January 14, 2010
The Gateway School Committee voted on January 13th to consolidate elementary schools, a momentous vote placing student opportunities ahead of partisan politics. I believe all members of the school committee deserve a commendation for their efforts over the past 10 months as reams of information, research and predictions were developed, reviewed and placed into the context of the final decision. I also give much credit to all of the community members, staff and town officials on both sides of the issue for their dedication, conviction and courtesy during this long process.
What does this vote mean for students? It means being taught in a single age classroom, accessing more support services, experiencing a broader range of teachers, and meeting and interacting with a greater number of peers. It means being in small classes with consistent support, and having more resources available to meet their educational needs.
What can this vote mean for parents? Expanded choices in aligning their child’s needs with particular teacher strengths; an opportunity to participate in planning, shaping and expanding roles for parent centers and volunteerism; a chance to bring together the traditions and strengths of several communities for the benefit of more students; a greater pool of parents to support active PTO’s; more staff resources focused on student needs rather than travel; and opportunities for children to make friends with others whose interests are more closely aligned.
This vote provides a climate for staff members that allows for, and encourages, more collaboration among staff and between staff and building level administrators, provides more time for staff to work with students as opposed to spending time driving between buildings, allows classroom teachers and paraprofessionals to work more uniformly with other support staff in the buildings and avoids the problem of administrators and adjustment counselors being unavailable when needed in one building because they’re already handing a situation in another building.
Consolidation also means providing a greater amount of services for the same dollar cost, allows for better use of facilities and staff, allows for more efficient bussing routes to be developed—in short means more dollars will be spent on direct student services allowing the district to improve education while saving money in both the short and long run.
District staff will continue to look for and request input on the best way to integrate all of our elementary students, to support parents during the transition and to incorporate as many positive elements into newly configured spaces as possible. We certainly will continue to welcome and support all students from throughout the district, listen to and do our best to resolve parent concerns on the transition and look forward to creating increased opportunities for students.
I know that there are many people who are disappointed and believe the decision is the wrong decision. There are also many other people who believe the decision is the best decision under the circumstances and will result in more opportunities for all students. My wish is that we can all put aside our differences and work together to focus on the needs of our children and their overall education.