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Multi-board Committee Focuses on Communications and Revenue

The Mendon-Upton Regional School Committee Members met with the Mendon and Upton Boards of Selectmen and the Mendon and Upton Finance Committees on November 22 to discuss communication strategies, results of an internal operations study, and preliminary results from an Alternative Revenue Task Force. After Upton Board of Selectmen Chairman Robert Fleming stated that the "intent of this committee is public dissemination of information," talks turned to how to get that "accurate information" out to the public. Mendon Finance Committee Chairman Rich Schofield asked the group to consider staying focused on the "major opinion" and not focus on people on the outskirts. Schofield described the "major opinion" as the "average parent or average working guy," who doesn't have the time to sort through all of the information.

School Committee Member Kathleen Drennan said that she felt that the Multiboard group had to be the catalyst for getting the correct information out to the public. "We need to be the counter-weight to the negative information," she said. "A lot of the misinformation is getting passed around informally."

Upton Board of Selectmen Member Ken Picard suggested using the town websites to post information on a Fact Sheet or Frequently Asked Questions Document that would have direct links to the resource so that the public could see the information as "credible." The group decided to come back to the next meeting with additional ideas for an ongoing comprehensive communication strategy.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Maruszczak presented the group with a draft of his findings from an internal operations study. "By no means is this a Management Study, but more of a School District Capacity Assessment," said Maruszczak. Maruszczak said he will be presenting an Executive Summary of the assessments' 61 data points and nine categories at the December Multiboard meeting, but shared that there were findings in the assessment that there were "opportunities for increased collaboration, for example out of town transportation costs," said Maruszczak. He also shared information from the assessment that showed that district enrollment has declined by 11 percent since 2008, and that Mendon/Upton's teacher turnover rate for 2010-11 was significantly higher at 17 percent than the state average of 12 percent, as well as 10 other comparable districts.

Members of the Alternative Revenue Task Force presented the group with some brainstorming ideas born from a meeting at the beginning of November. "We had a task and goals to generate ideas for alternate sources of revenue," said Drennan. "We need to look at ways to take some burden from the taxpayers." Ideas included leasing school sports fields to town leagues, advertising in school and at sports fields, expanding SPED services to draw students from other districts, leveraging the Spanish Immersion program to expand language curriculum and draw students from other districts and partnering with public universities to enhance teaching and learning. Drennan said that they plan to expand on the ideas and come back to the group with action items and time lines.

The next Multiboard meeting will be on December 20 at 7 p.m. in the Nipmuc Professional Development Center.


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