Vote Yes!Dear Friend & Neighbor, We read with concern the recent information published in a local newspaper regarding the override to fund the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District (HWRSD). This letter is an attempt to provide complete and factual information.

Per Pupil Spending

  • Per pupil comparisons are complicated due to the huge impact of special education expenses.
  • HWRSD’s per pupil spending, excluding Special Education (SpEd), is $9,075.
  • Our district’s SpEd expenses are higher than some surrounding towns. In order to meet some of our student’s needs, we have a higher than average number of students in out of district placements. Legally, we must pay for these tuitions and transportation.
  • The HWRSD continues to work to bring out-placed SpEd students back to our district at a lower cost. Supporting this year’s school budget will result in a future reduction of costs with new in-house SpEd programs.

Teacher Raises

  • Half of the HWRSD’s teachers received only the 2.5% cost of living increase.
  • The remaining teachers received contracted increases based on education level or length of service.
  • The HWRSD teacher contract is structured similarly to other district’s contracts negotiations and mirror how contracts are negotiated nationwide; this limits our district’s ability to bargain outside of this structure.
  • Finally, the HWRSD contracts are structured much like other unionized departments in our towns.

District Spending

  • The district faces the same increases in fixed cost like insurance, utilities, pensions and taxes that we all face.
  • Additionally, public education and our district are legally obligated to meet state and federal mandates, many of which are unfunded.
  • Since 2001, HWRSD’s state funding has declined so that now we are required to pay 85% of our costs. If the Commonwealth continued to fund our district at the level it did in 2001 we would have had no overrides.

What’s been cut?

  • Teachers have been cut every year for the past 5 years. More than 75 staff positions have been cut, including administrators, secretaries, teachers, nurses, and custodians.
  • HWRSD has cut all funding of athletics, clubs and activities and instituted 100% user fees (football, for example, costs $1,318). Imagine the fees paid by a student who plays multiple sports or participates in clubs.
  • Our foreign language program has been dismantled and ongoing instruction is provided only in one language.
  • Inadequate curriculum and a “lack of reliable funding source” are the major reasons our High School was placed on warning status by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC).

What’s at stake if the override does not pass?

  • 47 academic sections at the high school – meaning reduced core courses and electives. Our high school students will spend more time in study halls and those study halls will significantly larger.
  • We’ll lose 27.7 full time positions throughout the district, most of them teachers. (38 teachers would be affected.) These cuts would bring the number of positions lost since 2002 to 102.
  • Class size will increase dramatically at every level, with some high school classes projected to exceed 40 students.
  • We’ll eliminate the team structure at the middle school, deeply affecting these students at a vulnerable age.
  • 45 elementary school students will be redistricted.
  • Elementary school language support program for regular education students will be lost, putting more students at risk for needing specialized services.

Ongoing Efforts

Many groups in town are engaged in measured and informed dialogue to develop new sources of revenue to solve our school funding problem. These efforts include: lobbying for greater state aid, changing the way SpEd is funded, seeking greater transportation reimbursement, and increasing local revenue through cost savings and non-residential tax sources. These efforts will continue long past the budget season until all options have been exhausted.

We hope all voters will make an informed decision on the school budget override, a decision based on facts that tell the full story about our school district. Please help to stop the decline of our schools and towns by voting yes for the override on Thursday, May 15th. The polls are open from 7AM to 8PM at Buker and Winthrop schools. Thank you.

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