Master Planning and Visioning: Board Passes Resolution

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Thursday December 15, 2016

After deliberative and thoughtful conversations, fact finding, and consideration of public input, the school board has deveolped a road map for the future of the master planning and visioning process. At the December 7 board meeting, Martin LaLonde presented a statement and resolution that sets up specific timelines for four items.

In summary, the plan includes identification of needed upgrades at the high school and middle school no later than June 30, 2018, and sets up a system to monitor impacts on the district’s ability to maintain/improve K-5 education. The plan calls for documentation to be provided by September 1, 2017 regarding threats to health and education at Chamberlin, with a contingency plan to be created by December 31, 2017 to ensure equitable delivery of education should Chamberlin need to close. The district’s strategic plan will be revitalized by evaluating current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) by December 31, 2018. One or more subcommittees would be developed to execute this work in conjunction with the superintendent and any consultants deemed necessary.

LaLonde also provided what he hoped could be added as a consensus statement which acknowledged the district’s commitment to the three existing elementary schools. LaLonde said that the board shows this commitment, in part, by passing budgets that fund the resources to maintain them. He added that he would expect future budgets would include line items for stewardship and maintenance of all schools, and if the monitoring put in place for the Chamberlin School indicated a change was necessary, the board could take action at that time. “Otherwise, we will continue to rely on teachers and administrators to determine the resources they need within the schools to continue to provide the education the community expects,” LaLonde said.

The board’s arrival at this juncture has been a multifaceted process. The future of the city’s schools has been under consideration since mid-November 2014 when the Master Planning and Visioning Task Force first convened; their final report was issued to the school board in August 2015. Before weighing in on the topic of school configuration and consolidation, the board conducted further study about educational outcomes and financial data. Final reports and studies were completed in August 2016, and the board has worked hard to evaluate the information and find consensus.

After discussion regarding LaLonde’s motion, primarily regarding adjustment to the proposed dates, the board voted unanimously to approve the resolution. Prior to the vote, former school board member Dan Fleming offered his thoughts. He reminded the board that they are overseeing an educational institution first and foremost, and that facilities should follow that. He also noted that Chamberlin comes across in the resolution as the only school being at risk for closure.

Elizabeth Fitzgerald also offered a word of caution regarding the introductory statement. She reminded the board that the administration recommended consolidation, therefore, the board needs to acknowledge that has been heard.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent