Submitted by Joan Thakor, RTM member, D5, but these views her own
I attended last Thursday’s BET budget committee meeting for two reasons: First, as a staunch advocate for our public schools, I wanted to show support for the BoE’s proposed budget.
But second, I genuinely wanted to understand what good-faith objections there might be to, for example, the proposed $83M Central Middle School construction budget.
To understand how that number was arrived at, it’s essential to know that the BoE spent five months developing a 44-page Educational Specifications document that forms the basis for the project. They asked for and received input from the community and worked with the school administration and school design experts. They incorporated legal mandates and best practices regarding square footage, number of classrooms, etc. In other words, the Ed Specs were not dreamed up out of thin air.
Still, Republican BET members, both on the committee and at large, voiced skepticism about the scope and likely cost of the project. But rather than use the time to probe deeper into how the BoE developed the Ed Specs, as one committee member reasonably suggested they do, those Republican members spent roughly an hour pontificating on their pro-school bona fides.
At the end of two hours, all the Republican members could come up with was to ask the BoE to go back and “rethink” those thoughtfully developed Ed Specs while strongly suggesting the project was 30-40% too large.
I left the meeting frustrated and angry; what I thought would be a substantive discussion about a critical topic ended up being, in the words of one committee member, a complete “waste of time.”
It is apparent to any impartial observer that one-half of the BET is not interested in building a school that fully meets the needs of our community, let alone one that will be standing proudly 80 years from now.
And I was offended by how little respect those members showed our BoE and GPS administration, who’ve worked hundreds of hours to arrive at these numbers, and by extension, town residents and taxpayers.
They deserve BET members who don’t just say they want second-to-none schools but are willing to engage in good-faith dialog with our school experts to ensure we get them. Instead, as we’ve seen before, all signs indicate that this Republican-controlled BET has already decided to vote down the BoE budget.
Please email BET members and demand they fund Central Middle School’s rebuild in line with the existing Educational Specifications.
Attend the public hearing before the full BET on March 29 at 7:00 pm (BET Decision Day is April 4). Finally, this November, vote for all six Democratic BET members to ensure we have a school system that our children deserve.