By Ann Needle
The Nashoba School Committee’s final meetings before a summer break were devoted to crucial issues the district could face well beyond September. While the commanding topic of the June 29 and July 7 meetings was how to handle thousands of dollars in unexpected Facilities repairs, the SC also made crucial decisions on researching the district’s finances and hiring key staff.
As detailed in The Stow Independent’s July 13 online issue (www.stowindependent.com), at the June 29 meeting the SC was told by Nashoba Plumber & HVAC Technician Dominick Esposito of roughly $75,000 in crucial repairs throughout the district that should ideally be completed over the next few months. Most of these troubles began receiving widespread attention in May and center on Bolton’s schools, such as the faulty equipment supporting the Florence Sawyer School’s wastewater system.
Esposito told the SC that he knew of most of these problems, emailing his former boss (who has since left Nashoba) over the past several months. Since the June 29 SC meeting, the district’s new superintendent, Brooke Clenchy, has been working with Nashoba Facilities and the towns to figure out how to address and finance these repairs.
Due mostly to the sudden surfacing of these issues, the SC voted unanimously to extend the tenure of former Interim Superintendent Dr. Curtis Bates by 10 business days, at his regular per diem rate of $650. SC Chair Lorraine Romasco of Bolton explained that Clenchy requested the extension due to these unexpected Facilities developments, and that the money would come out of the district’s Professional Services account. Bates remarked that, in his recent career as a college professor teaching school administration techniques, he has told students, “As a teacher, you never go in as an administrator until you know the books are clear.”
Cleaning the Books
With the SC left with questions over the past few months over some revolving accounts and funds — along with the recent MASBO (MA Association of School Business Officials) report regarding district operations — Romasco said she spoke to the firm Melanson Heath on conducting a forensics study of Nashoba’s finances. Bates further explained that MASBO investigated the district’s policies and procedures, while Melanson would look more deeply into trends in how the district’s accounts were being spent. Romasco noted that Melanson Health could have its work finished by the start of the school year. She remarked, “We can’t ask administration to do its day job and still dig [into finances].”
At its July 7 meeting, the SC voted to contract Melanson Heath at a cost of up to $25,000. In its proposal, Melanson Health said it would investigate details behind spending in accounts the SC identifies, such as Extended Day, Special Education, Food Services, and Facilities. Stow SC Rep. Nicole Odekirk abstained from the vote. Odekirk stressed that she feels the study will be useful, but questioned whether the SC should consider how much it already spent for studies this year, including the demographic report on Nashoba (see below).
The Forecast for NRHS
Financial issues aside, how to carve out more space at a crowded Nashoba Regional High School remains another over-arching question for the district. At the June 29 SC meeting, the Nashoba Space Task Force’s Bob Czekanski outlined the findings of the demographic study authorized by the district.
Among the highlights from the study’s 10-year forecast were that Nashoba’s elementary school population will decline somewhat for a few years in the near term, then start to grow again, though this trend won’t be evenly spread among the district’s three towns. At NRHS, Czekanski said the high school population also will decline at a fairly regular rate, then begin growing shortly after 2026. Before then, the high school’s student population could dip from more than 1,000, to 830 to 840.
The study concluded that part of this temporary decline at NRHS will be triggered by a 30% drop in birth rates throughout the Nashoba area over the past several years, along with what has been a tepid housing market, Czekanski said. But, the report noted the drop should not be permanent, given the millennial generation is just reaching its peak years for starting families, he said.
Czekanski stressed that, even if the high school hosts fewer students in the next few years, simply bringing crucial areas — such as the Science labs — up to modern academic standards would mean expanding the building’s space by about 20%.
The Space Task Force has been planning to submit a statement of intent for state funds in 2017.
New Nashoba Leaders Hired
While Brooke Clenchy officially became Nashoba’s superintendent on July 1, the SC unanimously approved the hiring of other personnel for new leadership roles within the district needing the SC’s approval.
At the July 7 meeting, Nashoba Accountant Patricia Marone was voted interim Business and Operations director. The SC approved Joan Tetreault-DeAngelis for the new position of director of Pupil Personnel Services. She most recently was the director of Special Education and Student Services for the Attelboro Public Schools.
Clenchy also announced the hiring of two other key employees, both replacing people who resigned in the spring. Ann Marie Stoica has become the district’s new director of Human Resources, replacing Monica Visco; and Jeffrey Converse as director of Facilities, taking over from Bill Cleary.