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Selectmen explore benefits of joint efforts with School Committee


July 11, 2013
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

LONGMEADOW — At its July 1 meeting, the Select Board discussed what it hoped to gain through the formation of a proposed joint committee that would include members of the board and the School Committee.

Select Board Chair Marie Angelides said she felt the concept of a joint committee was a "wonderful idea" and wished to get a head start on the conversation.

"I would like us to work together on recommended agenda items," she said. "I'm going to ask the School Committee, too, to work on agenda items so we will have a clear, shared joint agenda in order to have a more productive meeting."

Angelides said she planned to sit down with School Committee Chair Michael Clark to formulate an agenda and would bring it back to the board for discussion.

Selectman Paul Santaniello said he wanted to have a discussion regarding the School Committee's strategic plan and how it relates to its budgetary needs and goals.

"They keep talking about a strategic plan when it comes to their budget but they've never put a dollar amount on their strategic plan," he said. "When you go to Town Meeting and they did their budget presentation, they talked about early intervention and those particular items. For about 10 years we've been talking about early intervention and how it's part of their strategic plan and that's where it's constantly cited, but we've never seen a full account of that strategic plan.

"So as much as we're criticized about our capital plan, the difference is we actually have a number. We may not have a fully integrated capital plan with the steps for every year, but I think it's the revers with the schools. I think they have a fully integrated strategic plan, but they have never presented to us a number," he continued.

He went on to say that it was his belief that only with a monetary figure could the two entities have serious conversations about sustained, long-term budgeting practices.

Santaniello used a possible new initiative in the schools that would have students bring electronic devices from home for educational purposes as an example of aspects of the School Committee's plan he hoped to know more about.

"I'm going to assume that that saves money on books and things like that, and if that is part of their strategic plan, then it would be a good thing to understand that there would be less capital expenditures for items like books in the future versus technology," he said.

Select Board Vice Chair Mark Gold said he would also like to have a discussion on budgeting.

"I think that's something that we've reached a consensus on very early on," he said.

Gold also said he would like to explore strategies for negotiating with unions in order to find a more uniform protocol.

"I would like to see a discussion on collective bargaining direction for the town so we won't have one arm of the town going in a different direction than another arm of the town," he said. "Even though we don't have many of the contracts coming up next year, I think it's very important that we are on the same page."

Angelides said she wished to address maintenance and Information Technology issues and Santaniello agreed that he had some questions regarding building maintenance.

Santaniello said he wished to know more about how maintenance for summer programs and camps being run out of school buildings such as the high school or school fields are funded.

"If there's a fee attached to it, I would hope that money would go into a maintenance fund for those buildings," he said. "If you have a thousand kids going into the high school everyday and then in the summertime when you should have none you have another 300 going through there, there's increased wear and tear. If you take that money and throw it into the general fund, it doesn't necessarily go back into maintenance and so forth.

"What we're going to see in the high school is you have a brand new building and you can see how fast that will break down. That building is beautiful and people want to be in it and I understand that, but we should also on the flip side think about down the road for that building as well," he continued.

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