Friday, May 1, 2009
Taking the Forum to task
To the Editor:
I wish to respond, as chairman of the Carlisle Finance Committee, and as a Carlisle parent and taxpayer, to Paul Morrison’s Forum piece on the proposed Carlisle-Concord superintendency union in the April 17 Mosquito (see “Case study: Carlisle School Committee 2009,” Forum, 4-17-09).
I found the Forum to be inaccurate and unhelpful to the dialogue that is developing among the citizens, town committees and town and school administrators on this complex and extremely important topic. First, to correct the record, Mr. Morrison states:
“Board of Selectmen doesn’t like it; neither does Finance Committee; neither do parents. Two very different Selectmen, Stevenson and Hult, are both against moving so fast on this. Finance Committee also seems to agree it’s too fast.”
While Doug Stevenson, Tim Hult and the BOS can speak for themselves, the Finance Committee is not opposed to considering the concept of a superintendency union. We have commented that there are many issues to be resolved, and have supported the School Committee’s decision to engage a third party consultant, particularly on the issue of ultimate cost savings to the town.
More broadly, the Finance Committee is supportive of a wide range of approaches to mitigate sharply increasing budgets in an era of flat or declining town revenue. We appreciate the creativity and initiative shown by the School Committee in considering this as one of several ideas to structurally reduce the cost of education without sacrificing quality. We do believe a thoughtful process that engages many stakeholders is the most productive way to evaluate the superintendency union and other suggestions. I personally feel that the School Committee is pursuing the union option in a structured and thoughtful way.
Finally, on a personal note as one who devotes a fair amount of unpaid time on town matters, I believe that all committee volunteers have the best intentions of the town, its schools and citizens in mind when they propose, analyze and recommend actions. Change is always difficult, but as the environment changes, so must our approaches to the issues. The editorial implies that the School Committee is pursuing an agenda apart from the overall objective of a better Carlisle. I do not feel this is the case, and Mr. Morrison, as a former volunteer himself, should realize that by presenting an inaccurate and one-sided view, he is actually undermining the participative process he professes to support.
Wait until all the facts are in
To the Editor:
I found the Forum article of April 12, 2009, titled “Case Study: Carlisle School Committee 2009,” at best biased and generally negative satire.
The Carlisle and Concord School Committees are investigating a superintendent union just as many other towns are. The Massachusetts Department of Education recommends that towns investigate this option for improving efficiency, economy of scale and consistency of education standards, K through 12.
Additionally, our towns have jointly hired an independent school system consultant to evaluate the union and provide findings for use in discussion and decision-making purposes. Yet, the Forum article chooses not to mention the study underway nor is any mention made of utilizing study findings for debate and decision-making. The Forum article shows a personal bias for failure of such a union, albeit using largely backhanded humor.
Let the debate and evaluation begin when all the facts are in. Anything less will not provide optimal results for the Carlisle Public School.
Ed. Note: The consultant has been hired solely by the Carlisle School.
Cannot support Highland funding
To the Editor:
Article 21 proposes to transfer the “care, custody, and control of the Highland Building” to the Selectmen. It is significant to note that this does not include any land along with the building. This means that the School Committee will continue to control all access to the building, and retain the ultimate say in what the future uses of the building may include. Thus there is no land for parking, or for any future addition for handicapped access such as an elevator tower, or ramp system.
In the early 1990’s, when the use of the Highland for town offices was being studied, the School Committee declared that if the public were to use the building during school hours, a safety fence between the Highland and the rest of the school would be required. The Fire Chief ruled the fence would create a significant safety hazard, restricting access for fire fighting equipment. The insistence by the committee on this fence has prevented the town from considering any use for municipal purposes where the public could use it during the school day.
Similar safety concerns were expressed to the Highland Building Study Group by Bill Fink representing the School Committee as reported in The Carlisle Mosquito, August 15, 2008. Selectman Al Carpenito said that the building might support, “RecCom offices, after school programs or evening programs.” Thus the proposed uses of the Highland continue to be restricted by the School Committee, and severely limited during school hours. Any assurances from the current School Committee as to permitted uses will not be binding on any future School Committees. Thus this uncertainty will cloud the possible uses of the building into the future.
In voting for $450,000 for the “stabilization” of the Highland, we will be, in essence, committing to the entire $1,700,000 cost to make it ready for some unspecified, but limited, use.
The way to make such an investment worthwhile is to transfer the land as well as the building to the Selectmen.
Unfortunately, lacking this, I cannot support any funding for this project.
Save the Highland Building
To the Editor:
The preservation or destruction of the Highland Building on School Street is one of the topics on the upcoming Town Meeting where we all have voice and a vote.
This historic landmark is currently unused and is beginning to decay from neglect. Anyone driving by the site would clearly notice the dilapidated front steps and the yellow hazard tape forming a barrier to visitors. What people don’t see is that the interior is fairly well kept and comprises four very large rooms that can host a variety of activities for municipal and perhaps private use. As a long standing member of the Recreation Commission, we have often looked at possibilities for a community center, or just additional recreational program space; and the Highland Building has figured into one of many possibilities to serve that community need. Anyone who has tried to navigate through the RecCom’s yoga class at the Town Hall can certainly appreciate our need for more community meeting space.
As we look for those new resources in this day of economic downturns, the Highland could be a lot of “bang for the buck” to serve the interests of the community. As a member in the Community Preservation Act (CPA) subcommittee, we examined and recommended a proposal to stabilize the Highland Building by correcting the appearance or hazard issues and by performing some stabilization repairs that will preserve the Highland Building for future consideration. The Recreation Commission is excited about possibilities of using this resource for our programs, and we fully support the preservation of Highland.
The choices to the townspeople in the upcoming warrant are twofold, spend approximately $450K of already pre-allocated CPA money to stabilize and preserve the Highland, or spend approximately $150K of taxpayer dollars to knock it down.
I hope you will join us in support of preserving Highland as a future resource for the community.
Town Meeting decisions
To the Editor:
Yes, I support the school building project – replacing Spalding and upgrading school – and I believe we should refurbish Highland for future town uses. However, I have questions regarding the school superintendency – what are the gains and where is the town committee review process?
The school building project and Highland have been through years, if not decades, of study and analysis. Many committees have looked at the school demographics, the changing educational program, the costs and the ongoing space needs of the town. I have been involved in a number of these efforts. I feel that the Warrant Articles on the school building and Highland have been well vetted. The school project has been pared back to an acceptable size and cost, particularly with 40% state reimbursement. And we need to replace Spalding.
The future of Highland has also been a topic of numerous studies and much debate. Finally, after much work, we have a good set of cost estimates for keeping Highland and a sense of future uses. The Warrant Article lets us preserve Highland for the town.
The changes that the school committee is contemplating for Carlisle Schools leaves me somewhat mystified. With the recession and a shifting Carlisle enrollment to the high school, I understand the budget pressures. Nonetheless, affiliating with Concord (K-8) could result in a loss in managerial control and some real changes in our educational program. Carlisle has built an excellent system over the past 20 years.
Like many decisions in town, I feel that changing the school structure and management should be studied carefully with input by many. This takes time and reasoned dialogue. In the end, we may all feel that this is the right decision. At the moment, I am unsure.
The school building project and Highland have been through the Carlisle gauntlet. The projects make sense, we have good budget estimates, we can afford them, and they are endorsed by most of the committees in Carlisle. I am ready to support them at Town Meeting and the ballot box.
Support Article 12 – support our schools
To the Editor:
As part of Article 12, the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District is requesting $250,000 to develop a master plan that will transform the existing facility and materially extend its useful life. While the District has applied for MSBA funding, we are not optimistic that we will be accepted in the near future and neither Carlisle/Concord can afford a major construction project without financial assistance from the state. Some facts about the high school building are as follows:
CCHS was built in the 1960’s with an addition done in the 1970’s.Major renovations have been postponed because of the possibility of a new high school. Our high school was put on probation status by our accreditation agency (NEASC) because of facility concerns. Enrollment has increased 25% over the past ten years and the building is at full capacity. Space constraints are limiting our ability to expand in-house special education programs, causing students to be sent out of district for services. SPED is the fastest growing part of the budget.
Major renovations have been postponed that now must begin in order to preserve the building. It is imperative that a detailed engineering study be performed that identifies which part of the building can be salvaged. Part of the requested funds will be used to assess the structural integrity of the buildings. Without a master plan, there is a possibility that repairs would be done to sections of the building that later could be torn down. The master plan will prioritize needed projects in terms of importance and then properly stage them to minimize disruption and provide financial flexibility.
From a financial perspective, the facilities master plan offers two major benefits. First, the MSBA has made it clear that it will not consider for reimbursement any capital project/repair that does not have a detailed master plan. Second, the planning study allows the renovations to be staged over time and makes it easier for each town to absorb financially.
The Concord Carlisle School Committee needs this study to begin improving the high school facility. Please support Article 12 at Town Meeting and at the polls.
Ed. note: Article 12 is for $750,000. One third of that, $250,000 is to develop a master plan. The other two thirds are for capital and safety improvements.
Support for Shyjan
To the Editor,
I am writing to express my support for Larissa Shyjan’s candidacy for Library Trustee. I have known Larissa and her family for nearly ten years. During this time, I have seen her excel in nearly every project she has undertaken.
After graduating from Stanford, Larissa returned to Massachusetts and successfully ran the Westford Racquet & Fitness Club for many years. In addition to overseeing the financial aspects of the business, expanding its facility from tennis only to include swimming and fitness, she also introduced many new and exciting programs to the club. Since having two children, she has become a full time mother. However, Larissa is no ordinary “stay at home” mom. She is very active in the Carlisle community and in her children’s lives. She regularly volunteers at the Carlisle Public School, and for the last four years she has been on the Board of Directors of The Children’s Meeting House as Clerk and Treasurer.
Most important is her love and enthusiasm for Gleason Library and all that it has to offer. Larissa is at the library on a regular basis with her children and enjoys attending as many programs and events as possible. Additionally, Larissa has a network of friends that spans across generational lines. As a Library Trustee, she will work hard to ensure that the programs and events are appealing to all members of the Carlisle community.
In short, Larissa’s intelligence, enthusiasm, organizational skills and business acumen make her an excellent fit for the position of Library Trustee. Please join me in voting for Larissa Shyjan for Library Trustee on May 12.
Come to May 2 plant sale at CCHS
To the Editor:
Did you know that Concord-Carlisle High School has a working raised bed vegetable garden right at the school, where students can relax at a picnic bench or eat a fresh cherry tomato? Last year, a group of CCHS students interested in the power of fresh produce got together and created a vegetable garden in the hope of transforming a bland courtyard into something to be celebrated. This year, we’re at it again.
WEEDS is Concord-Carlisle’s local, organic, and sustainable garden club. We’ve been meeting all winter, planning on how to best expand our garden. This Saturday, May 2, from 9 a.m. to l p.m., we will be holding a plant sale at the front entrance of the high school. The plant sale will include many donated perennials, a chance to meet a backyard chicken, and a loaded basket full of garden goodies that we will be raffling off. If you have any plants to donate, please drop them off at the front entrance of the school. Come support a great cause by buying plants or raffle tickets.
The proceeds from this event will go towards building more beds, purchasing a variety of plants, garden tools and supplies, birdhouses, signs, and adding more places for students to sit and enjoy the courtyard. You’ll be helping us continue Carlisle’s great agricultural history and creating a more local community at our school. We’d love to see you there!
Virginia Hamilton (2009)
Grateful for phonathon support
To the Editor:
As chair of the Concord Carlisle Scholarship Fund (CCSF), I want to thank the community for supporting our mission through our recent phonathon. Over the past 40 years, CCSF has provided need-based scholarships to more than 1,000 students in the Concord/Carlisle community to help them pursue their post-secondary education.
The CCSF phonathon is an annual event, staffed by student volunteers from the Concord-Carlisle High School National Honor Society. This year we had over 100 volunteers who contacted households in Concord and Carlisle. Their efforts resulted in over 670 pledges to support scholarships, a significant success in the current economic climate.
The challenges of financing a college education have recently become more difficult. Tuition increases at public and private institutions, worsening family finances due to the stock market declines and job loss, smaller endowments at universities and other scholarship funding sources such as CCSF, and reduced donations to many non-profits including those supporting education, have all combined to make paying for college difficult for many more students than in the past. Now, more than ever, the students in our community with financial need require as much assistance as CCSF and other fund sources can contribute.
On behalf of the trustees of CCSF, I want to thank you for your past, present and future support. Please visit our website at www.ccscholarshipfund.org for more information about CCSF.
Support for alternative energy bylaw
To the Editor:
We support the development of Carlisle’s draft Solar Power Generation and Wind Conversion Systems Bylaw. It is a progressive step toward a national goal. However, we offer the following suggestions for modification of the bylaw to more appropriately align it with the rural, non-industrial nature of Carlisle.
The output power limit for a wind turbine in the draft bylaw is 50 kW (section 184.108.40.206 Output). This is much larger than needed to supplement a private home’s energy needs and requires increased turbine dimensions. Wind turbine manufacturers and advocates recommend 5-15 kW as adequate to supplement a private home (Ref. 1). 20-50kW is recommended for small industries (Ref. 2). Do we really want industrial size turbines in residential neighborhoods of Carlisle? We suggest a 15 kW power limit for residential wind turbines in the draft bylaw.
Section 220.127.116.11 (Noise) stipulates that the wind turbine applicant will provide data to verify compliance with the bylaw’s specified noise limits. Applicants providing their wind turbine manufacturer’s data as compliance verification entails a conflict of interest. We suggest that the draft bylaw be modified to include noise level compliance verification on a site-by-site basis, using standardized test methods by an impartial professional agent at the applicant’s expense.
Ref. 1. http://www.awea.org/smallwindltoolbox2/factsheet_whatjs _ smallwind.html
Ref. 2. http://www.bestuseofenergy.com/index. php ?p=wind-turbine-installation
Bruce Metcalf, Heald Road
Thanks from LWV
To the Editor:
It was standing room only in the hall of Concord’s Trinitarian Congregational Church on April 15 for the Concord-Carlisle League of Women Voters 2009 house tour “Room for Us: Adapting Spaces to Your Needs.” Gorgeous spring weather welcomed attendees to a day of learning and discovery about creatively altering living spaces. The day started with an informative talk by Holly Cratsley, principal of Nashawtuc Architects, who shared photos and stories of homes modified to fit their owners’ lives.
After a continental breakfast, participants visited seven homes, including four on the Sudbury River, and saw innovative approaches to meeting the needs of everyone from growing families to retirees.
The League of Women Voters of Concord-Carlisle thanks the gracious homeowners and all of the volunteers and businesses who contributed so generously to the success of this occasion. We particularly wish to recognize the major underwriters of the event – Barrett & Company Real Estate and Concord Lamp and Shade.
The program book contained a wealth of information about local businesses that serve Carlisle residents and support the League. We especially want to thank JR Gallery, The Four Walls, Robinson Construction, Dave Clark Stone Masonry, All Seasons Home Maintenance, The Ultimate Bath Showroom, Battle Associates Architects, Patriot Electrical, Clapper’s, Bowen Marketing Consultants, Forever Tile, Middlesex Savings Bank, Shannon Strings, Michael G. Poisson Clock & Watch Restoration, Ventilation USA, Handworks Gallery, American Awning, Thoreauly Antiques, Boston Closet Co., You Inc., and Carlisle Arboriculture. We also thank Donna Thomas, our program cover designer.
We are most grateful for the financial support of all who attended this fundraising event, which enables the League of Women Voters of Concord-Carlisle to carry on its non-partisan work of informing citizens on current issues and encouraging active citizen participation in government.
Barbara Lewis, House Tour Staffing Coordinator
© 2009 The