Emotions flare over building
REGION – A reorganization meeting preceded the regularly scheduled meeting of the Southern Worcester County Regional Vocational School District Committee on Monday night. New officers elected were Chairman Robert Wilby of Paxton, Vice-Chairman Robert Zukowski of Spencer, Secretary Helen Lenti of Southbridge, and Assistant Treasurer Kenneth Wheeler of Spencer. Sue Foskett was appointed the Recording Secretary, Clarence Bachand the Delegate to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees Div VII, and Michael Pantos the Alternate Delegate to the Mass. Association of School Committees Annual Meeting.
At the regularly-scheduled meeting, Jason Tait, Education Director of the state’s Office of Campaign & Political Finance (“OCPF”) reviewed state rules and regulations relating to the impending district-wide ballot question for Bay Path’s building renovation. Mr. Tait fielded questions and enlightened school committee members on the procedures and standards allowed in getting important information out to voters in the 10-town school district. The school district’s town clerks were invited to tonight’s meeting and presentation. Eight town clerks in attendance were: Ellen Gaboury, Auburn; Darleen Tully, Charlton; Sheila Buzzell, North Brookfield; Lori Kelley, Oxford; Sue Stone, Paxton; Madaline Daoust, Southbridge; Laura Torti, Spencer; and Robert Craver, Webster. Town Clerks from Dudley and Rutland were not present.
Following a brief Executive Session, the newly-organized committee unanimously voted to accept the Bay Path Building Committee’s recommendation to hold a district-wide vote for the high school’s building fund approval and established the date of Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, for the district-wide voting. The 10 district towns’ polling hours will be 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Committee members then offered their comments and suggestions regarding the wording to be used on the October 4 ballots. Much impassioned and emotional discussion ensued with constant questioning of the ballot’s description, which was called verbose and confusing. The wording is lengthy and details the total building costs before State reimbursement, and it was felt that a voter reading the 20-line warrant question would be baffled by what the true individual taxpayer cost would be.
Several committee members felt that the confusing issue was not being able to simplify the language by listing the individual taxpayer cost by town or by breaking down each taxpayer’s obligation if they voted in favor of the deteriorating school’s renovation.
School Superintendent John Lafleche explained that the State and the Massachusetts School Building Association (“MSBA”) has mandated such language and that he had “petitioned the MSBA in order to place the individual town’s contributory dollars on the ballot.” State bond- offering language also played a major role in the wording of the ballot question. Following the input of just about all members of the School Committee, James Caldwell, North Brookfield’s Committee Member, spoke briefly but directly stating that there is no doubt that the ballot question is a passionate subject. “The voters will vote either Yes or No. The ones who feel the strongest will cast their votes.”
The Committee then moved on to additional agenda items approving Health Technology students to participate in Camp Sunshine, the Race to the Top Grant, the Federal Special Education Entitlement Grant, transfer of funds, awarding a welding booth installation bid to Hall Sheet Metal Works, Inc., executive session policy, policies affected by nondiscrimination law, emergency plans policy, student health services and requirements policy, a revised annual sports award banquet/celebration policy, a revised athletic awards policy; and acknowledgement of a new Massachusetts educator evaluation system for the administrators and superintendent-director.
Other business centered on bank designations, signatory designations, bonding of school department employees, reappointment of existing legal counsel, and dates/times for regular meetings: the first Monday of every month, except July, and the Tuesday following Labor Day in Sept. 2012 (9/4/12), with all meeting to commence at 7 p.m.