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Spend money on school staff

I know us. I know we care deeply about the education of our own children and those in our community. I know we also care deeply about the unfairness of educational opportunities in underserved communities and the highly contentious environment around education nationally that is driving educators, librarians, and administrators out of the profession. We want to make a difference and we think that voting yes on a whole new high school in our district is somehow going to advance that. Unfortunately, it will not. 

If we really want to spend this money that shows our respect for the teaching profession and influences student outcomes, let’s do things that could improve the delivery of public education in a meaningful way; putting more than one teacher in every classroom, ensuring educators are not paying out of pocket for classroom supplies and allow them to choose their supplies as their student needs dictate, and doubling – if not tripling – the size of our paraprofessional educators. 

When it comes to getting money from the state, with a few exceptions, our district only qualifies if asking for funds to build or improve a facility. Facilities unfortunately are not teachers. Facilities unfortunately are not paraprofessionals. Facilities unfortunately are stagnant and cannot grow with our student needs and changing populations like a trained professional can. We do need a safe facility for our students. That is why I would support a much smaller project – but we need to fill that facility with human capital and not overly expansive capital projects for the sake of spending state money. We have to be willing to say ‘no’ to money from the state that we can ultimately spend less on things that don’t matter so we can say ‘yes’ to future budget increases on things that do. Our children are worth it. 

Nicole Odekirk-Hatlevig, Stow, MA

New School Building and academic performance?

Several recent letters from people in both Bolton and Stow have strongly supported a “yes” vote on the new Nashoba Regional High School project. I must admit that I’m ambivalent. I don’t know how I will vote, even though I sincerely believe in high quality public education. My ambivalence stems from the lack of a commitment to improving Nashoba’s academic performance to go along with the new, $241 million facility; and secondly, from the need for greater transparency. The most recent U.S. New & World Report ranked Nashoba #6o in Massachusetts and #1,639 in the U.S. This is contrasts with our nearby peers with similar demographics Bromfield (#3 and #154), Algonquin Regional (#31 and $787), Groton-Dunstable Regional (#23 and #693), Acton-Boxboro (#9 and #338), and Tahanto Regional (#40 and # 979).  School rankings undoubtedly can be subjective and variable; but what also stands out are the scores for math and reading proficiency: Nashoba (76% and 84% respectively) versus Bromfield (91 and 95), Algonquin (82 and 90), Groton-Dunstable (81 and 81); A-B (87 and 91),  and Tahanto (77 and 90). These other schools also have slightly higher graduation rates, too. The rankings have been pretty consistent over the past few years. Something appears to be amiss.

Regarding transparency, a new school building will not in itself guarantee improved academic performance. That requires leadership and commitment to excellence. During the Covid pandemic teaching and learning were extremely challenging; but, this was the same for every school system. Everyone also has similar budget constraints and ongoing needs to upgrade classrooms and technology. I heard that the NRSD has a five-year plan that may address some of the issues affecting performance. However, in all the presentations I saw I did not see any acknowledgment that improving academics is a goal and  a priority, and that it is an essential driver in the need for a new building. Before we vote to increase our property taxes by 20% or so, I hope the NRSD leadership explains how the new facilities will translate into improving Nashoba’s academics and a better education for its students.

Chuck McCormack, Bolton