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Survey and State Funding for Nashoba

By Ann Needle

At last night’s Nashoba District School Committee meeting, the district’s anticipated community survey results were unveiled, though any discussion of the potential impact of this information will not take place until June. With the last day of school a month away, the Committee also heard the latest state funding forecast for the district, elected its 2013/14 officers, and approved a meeting schedule for next school year.

The district survey was conducted this spring as part of Nashoba’s annual update of its District Improvement Plan. Topics focused on Nashoba’s communication efforts in several areas, along with respondents’ feelings on a wide range of possible changes in the district. Nashoba staff and residents of Stow, Bolton, and Lancaster were invited to fill out the two-part survey on the district web site. Of the 556 responses,  the largest portion came from Stow, at 32%.

Concerning how Nashoba rated in methods of communication, administration received the best grades for the district’s and schools’ web sites and newsletters, with at least half of participants awarding each of these areas a top rating of “very useful”. Also well rated was the Powerschool system, which, gives students and parents electronic access to regular updates of students’ grades. Coming out lower on the ratings scale were district, school, and town meetings — for example, 60% of respondents said they “did not use” School Committee meetings as a method of exchanging news with the district.

Questioned on potential district proposals, respondents gave their highest rating to shoring up STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math) across all grades, and updating the Science labs at Nashoba Regional High School. In each of these cases, more than 44% of respondents rated these potential moves as the highest priorities on a 1 to 5 scale.

The Committee will be offering its comments and discussion on the results at the next meeting, which takes place June 4.  For full survey results, visit the district’s website at www.nrsd.net

More State Funding 
As the state closes in on the end of its fiscal year late next month, Superintendent Michael Wood described the funding outlook for the district as “very favorable.” Nashoba is anticipating increases in regional transportation and Chapter 70 (general) assistance, along with a hike in the circuit breaker for special education, Wood said.  He noted that the MA Senate passed the House budget, which was more generous in education funding than the governor’s original budget. However, Wood stressed that the governor may well sign this version, given state revenue is now expected to come in higher this year than in recent budget cycles. Nashoba should end this fiscal year with final revenue income where it was expected, he added.

Wood said that the chance for an increase in Bolton’s 2014 assessment — and decreases in Stow’s and Lancaster’s — are still possible. This is due to a web of factors, including a reporting error on enrollment and how the state applies its assessment formula, Wood explained. Any state decision on  this would likely come in the summer. Wood added that Nashoba legal counsel is looking into whether town meetings would be required in order to accept any adjusted assessments.

The Committee began its new year yesterday, after town elections earlier in the month. Chair Nancy Federspiel of Bolton introduced Lancaster’s Cathleen Thier, who replaced former Rep. Kathy Owen. The Committee unanimously re-elected Federspiel as chair for the third consecutive term, along with Stow Rep. Maureen Busch to her second term as vice chair. Stow Rep. Lynn Colletti won re-election in May to another two-year term.

In its annual review of the School Committee meeting schedule, the group chose to keep the meetings as is — every other Tuesday evening, twice a month, September through June — but to move the start time from 6:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. Colletti mentioned that the Stow Selectmen requested the Committee not continue to meet on Tuesdays, given this often coincides with its meetings, which happen on the second and fourth Tuesday evenings of the month.

After extensive discussion revealed that everyone had conflicts with moving the meeting elsewhere in the week, the Committee agreed to keep the meetings at every other Tuesday. “Well, we gave that a good try,” Nancy Federspiel sighed.

Also, the Committee agreed to unanimously accept a $1,500 grant on behalf of the NRHS Athletic Dept., to support the school’s Unified Track & Field team this spring. The team is part of the Unified Sports League, which strives to help promote climates of dignity, respect, and inclusion in schools for students with and without intellectual disabilities.

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