Friday, May 17, 2002
High school is far from a Rolls Royce
To the Editor:
The Town Meeting statement that the funding requested by the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee is merely polish for a Rolls Royce system is grossly misleading. What exists more closely resembles an old Chevy that is still, somehow, managing to limp along. Years of inadequate funding are generating a plant and program that is in an increasing state of disrepair, in spite of the Herculean efforts of school staff.
Severe needs exist in all areas, but I'll comment only on one. The science department budget provides only $30 per student for textbooks, lab supplies, lab equipment, maintenance, hazardous waste disposal, and paper for an entire year's program. A child's chemistry set will cost you triple this amount. It is increasingly difficult to implement a quality hands-on science program in the face of such funding.
A recent ranking shows CCHS faculty salaries to be at, or near, the top for Massachusetts. This ranking is deceptive because it does not reflect benefits. Because of our inferior benefit structure, many CCHS teachers report an unexpected reduction in take-home pay when compared to their previous school employment. And, of course, CCHS compensation rates cannot begin to compete with private sector enticements for math and science personnel.
Concord-Carlisle Regional School District (CCRSD) data shows that the inflation-adjusted cost per student at CCHS has remained nearly flat for ten years. The upswing in Carlisle's assessment results solely from the upswing in Carlisle enrollments. This increase has been created by the residents of this town and is, therefore, our responsibility.
In June, I will end a 40-year teaching career. By state law, my pension will be limited to no more than a 0.5% annual cost-of-living adjustment. Still, it is my civic responsibility to support this CCRSD school committee budget. And I will do this even though I may have to tap my home equity to pay the bill.
How The Bite came to be
To the Editor:
It was with a considerable amount of pride that I read the May 3 Mosquito story, "There's no business like the newspaper business." I was proud that two students had an idea which became a reality. I was proud of the tremendous growth of the involved students over the last academic year, from their struggle to figure out what is involved in running a newspaper to their creation of an organization that will survive their graduation from the Middle School. Finally, I was proud that I work in a community that gives so much support to students interested in making a difference.
At the end of last school year, then- seventh graders Hannah Roberts and Laura Ferarro approached me, after a discussion on civility, with the idea of a middle school newspaper. They continued to bring up the matter and when they approached me again this fall, I was convinced that they were serious enough, and I was willing to invest my time in the venture.
With the support of Superintendent Fox-Melanson, the process moved forward. It was agreed that the newspaper The Bite was going to be student-produced and -run. The editors were forced to do a lot of thinking about what should be written, how it was to be edited, and then how it was to be presented. They did a fantastic job. The first issue of The Bite was a big success. The articles were well-researched, well-written and very topical.
No matter how good the students' intentions were or how much work they put into it, the middle school newspaper would not have become a reality without support from the Carlisle community. A middle school newspaper was not in the school's budget, therefore funding for it had to be obtained. Two organizations came to the rescue: the Carlisle Youth Commission and the T3 program (Teachers/Teens/Together) of the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest Cornerstone Perpetual Fund. The Carlisle Youth Commission, a Carlisle community organization, whose goal it is to support creative efforts by teachers outside of the classroom, provided The Bite with the necessary funds to pay for supplies to get the newspaper started. The T3 initiative, which looks to support extra efforts by teachers to connect with students beyond regular school hours, provided further necessary funds. Resources like these are real treasures in the Carlisle community. They make it possible for students to pursue educational interests, and they allow educators to provide a well-rounded experience for the students of Carlisle. I thank them for their support and look forward to the continued success of The Bite.
Seventh grade social studies teacher
Carlisle Public School
High school's METCO program is expendable
To the Editor:
I attended Town Meeting in Carlisle. I watched the finance committee present compelling facts about what the town will be facing in terms of property taxes if taxes increase at the current rate. I also watched as the school committee fumbled over a lengthy presentation which seemed to attempt to call people's "bluffs" on some peculiar line items to be sacrificed if the override did not pass. As I watched, I wondered how these line items had been determined and noted some which had been completely eliminated from any discussion. I could not keep from thinking about the METCO program and what it must cost us at the high school to keep this going, buses and all. Perhaps we cannot afford to keep this program going. Should it be phased out? Are there other big line items we should be looking at as well, rather than a bunch of small ones that seem to create more difficulty for already encumbered faculty? This is not a racial discussion but a budgetary one. If we are actually faced with the choices that were presented, such as eliminating the language program at the middle school, etc., we need to seriously look at the whole picture, not just a selected part of it.
I am disappointed with the school committees from both towns and feel that they need to be forthcoming with all of the information, especially when presenting in a public forum.
To the Editor:
I write to clarify information presented in the Mosquito's otherwise excellent coverage of Town Meeting.
I gave a presentation at Town Meeting outlining choices over the next five years. It stated the town will need to increase revenues, control cost growth, and prioritize investments, or accept much higher taxes and the problems that go with them. Carlisle residents will need to choose.
In the course of the presentation and later questions, I gave out figures about teacher pay at CCHS. Here is the accurate information. The average pay level of teachers at CCHS is the highest in the state. Relative to CCHS, average teacher pay is 16% less at Dover-Sherborn, 21% less at Lincoln-Sudbury and 26% less at Acton-Boxborough.
A participant in Town Meeting stated that he did not want average teachers for his kids. Let me be clear. Personally I don't want average teachers for our kids either. Nor do any of the parents that I know. My belief is that there is a middle path. If the town could target teacher pay at, say, the top 10% in the state, I think we could satisfy parents' desires for excellent education while accommodating the desire of many town residents to control tax growth. A top 10% teacher pay target combined with our current good teacher training benefits, our smart, motivated kids and supportive parents should create a very attractive teaching environment. Hopefully, it would be an environment that could retain and recruit not average, but excellent teachers. Excellent teachers are the cornerstone of excellent schools. Such a pay target would also mean that teacher pay would not need to rise rapidly over the next few years. This would provide some relief for residents who have seen taxes go up so sharply. In particular it would help senior, empty-nesters stay in town.
Over the next few weeks and months I hope we can all come together to find ways to balance the aspirations of different sections of our community.
Lisa Jensen Fellows
Judy Farm Road
Carlisle's Finance Committee should reconsider CPA position
To the Editor:
Now that Town Meeting is over, I would like to request that FinCom members reconsider their opposition to the Community Preservation Act. While FinCom is to be applauded for their overall excellent presentations at Town Meeting and the significant effort and time they expended in preparing for it, their views toward the CPA appear to be inconsistent with many of their other observations and recommendations. Among other examples:
1) A FinCom member expressed concerns that a potential landseller would be able to obtain an inflated selling price if he/she knew that there was significant money in the CPA fund. While I would like to think that the town's negotiators wouldn't be so easily bamboozled, this concern misses the main point. If we don't have any money set aside, we can't even play in the game! No seller not even one who might prefer to see his or her land preserved would likely treat the town as a serious buyer given current financial constraints.
With the CPA fund, however, we will soon have $430,000 set aside, with a similar sum becoming available next year. These funds will provide Carlisle with credibility and a lot more flexibility to negotiate for town needs, such as additional recreational fields, which FinCom acknowledges will require funding in coming years. Most importantly, landowners planning the future of their properties now know that there is an alternative to selling to developers.
2) Another FinCom member didn't like the fact that the CPA fund was a multi-year, dedicated fund. However, just as the stabilization fund, for which FinCom wants additional funding, allows for long-term planning, so too, CPA allows for long-term planning with funds that, by law, will be multi-purpose, benefitting many different constituencies within town. Indeed, just as families save over a period of years for a home or college education and just as our town recognizes the advantages provided by the long-term capital requirements committee and stabilization fund, the CPA fund enables us to pursue long-range planning and provide a funding source for critical purchases that will benefit all in Carlisle.
3) On a number of occasions during the two-day Town Meeting, FinCom members cited the need for additional funding sources. The CPA funding provides a separate, secure state fund that currently provides a 100% match to our town receipts. Just this year, this will mean that the town's $215K contribution will result in $430K in available funds. Where else can our town receive additional funding that represents a guaranteed 100% return on investment?
Again, I would simply request that FinCom members revisit the CPA program with an open mind. I think that they will like what they see and recognize that it is consistent with and supportive of their many other wise recommendations.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito