Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Game On" for the new Middle School(s)

When someone says 'Game on!', it means that they are accepting a challenge or ready to get something done.

This is certainly what I think that I heard at this week's School Committee meeting (9/26/11).  Committee members, Michael Clark and Laurie Flynn presented the results of their study this summer to review the conditions of the two middle schools and to recommend a forward action plan for the School Committee.

Below is a video clip- courtesy of LCTV with their presentation as well as the SC's followup discussion.

Here are some highlights and comments from this presentation:
  1. Both Glenbrook and Williams Middle Schools are in deplorable condition with poorly functioning heating, plumbing and ventilation systems, alarm systems + other issues. Both schools were built more than 40 years ago GMS-1967 and WMS- 1959) and are at the end of their useful lives (Where have I heard that before?)
  2. Both schools do not measure up to 21st century learning standards- size of classroom, inadequate science labs and facilities, physical layout, etc. (Where have I heard that before?)
  3. GMS is not ADA compliant because of its multiple levels and the use of a "frightening" contraption for moving wheelchair bound students is not ideal. (Where have I heard that before?)
  4. Locker rooms at WMS are in very "rough shape". (Where have I heard that before?)
Below are the main recommendations that were presented...
  1. A new Middle School Working Group should be formed with 12 participants including 2 SC members, 1 Select Board member, Town Manager, Town Facilities Manager, School Superintendent, both Asst. School Superintendents, GMS + WMS principals and 2 town residents.  This group will be charged to develop a strategic plan for fixing both middle schools.  Because this "working group" is not an official committee or board it will not be required to post meeting notices or minutes.

  2. The two middle school SOI's should not be updated and resubmitted this year.
    Both Mr. Clark and Ms. Flynn encouraged the SC to use the Middle School Working Group's effort to help build "political will".  They both felt that there was not strong enough support to undertake another large school building project just as the tax impact of the new high school project was going to start (see Longmeadow Taxes- Part II).
My reactions:
  1. This "working group" proposal sounds very similar to the School Building Committee.  The recommendation seems like it is trying to "jump start" the whole feasibility process without any official sanctioning.  The town cannot afford to commit the efforts of all these town employees to a "working group".

  2. The SC and SB should put together a joint taskforce to look at the all of the town's infrastructure needs- not just those that are school related so it can develop and properly support a prioritized list of projects.

  3. Hopefully, the SC and school administration will not embrace the same tactics as those used to gain support for the new high school in which normal maintenance and updates were deferred for many years.
    Example: If (as Ms. Flynn reported) the current locker room space at WMS is in such deplorable condition, the WMS principal should submit work orders to fix it.  It is amazing how appearance can be improved with simple relatively low cost repairs (paint, floor replacement, etc.).

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