In June of 2009, the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) presented its final report to a Joint Board of Selectman meeting.  That report found that the Hamilton Wenham Regional School district had above average cost compared to the cohort districts in the study.  The BRC found those above average cost were due to:

  • A higher number of teachers and aides, resulting in a lower student/teacher ratio – and not the costs of administration, teacher benefits, facilities operation, maintenance or materials.”  
  • The district’s spending on special education, as a percentage of total spending, is at the top of the peer group for the school year analyzed (2007).

Further evaluation of the numbers by a post BRC group and the DESE found similar results.  These results were to be expected given that the community has valued lower class sizes for many years and the school district placed a priority in maintaining lower class sizes. There are also a number of other factors contributing to the situation.

Given their findings the BRC recommend that the two towns and the school district should agree upon and proceed with an RFP for a detailed 3rd Party Review of Instructional Operations at HWRSD to clarify gaps between the district and cohorts. 

On March 8, 2010 a citizens’ petition was filed asking for an amendment to the HWRSD Regional Agreement to require an operational audit of the HWRSD.  We are aware that counsel for the HWRSD School Committee has advised that an audit can not be mandated through the Regional Agreement since the school committee holds the authority to determine spending and it cannot be required to pay for or implement any recommendations of the audit. 

We would urge the Hamilton Board of Selectman to work with the Wenham Board of Selectman, the Regional School Committee, the citizens’ petition supporters, and others supporting an audit to move forward on a third party audit of the district without seeking an amendment to the Regional Agreement.

SOS supports an audit of instructional services as recommended by the BRC in June 2009.   If there are other areas which can cost-effectively be included in the audit, and which are reasonable targets for evaluation, SOS will support an expanded scope.

The audit should be funded by the towns of Hamilton and Wenham and be under the direction of a joint committee of representatives of both towns and the Regional School Committee.  Once this audit is complete, it should be presented to the School Committee for consideration of whether any recommended changes can and should be implemented and whether any additional audits or studies should be undertaken.  The results of the audit should be made publicly available, so voters have an opportunity to understand the results and recommendations of the auditing firm and can seek to influence the School Committee’s decision-making.

With the planned departure of the HWRSD Superintendent at the end of this school year, now is an optimal time to identify areas of change that can benefit the budget and quality of education provided in our schools.

March 30, 2010
Jack Wilhelm, Chairman
Susan Mehlin
Brett McKechnie
Roger Kuebel
Wenham Finance and Advisory Committee

Dear Committee Members: 
As you are likely already aware, the Hamilton Finance and Advisory Committee voted Monday to recommend a total increase to the FY11 net school budget appropriation of up to 2.5%, contingent upon the School Committee’s vote of the final budget tonight, March 31.

SOS supports the Hamilton committee’s decision and urges your committee to likewise support 2.5%.

We have championed the concept of Fair Share as a logical, repeatable process by which the two towns can reach agreement on appropriate funding of the regional district. The 2.5% supported by Hamilton fincom is not Fair Share, and indeed, the $90,335 delta between 2.5% and Fair Share will directly impact the quality of our children’s school services next year.

However, in the spirit of compromise during a particularly difficult financial year for both towns, SOS views 2.5% as a workable solution that all parties can reasonably agree upon. We ask you in that same spirit of cooperation to adopt this figure in the FY11 budget for the Town of Wenham. 

As always, thank you for your hard work in these challenging times.

Support Our Schools

The stakes are high. Come represent your kids.

After weeks of intense negotiation on many fronts, the school district is ready to present its 2011 budget. This budget incorporates some new, bold thinking from the School Committee.

Come this Thursday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the Buker Multipurpose Room to learn what these changes will mean for your children. Programs, services and teachers’ jobs are on the line.

All the important decision makers in our towns will be there. Can you make it too? Come make sure school and town officials know how you’d like them to use your tax dollars.

Thursday, March 18, 2010
6:30 p.m.
Buker Multipurpose Room

See you then!

Teachers and services hang in the balance

This week, the finance and advisory committees of Hamilton and Wenham will meet jointly to discuss school funding for next year. The fincoms have not heard much from parents yet this year, and they are facing tough decisions.

Can you send an email to the fincoms today and urge them to recommend a Fair Share appropriation for the school district? Email the Hamilton finance committee at [email protected] and Wenham finance director Sarah Johnson at [email protected].

Here’s what you need to know:

SOS is promoting a "Fair Share" appropriation to the schools for fiscal year 2011 (see details here). The Fair Share is not an override or a debt exclusion, and it does not require a special election. It is the school district’s Fair Share of the money the towns legally have available to them under Proposition 2½ for appropriation at Town Meeting.

Right now, the School Committee’s preliminary budget shows 25 full-time equivalent teaching positions must be cut. A Fair Share appropriation can save 4 or even 5 of those positions.

Even with the Fair Share appropriation, we are facing the prospect of a school system with a "devalued diploma" – the school district’s own term for what will happen at the High School next year. This is bad for our property values and bad for our students, whether they’re at the High School or just starting Kindergarten.

Let the towns know that you want a Fair Share of your tax dollars to go towards minimizing the damage to your children’s school services.

Email Hamilton fincom at [email protected] and Wenham finance director Sarah Johnson at [email protected] and urge them to recommend a Fair Share appropriation for the school district.

Thank you for taking this critical first step in minimizing damage to our towns’ greatest asset – our school system.

Here is detail on Support Our Schools’ “fair share” position on the appropriations of Hamilton and Wenham to the FY 2010 budget for the Hamilton Wenham Regional School District. The calculation below is based on principles explained in the Notes, which follow.

Support Our Schools "Fair Share" Position

Fair Share FY 2011 School Budget Calculation
FY 2010 Net School Budget $22,583,695 This is the net school budget for FY 2010. The net school budget equals the total school budget less non-town revenue sources, including Chapter 70, state aid for transportation, school choice, etc.
2.5% Increase $564,592   This proposed increase reflects the power of voters at Town Meeting to increase the levy limit by 2.5%
New Growth $112,918   Town Meeting voters also hold the power to increase the levy limit by the amount of new growth during the prior fiscal year.  We understand that the new growth during FY 2010 has been approximately 0.5% in both towns
Proposed FY 2011 Net School Budget $23,261,206  


  1. Because we are using the FY 2010 net school budget as a starting point, the calculation is performed without respect to Chapter 70 or any other non-town funding source. So, if those amounts decrease, the school budget must absorb those decreases. This means that, even with a fair share appropriation, the actual FY 2011 school budget will likely increase by less than 3% since the increase in the appropriations from the towns will be offset by decreases in other revenue sources. For example, in FY 2010, the actual school budget increased by 1.5% from FY 2009 although the town appropriations increased by 2%.
  2. The proposed FY 2011 net school budget would be allocated between Hamilton and Wenham in accordance with the percentages calculated under the Regional Agreement.  We understand that there has been a further shift of enrollment to Wenham which, under the regional agreement, will increase Wenham’s share by approximately 0.5%.  We understand that for FY 2011, Wenham’s share will be 32.68% up from 32.15% in FY 2010. We intend to explain to voters how the share shift will increase Wenham’s appropriation to above a 3% increase, but how that is necessary to maintain a total town appropriation increase of 3%. Wenham has long been aware of the coming enrollment increase, which reflects past real estate development that increased the Wenham tax base. Also, for every dollar less that Wenham appropriates, Hamilton’s appropriation will decrease by $2, so it is not appropriate to allow the share shift to force down the appropriation to the schools in both towns, as occurred in FY 2010. Wenham needs to finance the share shift through cash reserves if the levy limit increase is not sufficient to fully fund Wenham’s fair share in FY 2011.
  3. Revenue decreases or increases expected to be experienced by the towns in FY 2011 should not be considered in calculating the overall net school budget increase. These revenues include Cherry Sheet funding from the state and local receipts. As with the Chapter 70 funding (see Note 1), these amounts should be excluded from the calculation of a fair share apportionment to the schools.


Tonight, we as a community will get a first look at what cuts our school system is expected to absorb during this very difficult budget year.

Please join us at 7 p.m. in the Buker Multipurpose Room, where the Superintendent will present the school budget to all the important decision makers in our towns: the Hamilton and Wenham Boards of Selectmen, the Finance and Advisory Committees, and the School Committee.

As parents and as taxpayers, we need these officials to understand how much we value our school system.

Come and let them know how you’d like them to best use your tax dollars.

Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010
7 p.m.
Buker Multipurpose Room

The 2011 school budget is being built now and will be decided upon in the next several weeks. The numbers are looking alarming.

This Thursday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Buker Multipurpose Room, the Superintendent will present the school budget to all the important decision makers in our towns: the Hamilton and Wenham Boards of Selectmen, the Finance and Advisory Committees, and the School Committee.

We need to make sure parents have a seat at the table, this year more than ever. Other citizens are expected to be out in full force.

Come and let officials know what programs and services you value and how you’d like them to best use your tax dollars.

Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010
7 p.m.
Buker Multipurpose Room

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »