Sunday, December 20, 2009

FM #52 - Week ending 12/20/09

This is #52 in the series of podcasts for Franklin Matters. Take about 10 minutes to keep up with what happened this week in Franklin, MA.

Time: 9 minutes, 35 seconds

MP3 File

Session notes:

This internet radio show or podcast is number 52 in the series for Franklin Matters.

Take about ten minutes to keep current with what matters in Franklin, MA as the week ends December 20, 2009.
FM #52

In this session I’ll cover the
  • School Committee
  • Town Council
  • Outreach events for both groups took part in
  • And then close with some reflections on what I think we can take away from these events 
The School Committee meeting this past Tuesday was their annual self assessment session. On non-election years, this would work well as the full SC would have been together for the whole year. In this election year, two of the members were new and therefore disadvantaged in commenting on what the SC did during the year. Now, they could provide a view from the outside (and to their credit they did). I also took time to speak up on several points to provide my 2 cents as an observer and reporter of the School Committee.

The School Committee does produce several good information streams; the school department website, the School Committee website and separate blog, the Superintendents page, and each school has their own page. The various websites have been disconnected from the Town for over a year now. There were plans to do an upgrade but the issues around content management and then problems with the proposed vendor (which went out of business as I recall) have halted that work. They are now back to square one to start over and find web site technology that can enable regular and timely updates for all those within the district; Teachers, administration and School Committee.

There is plenty of information available. I don’t think that is a problem. How easily it is found is one problem. I would posit that the second problem is that there is not a clearly defined feedback loop enabled. The Superintendent gets phone calls and the individual members of the School Committee get emails and phone calls. However, the correspondence acknowledged as part of each SC agenda only covers printed items that come through regular mail.

Now as voters, you and I get a chance to provide feedback every two years. In this most recent election, there were seven candidates for seven positions. I believe the voters gave their feedback by (1) voting in the two newcomers with more votes than any of the incumbents (2) by not casting ballots for more than 3-4 individual candidates. This voting pattern said that voters were not pleased with the existing committee.

And then the School Committee holds their self assessment in a room where it is not broadcast to the community via cable or internet as their other meetings are. It is still an open meeting, Ashley Studley (Milford Daily News reporter) and I participated and were the only non-school district personnel to do so.

Now don’t construe what I say as negative about the School Committee. The School Committee is a fine set of engaged and competent people very much interested in doing what is right to provide the very best education for all of Franklin’s youth. For all that they do well; I believe that there is room for improvement.

More on what they do well was highlighted in a couple of other activities this week.

First: Jeff Nutting and at least three members of the Town Council (Scott Mason, Judy Pfeffer and Tina Powderly) held an open information session at the Senior Center on Tuesday morning. The event was well received, good discussions were conducted. The Town Council will return in February to do a similar session.

Second: Five of the seven members of the School Committee joined with six of the nine Town Council to visit the State House as a guest of Rep Jim Vallee. During the time there, they obtained insights into the operation of the state government as well as information on the current issues and future budget for the Commonwealth. In particular, how the budget could affect local aid for Franklin.

Third: The School Committee and Superintendent coordinated a tour of the ten schools in the district for any one of the School Committee, Town Council and Finance Committee who chose to participate. While targeted for the new folks on both boards, it was a well attended event. They made visited all the schools including a stop for lunch at the High School Cafeteria. The feedback from folks who participated included comments like “amazing” “eye-opening”. This kind of outreach is important. The folks who will be shortly determining budget priorities were able to see the schools, administration, teachers, support staff, and students in action.

The Town Council meeting on Wednesday evening was a short but important one to close out the calendar year. The TC took action to approve the Financial Guidelines that have been developed by the Town and accepted by prior TC’s. The TC also approved the meeting schedule for 2010. The important item was approval for the Housing Trust to proceed with creating affordable housing by using $400,000 from the Housing Trust Fund. Potential home owners could qualify for up to $80,000 to be used at their closing to purchase a home in Franklin. The amount would not be paid back. In return, there would be a rider attached to the deed to keep the house in an affordable state for the years to come. This helps the Town create affordable housing from existing properties (hence avoiding new housing).

While the School Committee struggles with the feedback loop as I discussed earlier, their activities working with the Town Council, Finance Committee, and Town Administration is all good. To the Town Council’s credit they have started their outreach with the Senior center session, I look forward to seeing more of this.

I am comfortable with how the groups have started doing business since the election. The budget year ahead of us will be a challenge. I am glad that these groups have started as they have, there is hope that we will get through the budget with improvement in the flow of information and substantial respectful discussions.

There are no more Town Council or School Committee meetings this year. I can take a break. You’ll probably appreciate the break as well. I have reported on a total of 65 meetings this year, all but one of them live and in real time. I hope that the information shared has been helpful for you to keep abreast of what is happening in Franklin.

As we close this year 2009, let me wish you all a joyful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or what ever holiday you choose to celebrate at this time of year.


If you like what I am doing, please tell your neighbors

If you don’t like something, please tell me

Thank you for listening

For additional information, please visit

If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana" c. Michael Clark & Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission

I hope you enjoy!

Note: email subscribers will need to click through to the website to listen to the audio version.

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