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Thompson School Closure Proposal Meeting Summary And Discussion

I attended the Thompson School meeting on Wednesday evening and will be reporting on the full content in this posting. There we're over 75 people in attendance, including Thompson parents and guardians, teachers from the school, members of the School Committee and of course, Sheri Donovan, principal of the Thompson School and Kathleen Bodie, the Superintendent of Schools.

If you attended the meeting, I invite you to leave your comments and impressions. It will take some time for me to get mine into the posting as I have copious notes to transcribe. I will offer up some initial thoughts, though, for those that weren't present. I saw evidence of a very passionate community at the Thompson and one that would like to support the decisions made by the Superintendent and School Committee. Many issues we're raised and answered sufficiently. But there we're a number of questions for which there we're not satisfying answers at the meeting. In some cases, those answers cannot be known at this point. In other cases, the answers we're greeted with skepticism. For example, we cannot know if the town will approve the funding for the project during the May 9th special Town Meeting. We cannot know if the town will be able to sell the surplus properties at the old Crosby and Parmenter Schools. It was clear that town officials believe both of those things will happen, but there could always be unforeseen issues.

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On the other hand, the explanations for why the plan to close the Thompson School early (June of 2011) is being proposed now did not seem to resonate with some of the audience. Furthermore, some factual data, including a detailed budget proposal, caused additional consternation as it appears that the Thompson School has been targeted for more cuts that other schools. Bodie denies this is the case, saying this is a budget proposal and the details still remain to be worked out, but that answer did not satisfy those in the audience who we're asking questions along those lines.

After a lengthy description of the rebuild process, Kathleen Bodie took questions. The meeting lasted approximately two hours and could have gone longer. Sheri Donovan ended it and although there we're still a few questions outstanding, it was probably the right decision.

One of the major points that Kathleen Bodie made is that the decision to move ahead with closing the Thompson School is tied to the funding of the rebuild. There are several warrants that will be voted on during a special Town Meeting on May 9th. Included in those are the warrants that commit the town to pay for the Thompson School rebuild. Without those warrants, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is unlikely to approve moving ahead with the project. As a result, if the funding is not approved by the town, Bodie will not close the Thompson School early. If the funding is approved, Bodie is clearly intent on closing the school at the end of the school year. It remains to be seen what kind of leverage the community has to inform or alter that decision. Reaction to the plan in the audience was mixed and opponents we're generally more vocal than proponents. However, in both camps, there we're many tactical questions about what would happen to the students, the classroom sizes and whether or not the financial arguments made sense.

I'll have more detail when I get through my notes this is a quick recap for those who we're not able to attend.

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Posted in Law Post Date 01/09/2015


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