Friday, March 16, 2007

How Do You Reward One of the Top 10 Schools in Massachusetts?

In the town of Swampscott, you shut it down. Can't have the kids "on the other side of the tracks" siphoning off resources getting a top-notch education (sixth best in the state, by far the best in the town), especially with an inept Superintendent who doesn't think class sizes are important and a School Committee that continually forgets to tell its residents about upcoming budget shortfalls when the town could be in a position to actually do something about it. This is nearly the same School Committee that thought it a good idea to offer two override proposals a few years ago: one that would still force the town to make cuts and another that would actually add positions during a recession. Of course, residents chose option one... but they would have picked "level fund it" in a heartbeat, if given such a rational choice. No one should be shocked by any of this, because it was the school committee that decided to destroy the only real park in the town (conveniently also located "on the other side of the tracks") to build a high school that could have been built on the woods that merely abutted one of the most elite country clubs in Massachusetts. Couldn't piss off the old, rich, white men in their golf carts though... after all, most of them are lawyers. And selectmen.

I have so much more on this subject that I'm not even anywhere near done.

1 comment:

David Whelan said...


You may not understand but we had a $1.87 deficit to deal with and clearly no one on the SC wanted to close an elementary school. Machon was a high achieving elementary school, but it was not the building that made those kids do so well. It was the kids, the parents, the teachers and an outstanding leadership team. The kids will all be moving onto other elementary schools in town, except those 5th graders that choose to move to the Middle School. Since the parents and the teachers are moving along with the kids, the support system that was in place will still be there. By the way, my kids both went to Clarke and I can assure you that they have both received very good educations. The building did not make Machon special, it was the human beings in the building that made it special.

You also may wonder how we got to a $1.87 million deficit. Across all Town department’s health care costs have risen 10%+ over the past two years. This year we also incurred an additional $674k in operating costs just to open the new HS, a building that you and I supported building. Your reference to Rep DiMasi’s support of the health care program offered through the State is interesting, except for it has to be bargained for with the unions. Bargaining often means giving something in return.

Some of the other issues that arose this year include a substantial reduction in the # of students coming from Nahant and the fact that we had to set aside about $600k for raises for teachers. All in all it was a remarkably difficult process. Why Machon? It was simple. Machon was the smallest school in the district and frankly we had no other choice. Also please keep in mind that the appetite for an override in this Town is rather small.

Finally, I have attached a few spreadsheets that I created comparing the State’s Chapter 70 education aid to all districts across the State. Remarkably Swampscott is in the bottom 10% on a per pupil reimbursement factor. For what it is worth, the Governor’s original budget had us getting less per pupil than the Town of Wellesley. Check out how we compare to Lynnfield, Marblehead, and North Reading. For the record I have spoken to both Tom McGee and Doug Petersen and I have expressed to them my dissatisfaction with how we are treated relative to chapter 70. I noticed from your website that you are a fan of Doug’s. Maybe you can get a straight answer as to why we are reimbursed at such a ridiculously low rate.

As for now we are making due as a community. Some parents are still upset with their elected SC, but it is my sense that the kids will do perfectly fine. I hope someday when you are home you look me up and we can further chat. Maybe someday you will run for SC and you can share in the process of trying to figure out how to pay for $100 worth of services with $90.

PS The referenced spreadsheets can be emailed by contacting me at

David P. Whelan, Jr., CPA

About Ryan's Take