On Nov. 2, the Sudbury School Committee held a regularly scheduled meeting. The main topics of discussion were the following:
1) Capital Improvements Update
2) Pre-K Parent Coffees
3) Transportation Warrant Article Update
4) Enrollment Update
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS UPDATE
Director of Business and Finance Mary Will gave an update about the Capital Improvements Program for FY12. During the Fall of each school year, Ms. Will collaborates with the other department heads in Sudbury to prioritize requests for capital improvements and determine which ones will be presented to the Capital Improvement Planning Committee (CIPC) for approval.
As described on the Town of Sudbury website: The CIPC studies proposed capital projects involving major tangible assets and projects which have a useful life of at least five years and have a single-year cost of $10,000 or a multi-year cost of $100,000. All offices, boards, and committees submit a list of all anticipated projects requiring Town Meeting action for the next six years. The CIPC reviews the projects and develops an annual report recommending a Capital Improvement Program for the following five years. The report is submitted to the Finance Committee for its consideration.
Many requests appear over multiple years on the Capital Improvements list, as the CIPC budget is limited and cannot sufficiently fund all of the town's annual capital needs. For Sudbury Public Schools (SPS), the top priorities for FY12 include two projects whose funding is necessary in order to ensure continuous operation of the affected schools. At , a switch gear replacement (which affects the electrical panel) is needed, and roof repairs are needed at four of the SPS schools. The switch gear replacement was one of the top four requests from SPS in FY11. The roof repairs are likely to require a debt exclusion that will require Town Meeting approval. These two projects have been submitted to the CIPC as the top SPS priorities for this fiscal year. However, the SPS list also includes 20 other capital improvement projects (such as parking lot and walkway replacements at Curtis, Nixon, and and heating system control upgrades at Haynes and Nixon). These projects will appear again in FY13 on the SPS Capital Improvements list for CIPC consideration.
PRE-K PARENT COFFEES
On Nov. 15 at 9:30 a.m. (at the Grange in Town Center) and at 7 p.m. (at the Library), the School Committee, Superintendent Dr. Anne Wilson, and Early Childhood Director Linda Karpeichik are hosting Coffees for parents and guardians of preschoolers. Notices have been submitted to Sudbury Patch, the Sudbury Town Crier, and Sudbury Family Network. Additionally, invitations were delivered to the directors of the Sudbury preschools for distribution to the parents and guardians of the children who attend their schools.
The purpose of these informal gatherings is for preschool families to learn about Sudbury's K-8 schools, to meet the new superintendent, Dr. Anne Wilson, and to ask questions.
TRANSPORTATION WARRANT ARTICLE UPDATE
Last school year, the School Committee discussed asking the Massachusetts Legislature to allow the District to charge bus fees for all students who ride the buses. Ms. Will provided revenue projections to simulate different fee scenarios. The Committee submitted an article for Sudbury's Town Warrant but before Town Meeting decided that further study was required before pursuing this article. Thus at Town Meeting, a motion was made to Indefinitely Postpone the warrant article.
During this Nov. 2 meeting, the Committee re-opened the discussion of transportation costs and the possibility of pursuing legislative approval to alter the fee structure so that all bus riders are charged fees (except for those who cannot afford the fees). The Committee discussed the cost of transportation and its demand on the budget as well as the concern that the current practice of charging some riders (those who live within 2 miles of their school plus all seventh- and eighth-graders) is inequitable.
At present, the total cost of regular bus transportation is in excess of $1 million for the year, with about $400,000 re-captured through fees to families. The remaining $600,000 is an annual expense to the operating budget. Although bus transportation is mandated by the State, and school districts are required to provide free busing for all students in grades K-6 who live 2 miles or more from school, the State does not reimburse districts for these costs (except in the case of regional school districts where there is a partial reimbursement).
Changing the structure of charging for bus fees would require a vote at Town Meeting plus approval by the State Legislature. The town of Sharon passed such an article at their Town Meeting during FY11. The Sharon petition was sent to the Legislature and assigned to the Education Committee, which considered it in a hearing a month ago. There has been no further response from the Legislature.
As a next step, the School Committee will reach out to Legislators to seek their opinions as to the potential support such a petition from Sudbury might receive.
FY12 ENROLLMENT UPDATE
Year-to-date enrollment data shows a decrease in SPS enrollment from FY11 by 20 students. While the elementary schools' population has decreased by 31 students, that of the middle school has increased by 11. Dr. Wilson discussed the need to adjust the allocation of team sections at Curtis during the planning for FY13 in order to address the large class sizes of the current seventh grade as it moves to eighth grade.
Dr. Wilson recognized the fifth-graders at Nixon school who provided an informative guided tour of the school during her visit. She also recognized this group for their explanation of what they liked most about their school (access to caring teachers and the academic opportunities they receive at school).
Dr. Wilson acknowledged Chief Bill Miles of the Sudbury Fire Department and Lt. Scott Nix of the Sudbury Police Department for their diligence and unwavering concern for the safety of the students after the storm and during the power outages last week. Chief Miles remained in contact with Dr. Wilson, helped to clear tree limbs from wires and roads, and met with bus company representatives to ensure that bus drivers knew where problems on the roads existed. Lt. Nix provided continuous inspection of road and walkway hazards, planned to provide assistance with traffic, and remained in close contact with Dr. Wilson as decisions were made regarding the opening of the schools.
Dr. Wilson also acknowledged Director of Business and Finance Mary Will and Transportation Manager Rita Skog for their inspection of bus stops and walking paths and their work with the Police and Fire Departments prior to the students' return to school.
The efforts of these town and school district representatives, who went above and beyond the normal course of their jobs to protect and serve the students, are ones for which Dr. Wilson and the School Committee express our sincerest gratitude.