They did come. By ones and twos, a total of seven. A mother with her children in Franklin schools who also works as a teacher. A father with children in the school whose wife is a teacher. She was at the boys baseball game, so he came. Two more mothers, coordinators for one of the school PCC organizations. Another mother with two little ones just getting into the school system, curious to understand what their future in the schools might be like. Another mother (also a teacher) brought her son who will be a senior at Franklin High in September (yes, he did want to come along).
Curious, they came to see what the discussion would be like.
Curious, they came to talk about Franklin.
Bill stopped reading when I arrived. The conversation circle we started then expanded with each new arrival. Greetings, small talk (how many kids in school, what school, how did you hear about this, etc.) developed a rhythm, a gentle conversation on a summer evening on the Common.
Were the problems of Franklin solved?
No. There are no easy solutions.
Was it beneficial to talk?
Yes, it was good. There are folks concerned about what is happening. There are folks willing to step up and find out what's going on.
How would I summarize the conversation?
- Many folks recognize that education is important. Class size increases are not good. People may be surprised when they see the number of kids in their child's room.
- The teachers are not happy with how Mr Roy (Jeff Roy, School Committee Chair) has portrayed the FEA (teacher's union) in the newspaper. If this is his attempt at winning the power struggle, from the teachers perspective, he is hurting Franklin more than he thinks he is winning.
- The change to the six period schedule at the high school has been both good and bad. Good in that the schedule itself works. Bad in that the schedule change has reduced the variety of electives. Bad in that along with other teacher staffing changes, some forced by the budget cuts, some with individual teacher decisions (i.e. retirements), some programs have seen a great deal of change. The example cited was five language teachers in three years. Other students had benefited from the same teacher for the four years in that language.
- The high school student asked how do students get involved? What are the channels available? All are available. Come to the meetings, view via the web broadcast. If they want School Committee people to meet with them that can be scheduled.
- The conversation started too late to get the information out for this years override. People were asking what's happening, what's coming and when it all came out, it was too much, too late.
- Some folks believe Franklin schools have always been good. They don't realize that in the 70's the school system was not well respected.
- Some parents may be choosing to send their kids to Xaverian and other private high schools. It may be good that they can afford to do so but their students still end up at Westfield or Framingham. The belief amongst some parents is that the preparation at Franklin High is really better than that which could be obtained elsewhere. So while they can afford to pay for a private high school what are they really buying? What are they saving?
- The concern is that while the students education has been preparing them for the evolving world at the high school today, will the preparation of the students in the lower grades now be sufficient to help them be ready for high school when they go there? Bill shared that in his work with college deans, they have expressed that their concern is many students coming to college are not prepared for it. In that case, the parents end up paying for the remedial study for the students. So what have the parents really saved?
- What will the high school be like when today's elementary and middle school students get there? What will class sizes be like then? What programs will be available then? Will it be renovated?
- Would there be two overrides next year? Technically, there could be one override for the operational budget in May/June 2011. There could also be a debt override for the high school renovation later in 2011 (Nov/Dec), if the current state planning schedule holds.
- How do we get the information out? Reach out to the pre-school mothers. Reach out to all the youth sports groups. Continue the forums, the PCC meetings, the standard notifications. We need to find out how to reach the folks to help them realize that it matters to them. To their home values, to their children's future.
Did I miss something? Maybe, I am not perfect.
I think I got the gist of the conversation. Bill does plan to do this again. His August's schedule is already hectic so maybe in September.
My thanks to Bill for taking the time to have this conversation.
Many thanks to those folks who came and hopefully had their curiosity satisfied.
Stay tuned into what is happening in Franklin. You can subscribe to what is published here via email. One email each day will arrive in your inbox after 9:00 AM with what has been published since 9:00 AM the day before.
You can get a weekly summary via email by subscribing to Franklin Matters Weekly. It will contain a review of the prior week's events and provide an outlook on the coming week. It is meant to be read (or listened to) in about ten minutes. If there is something that you need to get more information on, there are links to provide the additional details. I have not updated it during the summer. So little is happening (and my own travels have taken me away from Franklin). August is already here, September is just around the corner.
For those on Facebook, you can "like" the "I believe Franklin matters" page. Key bits of information from Franklin Matters get posted there.
Note: Bill Glynn is a first term member of the Franklin School Committee.