August 3, 2009
Late summer and early fall will be a very busy time for the school committee given the schedule of public hearings concerning the possible consolidation of elementary schools and the final vote on Worthington’s request to turn the R.H. Conwell School into a Horace Mann Charter School. Although all of the collected information can be found online at www.grsd.org, for planning purposes the following are the public hearing dates:
- August 26th—Russell Public Hearing, Russell Elementary School
- August 27th—Worthington Public Hearing, R.H. Conwell Elementary School
- September 2nd—Chester/Middlefield Public Hearing, Chester Elementary School
- September 8th—Huntington/Montgomery Public Hearing, Littleville Elementary School
- September 9th—Blandford Public Hearing, Blandford Elementary School
- September 23rd—All Towns Select Board and Finance Committee meeting on school consolidation, Gateway Performing Arts Center.
It should be noted that all of these hearings are set to run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and that written comments will be accepted for 30 days after each hearing.
We anticipate that there may be many people wanting to comment during these public hearings. To ensure that as many people and viewpoints are allowed, we will be using the following parameters at each meeting (and there will be no presentations from the district):
- Anyone wishing to speak must sign-in and will be called to speak in order.
- Speakers must provide their name and town of residence.
- Speakers will have a 3-minute time limit. Only written comments will be posted on the district’s website.
- At each public hearing, comments will only be allowed that relate to the particular school being closed for which that particular public hearing is being held.
- Speakers from any town will be allowed to speak at any public hearing but must limit their comments as outlined above.
- Each public hearing will provide for an additional 30-days of written testimony to be provided to the committee. Such written testimony must include the writer’s name, town of residence, contact information and the public hearing they are commenting on.
- Should time permit, the floor will be open to general comments after all speakers signed up to speak are heard from. These comments must also follow the parameters listed above.
The school committee has chosen to expand the time of the public hearings, within reason, if there are still large numbers of people wishing to speak and add new information or questions to the hearing.
I hope that as people are speaking that they avoid repetitive comments and simply say they agree with particular points and then add new material, questions or insight. If a person has signed up to speak and feels their comments have already been made, they may wish to simply acknowledge that they agree with previous speakers and allow the next person on the list to speak. I believe the goal in this process is to gather public input, determine if there are additional questions to be answered and potentially find other alternatives to the budgetary constraints we face other than the consolidation of elementary schools. Whether individuals speak or provide written testimony, it’s important that everyone provide some input. The bottom line question for the school committee is how to provide a high quality education for all students in the district within the budgetary and fiscal constraints faced by our district towns, the state and our federal government. The final decision will have an impact not only on students and their families but also on people who no longer have children in school, who may be retired and on fixed incomes, and on our town’s abilities to provide essential services to the citizenry.