I am passing along a brief update on school issues in Franklin, but first I need to make two corrections to the e-mail I distributed Sunday evening…
- At Franklin High School, the graduation rate for the Class of 2008 was 98.7%. Of the graduates, 73.1% chose to attend a public or private four-year college, and 15.4% chose to attend a public or private two-year college. (My e-mail said “four-year” in the second reference.)
- The average per pupil expenditure among school districts in Massachusetts stood at $11,859, which was $2,273 more than Franklin’s. (My e-mail said “less.”)
Thank you to the readers who pointed out my errors… I apologize. You can view the complete, corrected version of the academic-financial performance report online at: http://franklinschoolcommittee.wordpress.com/
With the school year underway, three issues are top of mind:
1. The Superintendent’s Resignation: Many parents have expressed deep disappointment in Supt. Ogden’s decision to resign, and I share that sentiment. You can expect next steps to be a topic of discussion at the School Committee meeting scheduled for the evening of Sept. 9. The mission of education goes on in Franklin and I think it’s fair to say that all the members of School Committee are committed to ensuring that the schools do the best they can this year with the resources that are available.
2. Class Sizes: The Franklin Public Schools began the 2008-09 academic year with an estimated 6,175 students, an increase of 101 students from the end of school in June and 136 more than were enrolled at the start of school in 2006. With 40 fewer teachers, there are fewer classes at all levels and too many of the classes that remain are far larger than they should be. We are already receiving reports of over-crowded classrooms at middle schools and the high school; in some cases, class sizes at Franklin High are at 40 students or more and there are not enough seats or textbooks for some students. Now that school has begun and new enrollments are being finalized, the Committee expects to receive up-to-date data on class sizes soon; I will pass it along when it becomes available.
3. Franklin High School: The reduction in instructional personnel will need to be reported to officials with the New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC), which looks closely at class size in making decisions about our accreditation status. It is possible that the increased class sizes, the need for facility improvements, and the need to invest in our science and technology offerings will result in the high school being put on probation by the end of the year. Moving as quickly as possible to address the issues at Franklin High must be a top priority for the School Committee and for the town as a whole this fall.
Facilities maintenance responsibilities for school buildings and grounds were transferred to the Town control this summer after an agreement was reached to ensure that school principals retain command and control over issues inside their buildings, which is a required provision under the state’s Education Reform law. Custodial staff did another fine job preparing the buildings for the first day of school last week.
Also, I know many of you have expressed concern about the fate of the late bus, which was one of the items at risk in the override voters faced this past June. With the override’s failure, the late bus was not included in the school budget for 2008-09. For a time earlier this summer, it appeared that strong demand for the pay-to-ride program would produce enough funds to continue the late bus, but now additional unexpected new costs have arisen elsewhere within the school district. At the Aug. 26 School Committee meeting, efforts to continue the late bus were again discussed and shelved.
The rollercoaster late bus debate is a symbol of the increasingly difficult choices we face as a district. When there was a threat the late bus would be eliminated, working families protested because the service allows them to work and their children to access important after-school programs. When there was a chance there might be funds to continue the late bus, some community leaders complained that the School Committee would lose credibility if we didn’t follow through on the promised consequences of the failed override. Still others argue that if we can somehow find $40,000, we should use the funds to try to re-hire a teacher or for some other important purpose, instead of using it to revive the late bus.
At a time of scarce financial resources and a variety of urgent, under-funded needs, you can expect more of these unattractive choices to dominate School Committee discussions and decisions.
These e-mails are provided as a constituent service. I hope to distribute at least one e-mail update each month during the school year, as issues warrant. As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions. If you are receiving duplicate e-mails or if you no longer wish to receive these updates, please let me know and I will remove you from the distribution list. If you know of someone you would like to add to the list, please send along their e-mail address.
Ed Cafasso, Member
Franklin School Committee
Note: The corrections noted by Ed in the opening here have been incorporated into the posting of Part 1.