,” in which the sides in a contract discussion jointly identify and analyze problems and their root causes, and identify the criteria to be considered in evaluating solutions. Through the approach, the two sides then jointly choose a solution to an issue, as well as the strategy for implementing, monitoring and evaluating the results over time.

Applying a new framework for collaborative negotiations opens the opportunity for broader change. “If all the parties who share an interest in and responsibility for public service labor-management relations take up the challenges and opportunities facing them, Massachusetts will demonstrate that there are positive and effective alternatives to the approaches taken in Wisconsin and other states,” the authors write.

“The Commonwealth can demonstrate to the nation that there are more successful ways to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of public services while preserving the cherished principle of collective bargaining.”

The publisher and editors of The Boston Globe penned a lead editorial, timed to coincide with the Boston Foundation report, offered an endorsement titled, “More Collective, Less Bargaining.”  You can view that editorial by clicking here.

It should come as welcome news to the community the Franklin is leading the way on this issue.  The IBB approach holds so much potential for bringing about significant changes that will save Franklin taxpayers money well into the future while continuing to improve academic performance.

You can read the full report by clicking here.  You can watch a video of the panel discussion on the report by clicking here.

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Race to Nowhere film screening in Franklin

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on October 10, 2011

The Franklin Public Schools, in conjunction with the Joint Parent Communication Councils of Franklin, is hosting a screening of the film Race to Nowhere on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 7 p.m.  The film will play at the Mercer Auditorium at Horace Mann Middle School on Oak Street.  A panel discussion will follow the screening.

Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people who have been pushed to the brink and educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills needed for the global economy, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic running rampant in our schools.


The film is the product of Vicki Abeles, a concerned mother turned filmmaker, who aims her camera at the culture of hollow achievement and pressure to perform that has invaded America’s schools.  As Abeles notes, “it is destroying our children’s love of learning and feeding an epidemic of unprepared, disengaged, and unhealthy students.”

The film is a call to families, educators, experts and policy makers to examine current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become the healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens in the 21st century.  You can learn more about the film by clicking here.

The event is free and open to the general public.  However, those who wish to attend the screening must register online for tickets by clicking here.

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Perspective on teacher contract

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on October 6, 2011

Here is a message from School Committee member Ed Cafasso that puts the teacher contract matter into perspective:

Hi everyone!

I hope you are preparing for what looks to be a glorious weekend. We sure could use it…

There has been a great deal of debate in recent days about the School Committee’s unanimous approval of a new contract with the Franklin Educational Association (FEA), the union which represents teachers here. I wanted to take a moment of your time to discuss the importance of this contract.

The new contract period begins Sept. 1, 2010 and runs until Aug. 30, 2012.

It provides no wage increase for Fiscal Year 2011; a 1% increase or FY 2012; and a 0.5% increase, effective Aug. 30, 2012, for FY 2013. The approximate cost in FY12 is estimated as $350,000. This represents 0.68% of the current school budget. The approximate cost for FY13 is $175,000.

The contract is funded by savings attained through attrition, as well as increased circuit breaker revenue from the state. No additional appropriation has been requested.

It’s an election year and many candidates prefer to focus on the cost of the raises in this new contract. For some, it’s hard to see the forest when that big Election Year tree blocks the view.

In my opinion, there are two overlooked aspects of the new contract that hold real potential for improving student achievement while reforming a pay structure that automatically triggers higher taxpayer costs each year.

The first is that it features an agreement between the School Committee and the FEA to cooperatively re-examine the salary table that drives close to the 75% of current school costs. For the first time ever in the history of Franklin, both parties have agreed to investigate a new, progressive wage structure to replace the automatic “step and lane” pay raises that have become a real budget buster.

The agreement to cooperatively re-examine the current salary table holds a major opportunity for us to address a significant source of annual pressure on Franklin taxpayers.

The second “inconvenient truth” about the new teacher contract is that requires both sides to undertake interest-based bargaining (IBB) during upcoming talks toward a new FEA contract, as opposed to the adversarial and frustrating negotiating posture that has been in place until now.

IBB has been a goal of the School Committee for many years, and we are pleased to finally have the opportunity to implement it. “Bargaining Methods and New Forms of Agreements,” as published by the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, explains this approach succinctly:

“Interest-based bargaining (IBB) is a departure from positional bargaining and the traditional adversarial, industrial model of collective bargaining that assumes bargaining is a zero-sum activity focused on dividing existing resources. In contrast, IBB focuses on parties’ interests rather than their proposed positions, making it possible to explore the values and purposes and to learn whether these interests are shared or complementary. IBB allows parties to identify multiple ways to satisfy interests and to solve problems creatively… IBB provides an opportunity to address student achievement in the collective-barging process. IBB can minimize ritualized adversarial behavior and enable productive relationships to develop, better situating the parties to improve student achievement.”

There is a great deal of expert, authoritative information on IBB available online. One article of interest can be found at: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/lkaboolian/publications/Win-Win-chapter1.pdf.

There are some who dismiss IBB, and they’re entitled to their opinion. I have done years of homework on it and its use by school districts and employers across the country. I strongly believe it can produce great outcomes for teachers, students, parents and taxpayers. It empowers the parties to work in good faith as partners to find common ground and implement potential solutions to systemic issues.

This innovative approach to bargaining could not be more important for Franklin right now. We have to balance ongoing budgetary pressures; meet your high expectations for continued high academic performance; and, also adhere to evolving state and federal standards for student achievement.

I appreciate, respect and share everyone’s desire to maintain a balanced budget and to use revenues as efficiently and effectively as possible to provide the best possible services to the citizens of Franklin. Your schools have done precisely that – we spend $2,700 less per student than the state average but still deliver excellent academic performance, thanks to the hard work of teachers, administrators and parents like you.

As the local election approaches, there will be many candidates who point to the “cost” of the contract as a way to win votes and damage other candidates. My view is that we can no longer afford the “cost” of continuing the divisive and confrontational ways of the past. You can see how well that has worked in national politics and in Congress.

For me, the choice was easy. I voted in support of the new teacher contract because it allows us to pursue a progressive approach toward broad, incredibly important goals, including improved student achievement and structural reforms that contribute to financial stability for the community. I voted to support working together to solve real problems.

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School Committee letter to Council

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on October 6, 2011

Here is a copy of the letter that was provided to the Town Council responding to questions about the teacher contract:

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Opening Meeting Law determinations online

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on September 28, 2011

The Office of the Attorney General launched a new OML Determination Lookup website. Now members of the public, press, municipal officials, and public bodies may access its determinations by searching for key terms or phrases or by actions ordered. You can access the site by clicking here.

Effective July 1, 2010, responsibility for the state-wide enforcement of the Open Meeting Laws, relative to local, county, regional, and state public bodies has been centralized in the office of the Attorney General.

The Open Meeting Law supports the principle that the democratic process depends on the public having knowledge about the considerations underlying governmental action. It requires that most meetings of governmental bodies to be held in public. There are some exceptions, which are designed to ensure that, public officials are not “unduly hampered” by having every discussion among public officials open to the public. As a result, the Open Meeting Law provides for particular circumstances under which a meeting may be held in executive, or closed, session.

The determinations, catalogued by the Attorney General’s office, provide a glimpse into how that office determines whether a violation has occurred. More information on the Open Meeting Law can be found by clicking here.

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Update from the High School Building Committee

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on September 23, 2011

Here is the latest news from the FHS Building Committee:

In March of 2011, Architect Kaestle Boos brought four options for a new/renovated high school to the School Building Committee. Option One was a limited renovation and addition of 8,400 sf of space for a total of 317,000 sf. The projected cost was $73,100,000 with a cost to the town of $30,800,000. Option Two was a gut renovation and addition of 14,800 sf of space for a total of 325,600 sf. The projected cost was $96,400,000 and a cost to the town of $40,800,000. Option Three was a new construction with 305,000 sf and with renovations to field house. Total project cost was $97,900,000 and a town cost of $45,600,000. Option Four was to choose a model school from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Model School Program that would be a 305,000 sf new building. The project cost would be $98,000,000 with a cost to the town of $42,000,000. The Building Committee chose Option Four and petitioned the MSBA to be allowed to participate in the Model School Building Program.

Public Interviews

On September 7 and 8 at the Municipal Building, the High School Building Committee held public interviews with four architectural firms representing each of the program model schools. The four firms were invited to present the model schools proposed for Franklin’s needs. The architects were asked to identify how the model schools could best be adapted to fit Franklin’s needs and the current High School site. The four model high schools chosen were the Ashland High School building design, the Hudson High School building design, the Shrewsbury High School building design, and the Whitman-Hanson High School Building design. The Committee unanimously voted to select Ai3 Architects, LLC and the Whitman-Hanson High School building design model school (see photograph to the right).

What’s Next?

The Town Council will vote to appropriate $1,800,000 on September 28 to commence the design. The target is to have the schematic design approved by the MSBA in January 2012. Once approved, we will request the Town Council vote to place a Debt Exclusion question on the Ballot of a Special Election next Spring. With an estimated project cost of $98,000,000 and an expected reimbursement rate of slightly less than 58% from the MSBA the town’s cost would be approximately $42,000,000.

What is a debt exclusion?

A community can assess taxes in excess of its levy limit (Proposition 2 ½ Override) for the payment of certain capital projects, or in this case, the capital project would be a school. A two-thirds vote of the Town Council is required to place a ballot question before the voters. A majority vote of approval by the voters is required to pass. Debt exclusions do not become part of the tax base and only last until the debt is paid. So when the school is paid for the tax base goes back down. The town has passed three debt exclusions: one for the Remington Jefferson School, one for the Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller School, and one for the Horace Mann and Oak Street School and FX O’Reagan Early Childhood Development Center Complex. A debt exclusion usually lasts for twenty years.

Posted in FHS project | 1 Comment »

Public schools have an important mission

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on September 2, 2011

The photograph to the right is what I see every day when I look out my office window. Those of you who may be familiar with Copley Square in Boston will recognize it as the Boston Public Library. Your attention is directed to the inscription carved into the building which reads: “THE COMMONWEALTH REQUIRES THE EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE AS THE SAFEGUARD OF ORDER AND LIBERTY”. To me, it underlies the importance of the work we do on the School Committee and the reason I ran for that office 10 years ago.

Fifty seven years ago in Brown v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court said:

Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

The photograph and court case promote strong images and words. They are central to the notion of self-governance and are a significant piece of our generational responsibility to create educational, economic and social opportunities for young people.

Along these lines, there is a great story in the Saturday Evening Post by Diane Ravitch, a historian of education, a professor at NYU, and a former U.S. assistant secretary of education. Entitled American Schools in Crisis, it should be required reading for all Americans. It’s a good primer on the history of public education in America, another solid reminder about its purposes, and reaffirms the words etched on the library wall, and carved by the Court. To read to the full piece, you can click here. I have included some excerpts below.

Since the 1840s, our public schools have been a bulwark of our democratic society. Over time, they have opened their doors to every student in the community regardless of that student’s race, religion, language, disability, economic standing, or origin. No one has to enter a lottery to gain admission….

Piece by piece, our entire public education system is being redesigned in the service of increasing scores on standardized tests of basic skills. That’s not good policy, and it won’t improve education. Twelve years of rewarding children for picking the right answer on multiple-choice tests is bad education. It will penalize the creativity, innovativeness, and imaginativeness that has made this country great….

The most important educators in children’s lives are their families. What families provide in the way of encouragement, experiences, expectations, and security has a decisive effect on a child’s life chances. The most consistent predictor of test scores is family income. Children who grow up in economically secure homes are more likely to arrive in school ready to learn than those who lack the basic necessities of life.….

It’s important to remember that this is not simply an abstract matter for ivory tower policy wonks to be nattering over. Our present course endangers one of our nation’s most precious institutions: our public schools. Surely they need improvement, but they don’t need a wrecking ball. Our policymakers’ obsession with standardized testing has proven to be wrong; not only does it lack scientific validation, but any parent or teacher could have told the policymakers that a heavy reliance on multiple-choice tests crushes originality, innovation, and creativity.….

It is worth remembering that the reason we first established public education was to advance the common good of the community. It began in small towns, where communities agreed that all the children should be educated for the good of all and the sake of the future. Public schools have a civic mission: They are expected to prepare young people to become citizens and to share in the responsibility of maintaining our society.

I hope you will take a chance to look at the Ravitch article and reflect on the importance of the public education mission as we enter into a new school year. Good luck to all students and staff as we attempt to further that mission.

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Franklin schools opening delayed until Sept. 6

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on August 30, 2011

Due to the continued impact of the tropical storm that has left forty percent of Franklin residents without power, the school administration made the decision to defer the opening of school until September 6. Faculty and staff will report on Friday, September 2 for orientation. On September 6, each school will host Kindergarten orientation and all Kindergarten students will report to school on Wednesday September 7 at the regular time.

Although several of our schools have power, Parmenter and the Horace Mann/Oak/ECDC complex continue to be offline. Additionally, there are a number of utility wires down that may impact the safety of our walkers. Many wires are enmeshed in trees and threaten the safety of pedestrians. In a conference call with National Grid we were not able to ascertain a time frame for the restoration of power. As a public safety priority we have no choice but to defer the opening of school. We know our students will be disappointed and some parents will need to make alternate child care arrangements but we must adhere to our primary mission of keeping students safe.

Please be advised with the change in the start of the school year the last day of school will be June 19. In the event of other weather related events we will have eight days available for school closings. If we have a challenging winter, this cushion may not be enough time for us to meet the required 180 student days. In the event we use all the days we will need to explore using days allotted for April vacation so please plan accordingly. Thank you for your patience and support. Please stay safe and be cautious on the roads as a number of traffic lights continue to not function and there are many walkers and bikers out on the road.

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Missouri Facebook statute blocked by court

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on August 27, 2011

A new Missouri law prohibiting teachers from having private online conversations with students suffered a double setback on Friday, August 26, 2011. First, a judge blocked it from taking effect because of free speech concerns. Then the governor called for its repeal. The bill was scheduled to take effect August 28, 2011.

The law limiting teacher-student conversations through social networking sites such as Facebook had been scheduled to take effect Sunday. But Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued a preliminary injunction blocking it until at least February 2012, saying the restrictions “would have a chilling effect” on free speech rights. You can view the text of the order by clicking on the image below or here.

Later in the day, Gov. Jay Nixon today announced that he will ask the General Assembly to repeal specific provisions concerning teacher-student communications that were included in Senate Bill 54, which was passed unanimously by both the House of Representatives and the Senate earlier this year. “First and foremost, our top concern and priority is and always will be protecting children across Missouri, and making sure students receive the quality education they need and deserve,” Gov. Nixon said. “In a digital world, we must recognize that social media can be an important tool for teaching and learning. At the same time, we must be vigilant about threats posed to students through the Internet and other means. Because of confusion and concern among educators, students and families over this specific provision of Senate Bill 54, I will ask the General Assembly to repeal that particular section, while preserving other vital protections included in the bill. In addition, I will be asking for input on this issue from teachers, parents and other stakeholders.” The full text of the Governor’s statement can be viewed by clicking here.

The Missouri law would have barred teachers from using websites that give “exclusive access” to current students or former students who are 18 or younger. That would have meant that communication through Facebook or other social networking sites had to be done in public, rather than through private messages. A public backlash began to build against the social networking provisions over the summer, as some teachers preparing for the new school year began complaining that the law could hamper both their classroom activities and school-related conversations that occur afterhours.

On August 19, 2011, the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) requested the Circuit Court of Cole County to determine the constitutionality of the social media portion of a new state law. MSTA believes the bill signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon in July infringes on educators’ first amendment rights of free speech, association and religion. MSTA asked the court to keep that section of law from being implemented until the constitutionality can be determined. In its lawsuit, the teachers association said websites such as Facebook and Twitter have become a common part of modern interaction between teachers and students and argued that restricting them would violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You can view the petition filed by the MSTA by clicking here.

“Many of our members are concerned about the unintended consequences of this law, including their ability to monitor their own children’s online activities,” said MSTA Legal Counsel, Gail McCray. “It’s vague and more importantly, we believe it violates the constitutional rights of educators.”

The Missouri State Teachers Association has information on the law and how it would affect teachers which can be viewed by clicking here.

The use of Facebook in schools has received mixed reactions throughout the country. USAToday recently looked at some of the uses in the classrooms in Milford, NJ where teachers use Facebook to communicate with students and parents, and students use it to plan events. You can view that story by clicking here.

You can view Franklin’s policy on electronic communications by clicking here.

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Mass students highest in nation on ACT assessments

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on August 17, 2011

Massachusetts students from the 2011 graduating class outscored students nationwide on the ACT assessment of college readiness.

Massachusetts 2011 graduates scored an average composite score of 24.2 out of a possible 36, up from last year’s average of 24.0 and higher than the national average of 21.1. Statewide, 14,975 Massachusetts students (22 percent) from the 2011 graduating class took the ACT during high school, and 43 percent of those students met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmark scores, compared to 25 percent nationwide. On the four subject area tests, Massachusetts 2011 graduates had the highest percent of students in the nation meeting the ACT benchmark in Reading (74%), Math (73%), and Science (47%), and tied for the highest in English (86%) with Connecticut.

“These results are yet another confirmation that our students are leading the nation in academic achievement,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “We continue to aggressively pursue reform efforts to close achievement gaps in our schools, and will work to ensure that every high school graduate has the skills they need to be successful in both college and career.”

The ACT provides an annual predictive indicator of the college and career readiness of ACT-tested high school graduates. While historically more high school students in Massachusetts have taken the SAT, participation rates on the ACT continue to rise over time, increasing from 15 percent of graduates in 2007 to 21 percent in 2010, to 22 percent this year.

For more information on ACT, click here.

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Schools seek relief from NCLB requirements

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on June 12, 2011

Unless Congress acts by this fall to overhaul No Child Left Behind, the main federal law on public education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan signaled that he would use his executive authority to free states from the law’s centerpiece requirement that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

According to a report in the New York Times, the Obama administration has been facing a mounting clamor from state school officials to waive substantial parts of the law, which President Bush signed in 2002, especially its requirement that states bring 100 percent of students to proficiency in reading and math by 2014 or else face sanctions. In March, Mr. Duncan predicted that the law would classify 80,000 of the nation’s 100,000 public schools as failing this fall unless it was amended.

The National School Boards Association has expressed support for regulatory relief for over a year in view of delays in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and in recognition that many of the mandated sanctions have had little impact on improving student achievement. Additionally, NSBA voiced strong objections to requiring local school districts to implement ineffective and costly sanctions when state and local revenue streams have been significantly reduced.

The NSBA is pushing a resolution calling for ESEA regulatory relief (the proposed resolution can be viewed by clicking here). The petition encourages members of Congress to act on the behalf of local school districts to support the urgent need of allowing flexibility for school districts to use more financial resources in the classroom to advance student achievement, instead of on administrative tasks. Specifically, the petition requests suspension of additional sanctions under the current Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements effective this coming school year.

“It’s time for Congress to support their local schools districts. Duncan should exercise the U.S. Department of Education’s regulatory authority and relieve school districts from the constraints of federal statutes that hold schools hostage as Congress moves forward with the ESEA reauthorization,” said Mary Broderick, President of NSBA. “In these tough economic times, schools should not have to spend scarce dollars and staff time to adhere to a flawed accountability system. The U.S. Department of Education must provide clear policy decisions, not case-by-case waivers. While we believe in assessment and holding all schools accountable, we must give our schools the flexibility and necessary resources to teach our children and advance student learning.”

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A next-generation digital book

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on May 4, 2011

If you ever wondered about the future of books, then this video is for you. Software developer Mike Matas demos the first full-length interactive book for the iPad — with clever, swipeable video and graphics and some very cool data visualizations to play with. The book is “Our Choice,” Al Gore’s sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth.” You can view the video by clicking on the image below.

I have been using the book on my iPad for about a week and I am very impressed with the content, graphics, and interactive components. I am less enthused about the fact that there does not appear to be an ability to highlight text of insert notes. But I am sure that that technology is on the horizon. Nonetheless, I am intrigued about the possibilities for our schools in the future.

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Illegal recordings in Salem schools uncovered

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on April 12, 2011

In this age of electronics, when posting events on YouTube has become a new national pastime, the actions of two students recording events in schools has come under fire. In Salem, two students brought voice recorders to their schools and surreptitiously taped their teachers and classmates, in violation of the law, school officials said. The students were in elementary school, and one of their parents said his son brought the recorder to school because he was being bullied, said Lieutenant Conrad Prosniewski, a spokesman for Salem police. You can read the full report of the Salem incident in the Boston Globe by clicking here.

The recordings were unlawful because state law in Massachusetts requires consent before anyone is recorded. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 272 , § 99 criminalizes the use of an ordinary tape recorder to capture the voice of any unknowing person, regardless of the setting in which the recording is made. The penalty for violating the law is a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail sentence of up to five years. Disclosure of the contents of an illegally recorded conversation, when accompanied by the knowledge that it was obtained illegally, is a misdemeanor that can be punished with a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to two years. Civil damages are expressly authorized for the greater of actual damages, $100 for each day of violation or $1,000. Punitive damages and attorney fees also are recoverable.

In the preamble to the statute, the legislature stated:

The general court further finds that the uncontrolled development and unrestricted use of modern electronic surveillance devices pose grave dangers to the privacy of all citizens of the commonwealth. Therefore, the secret use of such devices by private individuals must be prohibited. The use of such devices by law enforcement officials must be conducted under strict judicial supervision and should be limited to the investigation of organized crime.

Twelve states currently require that all parties consent to the recording. These states are: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. An interesting article from the Massachusetts Law Review examined the implications of the Massachusetts law in a case about a defendant who recorded a routine police stop. You can view that article by clicking here.

It appears that the students in the Salem case were unaware that there actions were in violation of the law. Indeed, it is conceivable that many people are unaware of the Massachusetts wiretap law. It is included here as a reminder that surreptitious recordings are illegal and can carry criminal penalties, even though they may appear to be innocent efforts.

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The new intensity of high school football

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on April 11, 2011

Corporate sponsorships, nationally televised games, minute-by-minute coverage on sports websites — for players, parents and coaches, high school football has never been bigger. But is enough being done to ensure players’ safety as the intensity of the sport grows? In Football High, airing Tuesday, April 12, 2011, at 9 p.m. ET on PBS, FRONTLINE investigates the new face of high school football.

Football observers and sports journalists alike agree that on average, high school players’ size, speed and strength have increased dramatically over the past five to 10 years. At Euless Trinity in Texas, which has been ranked the #1 high school team in the country, 18 of the 89 varsity players weigh over 250 pounds. “The ramping up of pressure on high school kids … and the increase of media attention on high school football, my God, in the last 10 years, it’s become like a little NFL,” says Gregg Easterbrook, a writer and columnist for ESPN. “If you look at it position by position, you can only compare it to NFL teams,” says private trainer Kelvin Williams. “It’s just crazy. They are huge.”

FRONTLINE centers its investigation in Arkansas, where two players collapsed from heatstroke last year while practicing during one of the hottest summers on record. The players were placed in the same intensive care unit in Little Rock, both having suffered extensive damage to their internal organs. One boy survived, but the other boy died in the hospital three months after his collapse. “There should never, ever be a person [dying] from exertional heatstroke, because it’s 100 percent preventable,” says Dr. Doug Casa, a leading expert on heatstroke.

In the wake of the tragedy in Arkansas, FRONTLINE investigates the differences in the two boys’ fates. Only one of the boys’ teams had an athletic trainer on staff, which reflects the reality in most of Arkansas: Only 15 percent of the schools in the state have a certified medical professional at games and practices, slightly below the national average.

The program also investigates the estimated 60,000 concussions suffered each year by high school football players. In 2010, researchers discovered a degenerative mental disease in the brain of 21-year-old Owen Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania football player who committed suicide last year — and had never reported a concussion throughout his football career. Thomas’ brain showed evidence of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the same mental degenerative disease rampant in the brains of NFL players with serious mental problems. “It has totally changed what I thought about this game,” says VA researcher Dr. Ann McKee. “Anybody who’s playing the game, this could happen; this could be the result.”

Posted in Health & Safety | Leave a Comment »

Franklin is tops nationally in educational efficiency and productivity

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on January 22, 2011

In August last year we read about Franklin being touted as a “spotlight district” by a national think-tank for its high return on investment in education (click here to read the Milford Daily News story). The final report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) has been issued, and Franklin is rated highly efficient on all three of the productivity metrics covered by the study. This report is the culmination of a yearlong effort to study the efficiency of the nation’s public education system. You can review and download the report by clicking here or on the document image to the right.

If you view the interactive piece, you will see that Franklin received one of the top rankings in Massachusetts for educational productivity and efficiency (click here) – one of only 21 of the 351 communities in the state to be so recognized. You can view the full district report on Franklin by clicking here.

In order to spark a national dialogue about educational productivity, CAP attempted to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of almost every major school district in the country. By productivity, they mean how much learning a district produces for every dollar spent, after controlling for factors such as cost of living and students in poverty.

The report notes that highly productive districts such as Franklin are focused on improving student outcomes. From its survey, CAP reported that the districts that performed well on its metrics shared a number of values and practices, including strong community support and a willingness to make tough choices.

The report also makes plain that school spending can make a difference in achievement; but additional dollars make a difference only if the funds are well spent. According to the report, a number of states, such as Massachusetts, have shown that strategic spending can make a large and significant difference in student achievement. For example, a large body of research shows that certain inputs such as teacher quality can significantly impact student outcomes. One series of studies showed that students who have three or four highly effective teachers in a row will succeed academically, while those who have a sequence of weak teachers fall further behind.

The focus in the Franklin school system has long been to direct resources into the classroom, to recruit and retain top quality teachers, support a strong curriculum and to maintain appropriate class sizes. Indeed, attracting and retaining the best and brightest teachers in the Franklin public school system has been one of the top priorities for the School Committee. The result has been stellar academic performance, to the point where our students have gained acceptances at the top universities and colleges in the nation. We have written frequently about the importance of good teaching (click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, & here) and urge you to review these pieces again as we approach the next budget season.

We have cautioned the community about reductions in education spending, and maintaining our commitment to funding an appropriate education for our children. The CAP report validates the tough choices we have made over the years about the proper allocation of funds.

But in recent years, despite these warnings, we have seen an erosion in education spending in Franklin. Attempts to bridge budget gaps with operational overrides have failed (except on one occasion) and are often surrounded by criticism that our system is mismanaged, wasteful and inefficient. As this report indicates, those claims are sadly mistaken and the critics will only be silenced if we spread the truth.

In the next few months we’ll be talking about budget deficits and spending again. We will urge citizens to adequately fund one of the most efficient school systems in the nation. And we will urge citizens to support the system which has delivered a high return on its investment. We hope that you will be a part of this effort. After all, we don’t want to become the next celebrated community in Massachusetts that gave up on its school system (click here to be reminded about what happened in Randolph).

Posted in Budget | Leave a Comment »

 
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