All posts by Steve

What will happen if we start to renovate Carr and Angier without asking for a debt exclusion?

Let’s pick some numbers: Suppose that a substantial Angier renovation and addition costs $25 million, somewhat less than a new building that could run to $35 million by 2013. Suppose that Carr can be renovated into swing space for $7 million, or a million less than the “wish list” renovation currently being proposed. This brings us to $32 million in funding need. Continue reading What will happen if we start to renovate Carr and Angier without asking for a debt exclusion?

CIP Spending – The Right and Wrong Targets

Most of the funding for Newton’s school building maintenance comes from a fund called the CIP. CIP money, traditionally $1.75 million annually, is borrowed by the City via the sale of municipal bonds and is turned over to the Newton Public Schools to spend at their discretion. Each year Mike Cronin, NPS’s head of facilities, prepares a list of possible projects for review and approval by the School Committee. These projects typically include boiler replacements, door and window replacements, roof repairs, new elevators, new auditorium seating, etc. Continue reading CIP Spending – The Right and Wrong Targets

Virtual Learning in Newton

My nephew (college sophomore) and niece (high school senior) live in Merritt Island, FL, and they have taken about 1/3 of their coursework online via the Florida Virtual High School (FVHS). This high school program is fully accredited and their local school gives 100% credit towards graduation. The program gives them access to coursework not available locally, and gives them great scheduling flexibility. Newton residents can access these FVHS courses for $400 per semester. Continue reading Virtual Learning in Newton

State Officials Back Newton STEM Effort

NewtonSTEM (science, technology, engineering and math), a new organization created by Newton parents to promote interest and opportunities around STEM careers for Newton students, held a kickoff event at the Newton Senior Center on March 7th. State Representative Ruth Balser introduced STEM advocate Lt. Governor Tim Murray, who spoke on the state government’s growing emphasis on STEM promotion. This effort is about helping our kids since 21st century jobs will be increasingly STEM-related, and it’s about helping our economy and our global competitiveness too. Continue reading State Officials Back Newton STEM Effort

Co-Taught Classrooms Pilot

I was fascinated by the presentation given at the February 14th School Committee meeting on co-taught classrooms for students with special needs who previously received one-on-one aides. An alternative being piloted at Countryside and Mason-Rice involves structuring a classroom with two full-time teachers each trained in elementary education and special education. These teachers lead blended classes with up to 1/3 special need and 2/3 mainstream students. Continue reading Co-Taught Classrooms Pilot

Trees in the Contract Negotiation Forest

Former Newton mayoral candidate Tom Sheff, commenting on contract negotiations with our teacher union recently stated: “… It’s possible to give a 1-2% payraise if the city gets back in return a 75-25% split on healthcare. It all depends upon the party’s priorities.”

Yet those details are the trees. The forest is the question “What can Newton both justify and afford to pay our teaching professionals?” Continue reading Trees in the Contract Negotiation Forest

Creative Proposals to Improve Deliberation Quality

I would love to see a blog on the Newton Public Schools site where School Committee members could explore issues with each other at anytime without having to wait for the formal bi-monthly meeting. The blog would be viewable by anyone with an internet connection but nobody other than a SC member would have posting privileges. This would allow for group exchanges on topics that deserve more airtime and deliberation than is available at the regularly scheduled bi-monthly meetings, while keeping discussion in the public view. Continue reading Creative Proposals to Improve Deliberation Quality

Planning for School Infrastructure

One comment made at the recent Board of Aldermen presentation on school space needs by an astute alderman (with apologies, the identity of the speaker escapes me!) is the need to work the intersection between short and long term planning.

The acquisition of Aquinas serves as a perfect example. COO Bob Rooney spoke on this and noted that there is no swing space need this coming year, and it is hard to justify acquiring Aquinas and then leaving it vacant for a year or two while developing a use plan.

But consider that 2 years ago the “bubble” was only 5 years wide; now it is 10 years wide and it sensibly should be considered as permanent growth. If Aquinas is a legitimate infrastructure piece of a permanent growth scenario, we must look seriously at it now while it is still available. Continue reading Planning for School Infrastructure