Last night I attended the Stand Up for Dracut Informational Meeting regarding the Proposed 2.9 Million Dollar Override for the Dracut School System.
A Few observations:
I was somewhat surprised that School Committee member Matt Sheehan wasn’t at the SC Meeting or at the Informational Meeting either and to my knowledge no one stated a reason for his absence (which he may have valid reasons so I am not judging just stating the fact he wasn’t present.)
The other 4 School Committee members along with the Superintendent and his administration all are on board and supportive of this override.
I tweeted at the beginning that there were approx. 110 people but by the mind-point it had grown to close to 150.
NO Selectman attended. To me this meeting was just like a Neighborhood meeting here in Lowell and there are usually 1-4 Councilors that attend. I was surprised and many in attendance disappointed that no Selectman showed up to listen or contribute anything.
Neither did the Town Manager or anyone representing him. Again in Lowell the administration sends out staff to neighborhood groups to answer questions or bring back questions. This seemed like a slap in the face of the parents and citizens who attended.
This is a group of concerned parents NOT two School Committee members leading this organization. Sarah Simes, Michelle Green and Kella Petka are the leaders and were the main presenters along with parent / Guidance Counselor Danielle D’Amato and parent Mike Sancartier. Superintendent Steve Stone and Dr. McNamara Chair of the School Committee also made remarks.
Supt. Stone informed everyone that there is an approx. $1,000,000.00 difference in what the School is looking for and what the town is offering and included a revised update that shows what the Override Funds would be used for and what happens if the 2.9 million is defeated.
This group truly believes that the school system has been treated poorly by the town officials and that they are 100% in for the entire 2.9 Million rather than seeking to compromise for the suggested $750,000 the Town Manager proposed at the expense of the CPA. They don’t want to alienate any group and Mike Sancartier reminded everyone that when this is over these are our neighbors and friends and this process needs to be done respectfully.
I need to point out that the Superintendent has NOT supplied the Committee or residence with a breakdown should the Manager’s proposal pass and the School Dept. receives another $550,000 for next year. Instead he has seemingly bought into the all or nothing proposal and the 4 School Committee members also seem to support the all or nothing proposal.
There were not many questions asked last night. Since I am NOT from Dracut and was just there to observe I didn’t ask any questions but have a few that I hope members of this group will take the time to address because I think residence of the town may have some of the same questions and need them answered so they can make an informed decision.
Does the 1 Million Dollar difference between the School’s Request and the Town’s offering include the $650,000 Technology Improvement article that is the main highlight in the Supt.s letter if the Override passes?
Has the School Committee looked at Privatizing the Food Service and Janitorial Service of the School Department? How much could be saved? Lowell has Aramark running the food service and Chelmsford privatized the janitorial services.
Could the School’s receiving the additional $550,000 this year in the Manager’s proposal, wait 1 year for the technology upgrade and during that time work with the Selectman in forecasting what selling the Parker Avenue School and selling the School Administration Building would bring the town in order to do a Town wide Technology Update? or at least the proposed Superintendent’s Technology Upgrade?
The 2.9 million override boils down to approx. $6.00 a week per average $300,000 home in Dracut. However the people of the town already willingly are paying approx. $5.00 a week more by approving the High School Renovation Project and Tech School Renovation Project.
For some folks on a fixed income that is now an additional $572.00 a year plus the cost of the 2.5% increase the town is proposing to the property tax.
Why after so many years of cuts does it all have to be restored in 1 year? Why can’t this be done in stages working with the Selectman and Manager.
Where are the Selectman? They are either 100% opposed and not willing to even think outside the box and offer alternatives or there is a lack of quality leadership has some people have stated. The Selectman cannot and should not sit by and alienate concerned residence who are guilty only of wanting a better school for their children.
This isn’t a select few people running a political campaign, you have a large solid group of involved and concerned parents and before the Town meeting the Selectman,School Committee, School Superintendent along with the Fiance Board and Town Manager need to look at some of these issues/questions I have raised and be prepared to offer answers to this community.
Now more than ever Dracut’s elected leaders need to prove that this isn’t about ego’s and political sides, it is about what the community of Dracut can do to restore some funding without breaking the backs of the residence and improve the schools which is good for the community.