Selectman seats up for grabs in both towns

Wenham votes at Town Hall
Hamilton votes at Winthrop Elementary School
Polls in both towns open until 8 p.m. tonight

Our schools run best and reach their highest potential when they’re supported by effective, intelligent governance in both towns.

Please take a moment to click through to the candidates’ websites, and then cast your vote.

Hamilton

Shawn Farrell

Jeff Hubbard

Wenham

Catherine Harrison

Patrick Wilson

There are also four candidates running for four open seats on the school committee — three are incumbents, with newcomer Stacey Metternick throwing her hat into the ring.

Polls in both towns are open until 8 p.m. tonight. Please vote, and bring a spouse, neighbor or friend with you.

Town Meetings are schedule for both communities tomorrow, Saturday, April 5. Please make every effort to attend and make sure school families are represented.

Specifically, please vote to support the FY 2015 HWRSD budget, which includes all-day kindergarten and a 1:1 technology initiative for incoming high school freshmen.

In Hamilton, this budget is expected to be challenged at the last minute from the town meeting floor. Please vote no on any amendments and yes to support the original budget as presented by superintendent Mike Harvey. This is the budget that has already received unanimous approval from both Town Boards of Selectmen.

Hamilton voters will also be asked to vote on a development plan for the Patton property that could result in funding for much-needed turf fields for our athletic teams.

In Wenham, voters will have a chance to repeal the so-called “coasting” bylaw, which currently prohibits skateboarding and manual scooters on town sidewalks and streets.

Voters in both towns will also be asked whether they want to reduce the size of the school committee from 9 members to 7, which does not have unanimous support among the selectboards.

Unfortunately, there is no absentee voting for Town Meeting. You have to be there in person for your views to count. Please come tomorrow and vote on these family-centric issues. See you there!

Hamilton Annual Town Meeting
Saturday, April 5, 2014
9 a.m.
Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School Auditorium

Wenham Annual Town Meeting
Saturday, April 5, 2014
1 p.m.
Bessie Buker Elementary School Auditorium

Candidate’s night: Wednesday, April 2, 7 p.m.

Buker Elementary School Auditorium

Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Hamilton Wenham

This year there are four people running for four open seats on the school committee — three are incumbents, with newcomer Stacey Metternick throwing her hat into the ring.

But the races for selectman are contested in both towns, and they matter. Our schools run best and reach their highest potential when they’re supported by effective, intelligent governance in both towns.

Please take a moment to click through to the candidates’ websites, and attend the event tomorrow night to hear their answers to questions submitted by voters like you.

Hamilton:

Shawn Farrell – www.shawnfarrellforselectman.com

Jeff Hubbard – www.jeffhubbard.org

Wenham:

Catherine Harrison – www.HarrisonForWenhamSelectman.com

Patrick Wilson – www.wilsonforwenham.com

Then plan to cast your ballots Thursday, April 10, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Wenham votes at Town Hall

Hamilton votes at Winthrop Elementary School

Absentee ballots are available now at your town hall. Details here on how to vote by mail or vote ahead of time from the clerk’s office: http://hamilton-wenham.patch.com/groups/harrison-for-selectman/p/absentee-ballots-now-available-for-town-election

Reminder: Annual Town Meetings this Saturday, April 5

Hamilton: 9 a.m. High School auditorium

Wenham: 1 p.m. Buker Elementary auditorium

Make our voices heard!

Pool vote is tabled, but other family-centric issues remain

Hamilton Annual Town Meeting
Saturday, April 5, 2014
9 a.m. Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School Auditorium

Wenham Annual Town Meeting
Saturday, April 5, 2014
1 p.m. Bessie Buker Elementary School Auditorium

Hamilton Town Meeting plans to take “no action” on the Patton Park pool, and Wenham is expected to follow suit, pending a revised plan. But other business is still on the docket that needs input from school-aged and young families.

Specifically, at both meetings Superintendent Mike Harvey will present the FY2015 HWRSD budget, which includes full-day kindergarten and a 1:1 technology initiative for freshmen. This budget has received unanimous approval from both Town Boards of Selectmen.

Please send at least one voting member of your household to support Dr. Harvey and the budget that the school committee and town boards have spent much time crafting.

Voters in both towns will also be asked whether they want to reduce the size of the school committee from 9 members to 7, which does not have unanimous support among the selectboards.

Wenham voters will also be asked whether to repeal the so-called “coasting” bylaw, which currently prohibits skateboarding and manual scooters on town sidewalks and streets.

The only way to make sure families are included in the decision-making process for our towns is to make sure at least one voter from each household attends Town Meeting.

Thanks for being that person. See you there!

Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014

Buker Elementary School Multipurpose Room
6:30 p.m. School choice presentation
7:00 p.m. Regular School Committee meeting, including 2014-2015 priorities & budget

On Thursday night the Hamilton Wenham School Committee seeks input on two important topics, among others:

  • Whether to alter the “School Choice” program, by which we accept students from other districts into our high school, and
  • Which of three tiers of proposed educational programs (see list below) to include in next year’s preliminary budget.

Both topics could have long-lasting impacts on our school district. Please try to send at least one member of your household to weigh in on these important decisions.

The School Choice report, which was designed to be a starting point for a conversation about the future of the program is available at: www.hwschools.net/uploaded/District/Documents_PDF’s/District_Reports/CHOICE_11-4-2013_mmh_(Use_This)_(2).pdf. Members of the school committee have respectfully asked that citizens wishing to comment on the topic read the report beforehand.

The proposed 2014-2015 regional school district budget is available at:

www.hwschools.net/uploaded/District/Documents_PDF’s/District_Reports/FY15_SC_Tentative_Budget_Book_1.10.14.pdf

As part of the budgeting process, the superintendent, working with school leaders and teachers, has developed a list of educational priorities, divided roughly into three tiers of importance.

The school committee and administration need to know which of these are most important to school families. Please attend the meeting on Thursday night to let your wishes be known. You may also email committee members to share your thoughts: www.hwschools.net/page.cfm?p=1653

Tier 1

1-to-1 electronic devices at the High School

Full-day Kindergarten

Technology upgrades/replacements at all schools

Additional foreign language through Middlebury on-line learning program

Maintenance projects at all schools

Tier 2

Elementary Curriculum Coordinator for Math and for English/Language Arts

High School furniture replacements

Additional staff at the High School — Technology Integration Specialist

Middle School Team Leaders

Student Information programs

Tier 3

Central Office Staff

Phone system replacement for Winthrop and Cutler

User fee reduction

External surveillance camera

Others not yet ranked

Team Teaching Model at Middle School

Revise 6-12 Curriculum model

Develop shared HR model with towns of Hamilton and Wenham

Maintenance and Facilities staffing

See you Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014
Buker Elementary School Multipurpose Room
6:30 p.m. School choice presentation
7:00 p.m. Regular School Committee meeting, including 2014-2015 priorities & budget

One of the stated goals in Support Our Schools’ mission statement is to encourage cost-saving initiatives while maintaining a high standard of educational excellence in our schools.
In the past few years, one half of that equation — educational excellence — has taken a back seat to the other concern — cost savings — particularly in public and political discussions during budget season.

Support Our Schools would like to right that balance by urging the community to “Remember the Quality” — both as we begin deliberations on the FY2013 budget, and in going forward with long-term planning.

At a recent SOS meeting, discussion came back time and again to topics concerning quality and leadership.  The list below reflects our shared concerns and priorities.

Curriculum:

Curriculum at All Levels

  1. Members are concerned about the strength of our STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programming, from kindergarten through 12th grade.
  2. Members are concerned that we are not adequately meeting the needs of students interested in drafting, mechanical design, and other “hands-on” disciplines, particularly at the middle and high schools.
  3. We wonder if we are adequately meeting the needs of gifted/accelerated students, particularly at the elementary and middle school levels,
  4. Members would like to see the adoption of a 21st century skills curriculum (collaboration, learning by design, critical thinking), particularly in the middle and elementary schools.
  5. Members question whether it’s acceptable that the district offers only one foreign language.
  6. We are concerned that the HWRSD offerings in the visual arts and graphic design are insufficient to nurture students talented in these areas.

Curriculum at the High School Level

  1. We are concerned that our graduated students have, in recent years, expressed the view that our science programs, particularly laboratory sciences, have not provided sufficient support for a strong start in college in the STEM disciplines.
  2. We are concerned that HWRHS does not offer a comparable range of electives as other schools of our size, makeup and achievement.  We are concerned that we do not offer an adequate number of AP opportunities, especially to juniors.

Curriculum at the Middle School Level

  1. Members support a return to academic teaching teams to the middle school
  2. Members support the restoration of a mechanical/engineering/building/shop type class to the 8th grade curriculum.

Curriculum at the Elementary School Level

  1. We are concerned about the lack of Language Arts writing curriculum in the elementary schools.
  2. Members are concerned that class sizes in the elementary school may be up against or exceeding district recommendations
  3. We are concerned that students in the same grade across elementary schools are not receiving a comparable educational experience.
  4. Members would like to understand the status of the math curriculum in the elementary schools and the benefits achieved by standardizing the curriculum in the past few years.

Delivery of Educational Services

  1. Members would like to hear from the current administration – interim superintendent, assistant superintendent of learning and student services director — a shared educational vision for our district.  This vision should be articulated to teachers, students and staff, and any gaps in resources and authority needed to ensure that vision is executed should be identified and addressed.
  2. We would like to understand whether department heads can ensure their teachers are functioning as a cohesive educational team with shared visions, goals and expectations from 6-12, and whether heads are encouraging and enabling opportunities for cross-departmental learning.
  3. We would like to understand whether Wednesday planning time for teachers and staff is being used as effectively as possible.
  4. We would like to understand whether HWRSD does an adequate job of identifying and supporting excellent teachers and effectively sharing their talents with their peers.
  5. We would like to understand whether expectations of teacher excellence are effectively communicated throughout the organization, and whether there is an adequate process in place for ongoing evaluation of tenured teachers.

Technology:

  1. We would like to understand whether our district-wide technology infrastructure is adequate to meet the needs of the administration, students, teachers and parents.
  2. We would like to understand whether technological expectations are effectively communicated to teachers.
  3. We would like to understand whether teachers who are in need of instruction and support around new technologies are offered adequate opportunities to improve their skills.
  4. With the rollout of Edline to the middle and high schools, we would like to understand what the next steps in our district technology plan are.

Organizational structure/operations:

  1. We would like to understand whether the current organizational structure – with a superintendent focused on business/finance and responsibility for curriculum placed elsewhere – is working for our district currently and whether this structure is the best way going forward to meet the educational expectations of the community.
  2. We would like to understand the articulated requirements for our vacant high school and middle school principal positions, and a timetable for filling these positions.
  3. We would like to understand whether there are plans to address our current structure of 100% user fees for sports, arts and educational extracurriculars.

Hamilton Wenham was ranked number #9 in Boston Magazine’s September 2011 issue’s list of best public schools in the region. The ranking reflects a variety of criteria, including graduation rate, sports teams, pre-K programs, AP classes and MCAS and SAT performance scores. HWRSD was rated number #12 in the 2010 ranking. Per pupil spending in HW is below average of both the top 10 and top 24 districts (we used the top 24, rather than the top 25 in order to exclude the 25th ranked district, Cambridge Rindge and Latin, which has a unusually high spending level). As in 2010, it is clear that HWRSD is spending at a level that, while slightly above the average of all districts in the state, is less than many other high performing districts.

Comparing HWRSD to Boston Magazine Top Districts

Click image to enlarge

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