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To: Wayland Finance Committee
From: Wayland School Committee
Date: 11/28/2005
Subject: Preliminary FY07 School Budget

The School Committee trusts that the Finance Committee receives our -8% budget plan with the same complete lack of enthusiasm with which we submit it. Make no mistake, the plan that we describe below represents a dismantling of the Wayland Public Schools.

Our administrators worked countless hours to prepare a set of three options for our consideration. Over the span of three lengthy open meetings, we deliberated on their differences, asked questions about their implications, and listened to public comment. The plan that resulted represents a compromise solution that in actuality offers no solution at all.

Before outlining a single plan, we find it both informative and necessary to discuss the downside of each of the elements put before us.
  • The elimination of our staff development efforts would undermine the training that our teachers need to improve their craft, adopt best educational practices, and apply them in the classroom. To make up in part for this reduction, we would restore recently removed positions for a K-5 math and science coordinator and a K-5 reading teacher.

  • The elimination of our library program would take away a resource that improves the ability of students to access, evaluate, and utilize information in an age where such skills make or break an individual’s ability to succeed. To give just one specific programmatic example, English teachers make library an active part of their curriculum. To cite another aspect of the role that library plays, high school accreditation depends in part on the inclusion of a librarian.

  • The elimination of our athletic program would cut at an offering that furthers socialization, builds character, and enhances physical well-being. In many cases, athletics, along with extracurricular activities and elementary instrumental music as discussed below, provides the motivation for students not only to attend school, but also to tend to their schoolwork. The loss of these enriching programs would place our students at an unfair disadvantage as they compete for college and university acceptances.

  • The elimination of our extracurricular activities would diminish programs that capture and nurture the enriching interests of our students. Lost would be such diverse pursuits as student council, yearbook, newspaper, plays, bands, and chorus across the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

  • The elimination of our elementary instrumental music program would severely damage our Middle and High School programs. Beyond its musical value, this program provides younger children with a non-academic way to connect with one another. Taking a longer view, restoring a program of this sort takes years for the positive effect to propagate up through the grades to the secondary level.

  • The reduction of our Kindergarten day would move Wayland backwards at a time when other districts, with strong encouragement from the Department of Education, have or will soon transition to full-day programs. Moreover, the 15 minute slice of time between the morning and afternoon programs would not only eliminate strategic critical preparation time, but also the tactical time for teachers to eat lunch.

  • The increase in class sizes across the district would reduce educational effectiveness while placing an undesirable added burden on teachers in classrooms already in many cases too small for the number of students that they house, especially at the high school where enrollment continues to climb. At the Middle School, class size increases would threaten to overturn the cluster model that so admirably proves itself year after year. While averages might increase by just a few children per class, the nature of class configurations ensures that some classes and teacher loads would grow much more markedly. Overall, students would receive less individual attention, assessment, and exposure to teaching that embraces their different learning styles.

  • The closing of a valued neighborhood elementary school would break up a physical and educational community, raise class sizes and fill all available space in the remaining two elementary schools, and increase substantially the need for costly transportation.

  • System-wide, the dismantling spelled out in all of the elements above would create two over-arching problems of unquantifiably harmful impact. First, twenty or more positions would disappear, setting off a chain reaction of seniority-entitled bumping that would damage staff cohesion and see teachers end up in positions not optimally suited for their skills, experience, and interest. Second, the shattering of conditions that currently make Wayland a highly attractive district in which to teach would fundamentally undermine our ability to attract and retain top quality educators.
With the elements above as backdrop, we turn to a -8% budget plan to meet the Finance Committee guideline. With a working title of “Salvage Neighborhood Schools,” the plan makes the following cuts.
  • Salvage Neighborhood Schools
    • Restore K-5 math/science coordinator and K-5 reading teacher
    • Eliminate staff development
    • Eliminate certified school librarians
    • Eliminate grade 7-12 athletics
    • Eliminate extracurricular activities
    • Eliminate elementary instrumental music
    • Reduce Kindergarten to accommodate morning and afternoon sessions
    • Increase class sizes across all school levels by a sizable but as yet undefined amount
    • Reduce various administrative costs
The elements above share one thing in common; their lack of appeal to the School Committee. Attachments outline the details—including dollar impacts—of the plan above plus two others (“Salvaging Class Size Policy” and “Compromising Class Size to Support Extracurriculars”) discarded by the committee. With respect to class size, the committee plans to quantify the effect as soon as possible. Note that the committee proposes user fees to restore at least some of athletics, extracurricular activities, and elementary instrumental music, but that said fees might cost a family on the order of one thousand or more dollars per child per year compared with the average of several hundred dollars that they currently pay. As user fees increase, so too does their uncertainty. Appropriating funds in the spring at Town Meeting allows a sport or activity to be planned, while intending at that point to field a team or a club dependent on signups in the fall does not.

For the many varied reasons outlined above, we exhort the Finance Committee to resist the temptation to view the elements—each intolerable in its own right—of our -8% budget plan as in any way bearable. Clearly, reasonable arguments might be made to lessen the impact in one area while increasing it in another. The School Committee therefore reserves the right to revise this untenable plan over the course of the budget cycle as continued thinking occurs and new information comes to light.

For those for whom the educational harm outlined above fails to be persuasive, we assert that a drop in real estate values that would likely result from implementation of a -8% budget plan would far overshadow the cost of appropriately funding our public schools.

As a School Committee, we appreciate the financial constraints facing the Town of Wayland. Our budget guidelines (www.waylandschoolcommittee.org/guidelines.htm) make clear our acknowledgement of this important consideration as we develop our program each year. Those same guidelines, however, spell out our primary mission: the education of Wayland’s children.

The -8% budget plan undeniably fails to support that mission. We now turn our attention for the next several months to the critically important task of building, debating, and ultimately recommending a budget that promotes the continued quality education of our children that Wayland citizens demand and deserve.

Thank you for your time and attention.

The Wayland School Committee
Jeff Dieffenbach (chair), Robert Gordon (vice-chair), Barbara Fletcher, Louis Jurist, and Heather Pineault
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