Sunday Notes January 29th 2017

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Do we need a non-Binding Question?

Maybe it’s just me but I can’t understand with votes do on site and cost in the next few months , why would there be a need for a non-binding question of any kind in November? The High School project wherever it is located will require a binding vote of the citizens to pay for it and in my view asking a non-binding question in November when the City of Lowell is scheduled to appear at the MSBA Board for Preferred Schematic approval on June 28, 2017 and is scheduled to appear at the MSBA Board for Project Scope and Budget authorization on December 13, 2017 seems like a waste of time.

Instead of worrying about a non-binding question that for the most part will be after the fact the following questions need to be addressed on the final 2 valid locations.

Moving to Cawley

How do we deal with the additional 700-800 cars and buses that would use Rte 38, Rogers St., Nesmith St., Andover St., Clark road and Douglas road?

What (if any) would the city need to contribute to the LRTA to run shuttles from downtown to the new High School? Walkers could go into the downtown instead of the Gallagher Terminal and take a shuttle directly to the new LHS.

How would or would the city replace the lost fields and where would practices and games be played if those fields are taken?

If we keep LHS Downtown

What is the non-reimbursable cost of demolition of the “Field House” and potential Dentist Office .

What is the expected cost of eminent domain acquisition of that dentist building. Worse case scenario? (FYI- consider that when the city took the Warehouse to build Kerouac Park the projected cost was $600,000 the actual cost was $3,500,000 )

What is the “Plan” for Phys Ed. if the Field house is taken down?

What is the plan for alternative locations for classrooms if students will be displaced during construction.

What would the total non-reimbursable cost be for alternative classrooms (either rented space or modules) any additional transportation cost and any other incidental cost be, if we kept the school downtown and would that come out of the City or School Department budget?

What is the plan to provide the minimum disruption for students during this renovation?

What is the economic impact of moving LHS out of the downtown?

Before City Councilors and School Committee members can be expected to vote, they and the parents/taxpayers/residents of the Downturn , Belvedere and all city neighborhoods need these issues clearly answered and explained.

It’s NOT a Belvidere NIMBY thing!

To those who want the Cawley Site , please don’t characterize the concerns of the neighborhood as just a Not In My Back Yard group. The neighbors have legitimate concerns about traffic and safety.

Just as any neighborhood would.

Here in Centralville when the McAuliffe Elementary School was being proposed at Gage Field the original plans called for it to be located where the tennis and basketball courts are going over to a vacant lot the runs between June and July streets. Those neighbors were very concerned as were the abutters on Twelve St. and Beacon St. It was after several meetings that the decision was made to move the site to the other side of the Robinson School.

Residents and Businesses on route 38 and surrounding streets have legitimate concerns that need a clear explanation.

Award Winning Budget

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Congratulations to the City for winning an award on their budget presentation. In order to receive the budget award, Lowell had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. These guidelines are designed to assess how well an entity’s budget serves as:

 a policy document;
 a financial plan;
 an operations guide; and
 a communications device.

For the past few years I have asked for and received a copy of the budget and I find it easy to follow and find what I am searching for. Congratulations to all involved with putting that together.

Why aren’t School Budget meetings televised Live?

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In the past the Lowell School Committee would hold at least 1 or 2 publicly televised live budget hearings so that like the City budget meetings the public could see, hear and try to understand what was going on. If you look at this week’s School Committee Packet the budget hearings will be held at the Rogers School which is unable to televise live. Hopefully a present School Committee member will ask that at least 1 of the 3 meetings get moved to the Council Chamber for a broadcast.

The Municipal Modernization bill

The final bill was signed on August 9, 2016, one aspect of that bill allows the creation of a Special Education revolving acct.

Special Education Reserve Fund (24)
Amends MGL c. 40, by inserting sec. 13D, which allows a school
district to establish a reserve fund to pay, without further appropriation, for unanticipated or unbudgeted costs of special education, out-of district tuition, or transportation. Deposits can be made via appropriation or budget transfer. The balance in the reserve fund shall not exceed 2% of the annual net school spending of the school district.

At the Finance Committee meeting last week, the suggestion came up for the School Committee to vote to create this and then it needs to go to the City Council (with I’m sure advise from the Manager for approval.

It is a wise thing to do especially with the uncertainty of Special Ed cost from year to year. The only thing that bugs me when I read this report in the School Committee Packet was this line.

“Superintendent Khelfaoui explained to the subcommittee that the SPED Reserve Fund actually goes a few years back”

The law was just passed in August of 2016, how does it go back a few years? The idea of a reserve may go back a few years but the law was passed last year. Why does this man seem to have to embellish facts?

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If you have heard the Supt. of schools talking about his contract, he refers to a contract that many Superintendents in MA. have.

Hopefully Mayor Kennedy and other School Committee members have read the above report which shows some items that in my view the Mayor was ready to give away that this booklet warns against.

Here are a few highlights someone should pass along to the Mayor and Atty. Hall

Contracts may also specify how the School Committee will deal with criticisms, complaints, and suggestions by requiring the board to refer all such matters to the superintendent.

Superintendents may also seek language that the board will not diminish their power or authority and specify that all duties assigned by the School Committee will be appropriate with the professional status of the superintendent.

School Committees should be careful to link these provisions specifically to the law and consider carefully whether they want to relinquish some of their own statutory powers to the superintendent.

Job descriptions should always be qualified so as to allow the School Committee to make changes as the needs and policies of the district require.

DISMISSAL OR SUSPENSION This is a very important provision for the contract. State law provides grounds for suspending or dismissing the superintendent during the term of a contract. (MGL, Ch. 71,Sec. 42 and 42d.)

Your contract may also provide for additional grounds or processes. In particular, you may wish to include a provision that would invalidate the contract if it were proved that the superintendent falsified any information on his/her application for
employment or provided credentials that are fraudulent.

School Committees should be very cautious in agreeing to additional steps leading to dismissal or suspension that exceeds the requirements set by law. For example, the terms “cause,” “good cause,” and “just cause,” when used to define circumstances for dismissal, suspension, or otherwise sanctioned have very distinct definitions under the law and can require different degrees of documentation, proof, or process.

Pay particular attention to any provisions that limit the role of the School Committee, reference state and federal laws and regulations, and otherwise bind the School Committee.

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2 thoughts on “Sunday Notes January 29th 2017

  1. Erik Gitschier

    Good Morning Gerry,

    I don’t understand why Lowell high school can’t practice on the fields they play the games on? Most high schools in Massachusetts and most around the country do, why not Lowell High? Greater Lowell Tech does for almost all their sports, the Red Sox do?

    Reply

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