Sunday, December 14, 2014

Northbridge School Committee is Seeking Community Input

December 14, 2014

BUS TRANSPORTATION POLICY

The committee will be holding a Community Input Session on Transportation to hear from Northbridge parents and residents about potential changes to our current Student Transportation Policy.  This session will be held on Tuesday, December 16th at 6pm at the High School Auditorium.  Please consider attending to share your thoughts and ideas directly with the committee. 

More information can be found on the NPS website:  Community Input Session on Transportation

School districts are only required to transport students in grades K-6 who live further than 2 miles from their school.  In Northbridge, we currently provide busing for students in kindergarten through grade 4 who live more than ½ mile from school; students in grades 5-8 who live more than 1.5 miles from school; and students in grades 9-12 who live more than 2 miles from school.  This change would eliminate transportation for approximately 2/3 of the students currently assigned to a bus.

COMMUNITY BUDGET SURVEY

The Committee is also seeking input through our Community Survey to inform the budget development process for the 2015-16 school year. 
The survey is available online here:  Northbridge Community Budget Survey

The survey will also be available in hard copy at the School District Administration Building, the Library, the Senior Center and other locations around town. 
We would appreciate your participate in this survey to share your opinions, as well as suggestions. The survey will remain open until Friday, December 19th.

HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING TEAM

The Northbridge HS Wrestling team is still fundraising to restore their season.  Help them out by attending a Meat Raffle TODAY (Sunday, Dec 14th) at 3pm at the Gray Barn.  More info at:  Save Northbridge Wrestling

UPCOMING MEETINGS

Tuesday, December 16th -- 6pm at HS Auditorium -- Community Input Session on Transportation
Tuesday, December 16th -- 7pm at HS Media Center -- Regular School Committee Meeting
Tuesday, January 6th -- 7pm at HS Media Center -- Regular School Committee Meeting

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Community Budget Survey, Capital Projects and Bus Transportation Policy

December 4, 2014

Here is a brief recap of this week's School Committee meeting.

Budget Survey

The committee held a meeting specifically to discuss the Community Survey it plans to implement to gather input from the town to inform their budget development process for the 2015-16 school year.  We had some good discussion among the committee and ultimately approved a final version of the survey.

The survey is available online here:  Northbridge Community Budget Survey

The survey will also be available in hard copy at the School District Administration Building, the Library, the Senior Center and other locations around town. 

We would appreciate it if you participate in this survey to share your opinions, as well as suggestions. The survey will remain open until Friday, December 19th.


Capital Projects

The committee continued its discussion on the projects that were not funded at the November election.  The two projects that have been completed, the Balmer kitchen and the Middle School auditorium HVAC, will be funded from savings in the current year's budget.

The committee also voted on Tuesday to authorize the rebidding to replace the HVAC unit in the Middle School gym locker room.  Their is currently one unit rigged to do the work of two, and the remaining unit is also in disrepair.  The committee is concerned with this unit failing and resulting in additional damage to the school in the winter with frozen pipes.

The committee has scheduled an additional meeting on Tuesday, December 9th (6pm in the Administration Building) to discuss the purchase of a replacement truck.  As mentioned, this truck is one of the two trucks that are used to plow all the school parking lots. If it fails, this will severely impact the school department's ability to open school after a storm in a timely manner.  The administration shared with us quotes to hire a contractor for the plowing, but over time, that would be much more costly than the purchase of this truck.

The administration is also looking at a leasing option for the technology switches which are so crucial to maintaining the schools' computer systems, networks, data and devices.  This may be more expensive in the long-run, but the lower annual cost may be a more reasonable solution at this time.  The risk of these switches failing are too much of a concern to wait for it to happen.

The remaining two projects, security cameras and key-less door entry units, are not currently in any upcoming plans.

Bus Transportation

The committee also continued its discussion on our transportation policy and the possibility of reducing the level of service that we currently provide.  We reviewed financial information which indicated the committee could save approximately $320K (year over year) if we reduced our transportation to just the legal requirements.  School districts are only required to transport students in grades K-6 who live further than 2 miles from their school.  In Northbridge, we currently provide busing for students in kindergarten through grade 4 who live more than ½ mile from school; students in grades 5-8 who live more than 1.5 miles from school; and students in grades 9-12 who live more than 2 miles from school.  This change would eliminate transportation for approximately 2/3 of the students currently assigned to a bus.

The committee has also discussed the possibility of instituting a bus fee for students outside the committee policy, but has not yet taken any action on this.  There will be ongoing discussions about this.

The committee will also be further discussing this at our December 9th meeting, and plan to solicit parent input at another upcoming meeting in the near future.  Please stay tuned for more information on this and join us to share your voice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Upcoming Meeting (12/2): Community School Budget Survey / Transportation‏

November 25, 2014

COMMUNITY BUDGET SURVEY


The School Committee is planning to conduct a survey to gather community input as to the priority and focus of the FY16 budget development process.  The committee will hold a working meeting on Tuesday, December 2nd at 6pm (in the HS Media Center) to specifically discuss and finalize this survey.  The committee is also seeking community input, and we plan to allow some time at the start of that meeting to hear from the community on the survey's development.  If you'd like to share your thoughts, please join us on the 2nd.  Alternatively, you may also share your input with me or any other member of the committee directly.  The survey can be found here

TRANSPORTATION


At our regular meeting beginning at 7pm, the committee will also continue its discussion of our transportation policy, considering a reduction in bus services and, if services are cut, the possibility of implementing a fee-based program for students not eligible for free transportation.

As a reminder, Districts are required to provide free transportation to students only if they are in grades K-6, and only if they live more than 2 miles from the school they are entitled to attend.  In Northbridge, we currently provided busing for students in kindergarten through grade 4 who live more than ½ mile from school; students in grades 5-8 who live more than 1.5 miles from school; and students in grades 9-12 who live more than 2 miles from school.

If you have an opinion on this, feel free to attend our meeting and speak during Public Comment.

The full meeting agenda for December 2nd can be found here: Dec 2nd Regular Meeting Agenda and Info

FIND ME ON FACEBOOK


In order to increase the ways in which I am able to engage with the community, I have created a Mike For Schools Facebook page.  Please check it out, like it and share it with your friends.   

FINALLY, I'D LIKE TO WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November 19th School Committee Updates: NMS Sports / Budget / Transportation

November 19, 2014

MIDDLE SCHOOL WINTER SPORTS


At last night’s School Committee meeting, the Northbridge Middle School Boosters Club made a donation in the amount of $8,785 to restore Middle School Winter sports (boys and girls basketball).  Once again, this money was 100% generated by fundraising efforts, and the generosity of parents and members of our community.  I am going to continue to emphasize this point, because, if not for the commitment of dedicated parents, all the sports and activities restored would not have taken place.

I’d like thank all of those involved in the fundraising efforts and everyone who made a donation of any type to make this happen!

FINANCE COMMITTEE JOINT MEETING

Prior to our regular meeting, the committee held a joint meeting with the Finance Committee.  During that time, we provided budget info including the final FY14 budget detail, updated FY15 budget, and previewed an FY16 budget scenario. 

Unfortunately, based on the information we have available today, a level services budget for FY16 would leave the district with a $680K funding deficit (if we wanted to maintain $1M in our revolver accounts).  This does not however take into consideration the $300K in capital projects we had asked the town to fund during this month’s election.  Many of these projects will still require action, so that may cut further into our budget funding.

COMMUNITY SURVEY

During our regular meeting, we discussed a Community Survey to gather input from parents and others in town on their priorities for the school budget.  Many difficult decisions will have to be made again if we are forced to cut and we want as much feedback as we can get from the public.  Please be on the lookout for this, and if you have any suggestions prior to us creating the survey, please feel free to share.  You may also attend our meeting on December 2nd at 6pm, where we have set aside an hour specifically to work on this survey.

TRANSPORTATION

One final budget related topic we discussed last night was transportation.  Currently, Northbridge provides busing beyond what is legally required by Massachusetts Law.  Districts are required to provide free transportation to students only if they are in grades K-6, and only if they live more than 2 miles from the school they are entitled to attend.

In Northbridge, we currently provided busing for students in kindergarten through grade 4 who live more than ½ mile from school; students in grades 5-8 who live more than 1.5 miles from school; and students in grades 9-12 who live more than 2 miles from school.

The committee will be considering a reduction in bus services over the next couple of meetings and, if services are cut, the possibility of implementing a fee-based program for students not eligible for free transportation. 

MORE INFORMATION

- Telegram & Gazette article recapping last night's meeting
- Lessons from Northbridge: What makes a successful district
- Check out the new Virtual Backpack

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Vote YES on Question 5 to Support Northbridge Schools' Capital Projects

On Tuesday, November 4th,
Please Vote YES on Question 5 
to support much needed capital projects 
for the Northbridge schools.   
Please spread the word to your friends, family and neighbors. 

At Tuesday night’s Town Meeting, the voters in attendance unanimously supported a $311K one-year tax increase to fund several capital projects for the School Department.  While this is good news, before the vote there were many questions and debate about the need, and we want to make sure all parents and voters concerned about our schools get out and vote to support this request.

In order for this money to be made available to the schools, this also must pass by a majority of votes at next week’s Election.  The polls will be open from 7am to 8pm on Tuesday, November 4th at the Northbridge High School Field House.

This item will be Question 5 on the ballot (just after the four statewide ballot questions).  There is also a Question 6, which is also a 1-year tax increase to provide $300k to continue road improvements throughout town.

As mentioned by the Town Manager at Town Meeting, these two items combined will raise the tax bill for the average home (valued at $265k) by $113 for one year only.  This is not an Override which remains part of the tax base forever.  It is assessed one time and one time only.  Its important to also know that this increase will be offset by the expiration of past one-time tax increases which totaled $116.

We all know that the schools have limited resources to fund its day to day educational operations and, as a result, we are often in reactionary mode when something of significance breaks or just no longer functions.  It was suggested at Town Meeting that these costs should have been built into our budget.  I’m not sure how that would have looked had we needed to cut another $300K on top of the $1.1M we had cut after the failed override.

The school projects that this will fund include:

1.       Pick-up truck replacement
2.       Balmer kitchen repairs
3.       Middle School auditorium air conditioner
4.       Middle School locker room HVAC unit
5.       Additional security cameras for all schools
6.       Additional key fob box for Balmer School
7.       Technology switch replacements for all schools

Further details on these items and their specific costs can be located here.

There are many important decisions to be made on Election Day and I want to make sure that everyone is aware of this school-related request.  I ask you to please spread the word to your friends, family and neighbors.  Please get out to vote, and please VOTE YES on QUESTION 5. 

Thank you in advance for supporting our town and our schools.

Monday, October 27, 2014

School Capital Exclusion Projects

October 6, 2014

The School Department has submitted several projects for approval at Town Meeting through a Capital Exclusion.  This will be a one time tax increase to fund these projects, much like the town has done in the past for vehicles and previous school security initiatives.  

The impact to the tax base of Northbridge residents will basically be offset by previous one-year debt exclusions coming off the books.  According to the Town Manager, the Tax impact for one year on the average home (valued at $265,000) is about $58 for the school article, and about $55 for the road project, for a total of $113.  The capital projects we passed last year were worth an additional  $116 so  this would be pretty close for the average tax payer.

FYI:  Full Town Meeting Warrant 

The projects requesting approval are as follows:
  1. Pick-up truck replacement $33,290
    This request is for the purchase of a 2015 F-350 pick-up truck with plow to replace the existing 2001 pick-up truck. This vehicle is used in the day to day operations of the maintenance and custodial department to transport equipment from building to building, transport custodial supplies from the main stock room to all schools, pick up building materials when needed, move furniture from building to building when needed, and serve as the maintenance director's mode of transportation between buildings. In addition, this vehicle is used for plowing our parking lots and driveways in the winter months. The current vehicle is 13 years old and in disrepair. It has become undependable and has broken down multiple times during recent snow storms. It requires expensive repairs and has excessive body rot. The cost listed takes into account the trade in value on the existing truck.
  2. Balmer kitchen repairs $36,800
    The Balmer kitchen exhaust unit and associated gas lines, which are original from 1967, need to be updated and/or replaced to bring them up to 2014 National Gas Codes. Towards the end of last school year, after multiple emergency response calls were made by N-Star Gas, the Fire Department, and the building and gas inspectors, N-Star Gas shut off the gas to the Balmer kitchen. The School Department was required to bring the gas lines and exhaust systems up to today's code before the gas could be turned back on. Having the gas shut off to the Balmer  kitchen prevented the Balmer School from cooking and serving hot meals. A summary of required work in the Balmer kitchen includes providing and installing new welded exhaust duct work, a new up-blast grease ventilator, a fire suppression system under the existing hood, new gas mains and gas lines to existing equipment, a solenoid operated gas valve on the main, and a commercial C.O. detector with a manual reset.
  3. Middle School auditorium air conditioner $28,940
    The condensing unit that serves as the Middle School Auditorium's air conditioning unit has a badly damaged condenser coil. Due to the amount of leaks and its installed location, the coil is beyond repair. The unit would need to be cut apart in order to get the coil out and replaced. Welding the unit back together would jeopardize the structural integrity; therefore, the unit as a whole, which dates back to the early 1990's, needs to be replaced. This replacement is beneficial to the students who are in the auditorium at the beginning and end of the school year when the weather is warm, and it also benefits the public groups who rent the auditorium in the spring and summer for concerts, recitals, and camps.
  4. Middle School locker room HVAC unit $24,350
    The make-up air units that serve the locker rooms at the Middle School have multiple deficiencies. These are the original make-up air units from 1986. Due to the age of the units, they are obsolete and parts are unavailable. These units provide fresh air and heat to the locker rooms. These locker rooms  are not only used by the students during the school day, but they are also utilized by the public during athletic events and other town leagues who rent the Middle School gymnasium.
  5. Additional security cameras $57,070
    The District currently has a total of 86 security cameras across our four schools. Of those 86 cameras, 51 were added last year through the safety warrant article funding. Our request is to add 26 additional cameras to further improve the safety and security of our students. These cameras will be installed across all four schools in strategic locations identified by the engineer and building administrators.
  6. Additional key fob boxes $5,981
    In an effort to continue to improve student safety, the initiative to install key fob boxes on main entrance doors at the schools is being expanded. Currently, there is not a key fob box on the doors used for Balmer recess. When the teachers bring their classes out for recess, the door secures behind them. The only accessible door to bring the classes in after recess is the front main door. Adding a key fob box to the recess door will allow the door to remain secured during recess and improve the speed and efficiency of getting the students back into the classrooms after recess has ended. It will also provide an additional access point into the building in the event there is a medical emergency on the playground and a student needs to be brought in to see the nurse.
  7. Technology switch replacements $124,539
    A network switch is a hardware device that serves as a controller, enabling networked devices to talk to each other efficiently. All devices that connect to the internet on our network,  including computers, printers, copiers, cameras, key fob systems, HVAC systems, phone systems, financial systems, and servers, such as the website server, student information server, and learning management system server, are connected to switches. Many of the switches on our network are starting to fail and are no longer covered under warranty. When switches fail, the devices connected to those switches are disabled. This can take down all technology, security, and communication systems in the wing of a building, or in an entire building, depending on which switch fails. We need to upgrade our infrastructure to support the current and growing needs and network demands. This request is to replace the 179 switches that we currently have in place.
 TOTAL of Items Listed Above $310,970

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fundraising for Northbridge School Sports


October 21, 2014

As a result of the Override Defeat at last Spring's election, several high school sports ad all of the middle school sports were cancelled.  This included golf, ice hockey, swimming and wrestling at the high school.  At the middle school, this included 4 teams in the fall (8th grade football, field hockey and girls & boys soccer), 2 teams in the winter (boys & girls basketball) and 2 teams in the spring (baseball and softball).

Thanks to the efforts of parents and members of our community, so far the high school golf and ice hockey teams have been fully refunded thanks to private funding.  Additional all of the Fall Sports at the middle school were also privately funded.  


However, we are still in need of funds to restore HS wrestling and swimming, as well as winter and spring sports at the middle school. Below are a few fundraising events scheduled which I hope you can support.

Event to Support Northbridge Middle School SportsSaturday, November 8th:  "A Night on the Town" at the Whitinsville Golf Club (7-11pm) to fund boys and girls basketball at the Middle School
For more information or to RSVP visit NMS on Facebook or email northbridgesports@gmail.com.
You can also view info on my blog:  NMS Sports Fundraiser

Events to Support Northbridge High School Wrestling:

Saturday, October 25th;  Boot Drive at Memorial Square from 9am - 2pm
Thursday, October 30th: Golf Tournament at Highfields Golf Club (Grafton)
Check out their Facebook page for more information:  Save Northbridge Wrestling
Boot Drive to Support Northbridge High School Swimming:Saturday, November 1st:  Boot Drive at Memorial Square from 9am - 12pm