In my first term I have gained a lot more knowledge than when I was a blogger or a candidate. One of the biggest revelations is making changes in Lowell Schools is like swimming in a molasses pond. You can do it but it takes time!
Like most candidates I would love smaller classes, less transportation cost, a return to the neighborhood school concept while keeping the consent decree in place and better maintenance and repairs in our schools. Many of these items I have tried to address in my first term, many times I was on the losing end of a vote. Change takes time but if we keep trying..it will come!
Class Sizes– We all would love smaller class sizes! In elementary the class size is ave. 22 and capped at 25 , in the Middle schools it tends to run 28 to 30. Ideally a class size of 20 would be the target but we have no space. The City would need to have the funds to either remodel and buy/rent a space or try to build another middle school. The School Committee in 2014 paid for the following facilities study but not much has been done other than the High School Project due to cost.
“More Effiency” less “Cost in “Transportation / Neighborhood Schools – We had a subcommittee meeting on Transportation to look at a way to make routes more efficient. We brought in a specialist to look at the existing transportation plan and he was HIGHLY COMPLEMENTARY of our Transportation Director and the job he was doing with the routes and challenges we face due to school choice.
I had the following motion last year Motion: School Committee vote to change the district to a 3 Zone Transportation / Placement system effective for the 2019/2020 School Year and begin notifying all stakeholders. (saving about $600,000 – $800,000) I was reminded we have to look at the challenges in doing this rezoning and know that it will be a very distributive event(effecting 45% of students if we did it all at once) that will upset many students and parents and we have to keep the voluntary desegregation order in mind at all times.
There is a plan in place for rezoning that would bring us “close” to the neighborhood school concept and cut 15 minutes a day off the students time on a bus but where I live in Centralville we have more students and not enough classroom space. There would still be required busing too another zone and we can’t justify doing that to one set of students or just one neighborhood.
Repairs / Painting / Cleaning Up Schools – For the first time in a long time Thanks to the efforts of City Manager Donoghue we have had many repairs started and have had 6 MAJOR Boiler/Roof replacements approved by the MSBA. Manager Donoghue has shown a strong commitment to address long delayed repairs and improvements.
We still have a long way to go. As of this week we have 1144 Work Orders in progress ! I’ve advocated to put School Money aside and ask our 1705 Union to work overtime to address some issues after school gets over. These workers are understaffed but talented and want to do a good job..there are just to many orders and not enough time in the day to address them properly.
Bringing in “volunteers” to do the work of Union members is always tricky. There are procedures required for background checks, there is Liability issues if someone gets hurt and there is getting the Unions to agree to Supervise that process. Then there is the question of where do the funds come from to buy material and who/how do you FAIRLY choose what schools come first?
Change needs to and can happen..we need to continue to champion Fiscal Accountability, Diversity, Equity, Advocacy, Inclusion because that = Moving Lowell Schools Forward!
I pledge to continue to try to address these issues and respectfully ask you to consider me for one of your 6 votes on Tuesday Nov. 5th.