Friday, April 08, 2011

There's A New Group In Hamilton & Wenham

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You've all heard of the citizen taxpayer watchdog group known as Enough Is Enough (EiE) right?

They're the ones that successfully ended the previous addiction to school overrides in Hamilton and Wenham and also drew overwhelming support from voters in both towns for an Operational Audit of the school district that is still being debated and considered by the School Committee (SC) and the towns.

Well, it appears there is a new group in town, known as Enough Is NEVER Enough (EiNE).

Who are these people?  You know them as the Hamilton-Wenham School Committee and their actions this past week and at last night's school budget vote is nothing less than appalling.

To his credit, school committee member Don Gallant, one of the three members on the Finance Working Group, had this to say at the opening of the discussion on whether or not to vote for a level funded school budget, less $350,000:

Gallant: "The Finance Working Group had another meeting on Monday...this past Monday night...in which 8 of the 9 school committee members were there. (*See note below) By a 2 to 1 vote...Ann (Minois) and myself in favor, and Richard (Boroff) not in favor...we passed this budget as our recommended budget to the full school committee.  This budget includes the (so-called) $350,000 give back to the towns.  For a variety of reasons we did tax too much for this current year."

He went on to say: "In my 19 years (on the SC) this is one of the highest amounts of money left in the Excess & Deficiency account."

The lone NO vote on the the Finance Working Group, Richard Boroff, had this to say:

Boroff: "I don't see any reason to give it back.  If it's a give back, it would be a give back for a political reason only and it does not make sound educational sense to me.  I've been around long enough to see the district get screwed when it tried to help out the towns do something and I'm not willing to put that foot forward."

How about putting that same foot in your mouth, Mr. Boroff?  Can you believe this guy?  He must be vying to serve as president of the new Enough Is NEVER Enough group.  But wait, there's more:

Boroff: "In all those 8 years (that I have been on the SC), the school district has taken a hit.  Every single one, except for one year.  On the other hand, the towns have funded or increased their funding and refused funding to us at times.  And one time it was a minuscule override...it was about $250k or $260k override which failed on the first go round, and we refused to accept that and went for the same thing.  It was an insult.  A very big insult."

A very big insult?  Really?  Then consider this...

It's insulting to suggest that any override is "minuscule".  In the case of the override Mr. Boroff refers to, the year was 2006 and the amount was $203,000...that year.  In 2007 it was another $203,000.  And again in 2008, 2009, 2010... and again this year...and again without end, because overrides are added to the tax levy and go on FOREVER.  So that's $1,218,000 since the override was approved in 2006.  I don't think anyone but Mr. Boroff would call that a "minuscule" amount.

Now let's go back to the first Boroff quote above where he says, ever so politely:

Boroff: "I've been around long enough to see the district get screwed..."

Is that what you call eight Proposition 2.5 overrides for the district since 2001?  Overrides whose cumulative total, over the past 10 years, adds up to $43,947,000.00.  Overrides that cost the taxpayers nearly $7 million every year going forward?  And that's NOT including the 2.5% tacked on each year to that amount by the towns.  I think it's the taxpayers that got, in Mr. Boroff's words...."screwed".

But I digress.  Let's get back to the Enough Is NEVER Enough group.

At one point in the meeting John McWane, chairman of the Hamilton Finance Committee, got up and asked a few enlightening questions:

McWane: "It is my understanding that initially you had proposed a Latin teacher.  Is that still in the budget?"

Alexa McCloughan (SC chairman): "The funding for the Latin teacher is still in the budget.  It is doubtful that we will have Latin."

McWane: "So you don't have the teacher in, but you do have the money?"

Alexa: "Correct.  We have the money in."

McWane: "Which is a little odd to me.  It seems to me that if you take something out of the budget...if you take a position out..."

Alexa (interrupting): "It's in our instructional line."

McWane: "Right.  I'm just saying that typically when you take a position out, you also take the money out.  But I guess that's not your practice."

Alexa (nodding): "That's not the case."

And finally...perhaps the most obvious exchange of the night indicating the birth of Enough is NEVER Enough:

McWane: "We should be clear that your budget, in terms of what you spend for the schools would not change under either scenario (with or without the give back).  Is that correct?"

Alexa: "Correct."

McWane: "And it's up a million dollars over last year...over the current year"

Alexa: "Uh huh."

WcWane: "Okay.  So what we're really discussing is the $350k and the question is: Should it go to your E&D...or should it go to the taxpayers' pockets.  Is that correct?"

Alexa: "Yes."

WcWane: "Okay.  I just want to make that clear."

So there you have it folks.  Please join me in welcoming the new group: Enough Is NEVER Enough.

...but remind them at Town Meeting and the polls that in Hamilton and Wenham, Enough IS Enough.

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*Question: If 8 out of 9 school committee members were present at this meeting, shouldn't it have been posted as something other that a Finance Working Group meeting?  Smells a little like a violation of the Open Meeting Laws.  Anyone care to comment?

Update 5/6/2011: click here to read what happened.

5 comments:

  1. Carol Mazzetta6:58 PM

    Mr. Boroff, welcome to my world. I've been getting "screwed" by the schools for years, over 40 to be precise. I have a question for Mr Boroff, when you file your taxes do you check off the box that has you paying a higher rate? I have a feeling you don't! Why? Because you'd rather spend my money, that's what liberals do.

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  2. Anonymous7:58 PM

    Samuel Clements said "First God created idiots...Then he created school boards"

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  3. Enough said5:43 PM

    I've always thought that the advocates of funding the schools with lots of money were missing an important point. I've been a public school teacher in Mass. for a number of years and I'm also a certified real estate appraiser. I've taught in some pretty impovrished systems and in one such system, (Chelsea public schools) I observed students being admitted to Yale, Wellesley and Brown. No one had any money to fund the schools in Chelsea; at the time it was a bankrupt city. Many students were admitted into top ranked schools nevertheless. Why? Because they had parents who expected nothing less. The parents rode herd on these kids, watched them ferociously, made them do their homework and they showed up at parent-teacher conferences. And none of that cost the city of Chelsea one dime. Hamilton-Wenham has a good system because of like-minded parents who care about their kids and who expect good grades from them. What I'm saying is this: "Good grades come from high expectations and committed parents and caregivers. You just can't buy your way into a good education. We don't need overrides and more overrides just to send our kids to colleges.

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  4. Proper Education Supporter2:32 PM

    I couldn't agree more with this person. I am proof. I was born in Chelsea and went to Malden Public Schools. My parents always encouraged me. While I did pretty well (got my master's at 22, and advanced Certificate of Graduate Studies at 23), even more telling is the kid that sat behind me had perfect college board scores both on the English and the Math sections and went on to become a surgeon. As the writer stated, educational accomplishment has much more to do with parents and caregivers that encourage education 24/7 than the four hours of school work kids get. With my grandchildren we look at their school as "supplemenging" their education and providing social learning. School learning is important, but only a small piece of the total educational effort.

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  5. George1:13 PM

    Jay, you are absolutely correct that it is a violation of the Open Meeting Laws. In fact there have been 6 meetings in question which have been posted as Finance Working Group meetings (comprised of 3 SC members) in which each meeting had a quorum in attendance of the entire School Committee. They sat at the same table and deliberated and even held straw votes on how they would actually vote the budget at the next SC meeting. In other words, it was actually rehearsed without the public hearing the actual deliberations.

    An official Open Meeting Law violation on the 6 meetings in question was filed on 4/18/11 with the Chair person of the SC.


    George LaMontagne

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