February 17, 2017
Town school committee members and I have appreciated the opportunity to meet with Blandford’s and Russell’s finance committees to discuss the FY ‘18 budget and the issues that both the towns and district face. As always, we stand ready to meet with other town’s finance committees, or other town officials, at any time but particularly as we move towards annual town meetings. One of the recommendations made by the MARS study was to create some sort of town and school ‘finance’ committee to review budgets, develop long-range capital plans, and to create a more collaborative process. While too late to do that this year, this is certainly one of the items the committee and administration will be contemplating for the FY’19 budget process.
In addition to reviewing the budget with Blandford and Russell finance committee members, there was also some discussion about the future of the district. It’s evident that many people in the community know what a good job the district has done in managing costs while still providing an exemplary education, but it is also evident that some of the details of our successes are not fully understood. To that end, I’ll spend some time over the next few months outlining what many believe to be our strengths, many of which you can review in both the Gateway 2025 preliminary results and in the MARS study.
I’d like to begin with a 20,000-foot overview. Our school committee, our budget, and our staff are committed to moving the district forward in providing an exemplary education for all students focused not just on state testing results but rather on supporting and improving education for the whole child. This is particularly important in ensuring that students succeed in all domains: social, emotional, citizenship, artistic, physical, leadership, creative and academic using a variety of approaches including but not limited to hands-on activities, problem solving, collaboration, communication, athletics, technology, and extra-curricular clubs and activities. The fact that we have a small school system with small class sizes, an extraordinary staff focused on ensuring that no student is overlooked, and an emphasis on meeting each individual student’s needs has paid many dividends.
These dividends include continued success in meeting the state’s definition of successful schools (three of our four schools are level one schools with both Littleville Elementary and the High School having been commended schools by the DESE). Additionally our students are successful at being accepted to, and succeeding at, some of the top colleges and universities. We are also proud that a number of our graduates are the first members of their families to attend college. In other arenas we have successful athletic teams, an active National Honor Society, an award winning Welding program, an outstanding wood working program, an elementary STEM program, an arts program that ranges from traditional to digital and from music and dance to theatre, award winning student clubs, a growing robotics program, and all schools that employ one to one computer-based learning opportunities.
I encourage individuals to review our successes through our website (www.grsd.org), social media, print media, our mobile app or, best of all, to schedule a visit to see just how well a small school district can meet its students’ needs.