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
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

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

November 8th: Fundraiser to Benefit Middle School Sports

Northbridge Middle School Sports
Fundraiser Event

Join us for a
“Night on the Town”
to benefit NMS Sports Programs

Saturday, November 8
7:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Whitinsville Golf Club
Cost:  $50 per person /$75 per couple
There will be a DJ, light appetizers
and a cash bar.
Checks payable to Northbridge Boosters Club

Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm Supporting Marty Green for State Rep

September 29, 2014

On November 4th, I will cast my vote for Marty Green to serve as the next State Representative for the 9th Worcester District.  Marty will bring  three distinct attributes which I believe will make a difference on Beacon Hill.

First, the system is currently broken and its time for a new approach.  Marty will bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the discussion.  As a registered Republican, I know that Marty will have no issue reaching across the aisle to work with any other member of the Legislature to do what is right for his constituents. 

Second, Marty's experience as a small business owner and former Executive Director of the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce gives him the insight to know how the decisions made in Boston directly impact business and the economy.  This is a critical time, and we need a representative who knows first hand the importance of every decision they make.

And finally, but most important for me, Marty understands the challenges that local communities and schools are facing.  He knows that the actions taken at Beacon Hill effect how cities and towns fund their schools and all municipal departments.  Marty has vowed not to support any unfunded mandates.  As a parent of school-aged children, and member of the Northbridge School Committee, I have seen this impact first hand.  Marty has served as a Northbridge Selectmen and has remained an active member of the school community, and he has also seen this trend and I believe he will do whatever he can to change it.

I ask all residents of Northbridge, Grafton and Upton to please vote for Marty Green for State Rep on November 4th.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Thank You Northbridge - Fall Programs Reinstated

August 13, 2014

At last night's Northbridge School Committee meeting, we received several donations which will reinstate some programs eliminated by this Spring's failed override.

The Northbridge Booster Club provided us with a check for $20,760 which will be used to reinstate all fall sports at the Middle School.  This includes 8th Grade Football, Field Hockey and Soccer.

The Northbridge PTA also provided a check for $955 which will fund the Show Choir at Balmer School.

We were also informed that the Whitinsville Golf Club has donated Greens Fees and coaching services for the Golf team, and that the Whitinsville Christian School offered to take care of transportation of the team.  (Note: Golf is a cooperative sport of students from NHS and WCS.)

Mr. Ken Calabro also attended the meeting last night to inform the committee that hockey parents are planning several fundraisers to help raise the $12k needed to reinstate the High School's varsity hockey and JV club teams. 

I would like to personally thank all of those people involved in making this happen and reminding us all of what a great community we live in.  The amount of time these dedicated volunteers put into this effort is just mind-blowing and they deserve all of our appreciation.  Those who participated in the events, and donated their time and/or money also deserve a big Northbridge Thank You!

With all that being said, parent Kate Tracy stated it best.  "This is only a band-aid."  As we begin to develop the budget for FY16, we know that it will be another challenging year.  The programs saved this year, will once again be at jeopardy for next year if the town's financial situation does not change.  The cuts to staff and teachers and the educational integrity of our schools will be deeper next year, and fundraising and donations can only be relied upon to a point.

I hope to begin dialogue very soon with our School Committee and Administration, as well as the Town Manager, Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee to develop a comprehensive plan to approach the FY16 budget.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Resolution on Unfunded Mandates

June 25, 2014

The Northbridge School Committee unanimously approved the following resolution to be presented to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees for consideration at their November delegate assembly:

Whereas it is the duty of the school committee to set policies for the education of the children in our community; and

Whereas the number of documents that require action by local school districts in response to externally imposed mandates and regulations has increased drastically without a clear positive impact on student learning, and whereas many of the required actions constitute an unfunded mandate, and

Whereas educators in our community and state, including MASS, have expressed concern about the difficulty carrying out their responsibilities due to this rising tide of state mandates, requiring educators to respond first to bureaucratic requirements rather than classroom instruction; therefore

We call on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to refrain from adding new test mandates and other initiatives, and to revisit the mandates already imposed on districts with a view to reducing interference with classroom instruction, thus allowing educators to do their work.