Barrington parents bitter over school board’s inaction
A light rain started to fall on the small group of people who had gathered outside the Barrington School Committee room late Thursday night, June 6, but the precipitation did little to dampen the heated discussion.
The moms and dads had just sat through three hours of frustrating conversation.
They had entered the school committee meeting hopeful that school officials would have found the money necessary to pay for full-day kindergarten this fall within the existing budget; their options were running low after residents at the financial town meeting in late May voted down an amendment to add $633,000 to ensure the program was implemented this fall.
But despite numerous attempts on Thursday night to convince school officials of the need for full-day K in the fall, the best the moms and dads could do was urge the board to “explore” the option of launching the program in January.
“They had their minds made up,” said one dad, as he descended the stairs outside the school committee meeting room. “They were never going to add it.”
Other parents nodded in agreement.
Some questioned the school committee’s priorities, asking how the group could afford a contract that gave out $240,000 in one-time stipends to teachers for a shift in health care coverage (as well as other benefits deemed generous), but could not find the money for full-day kindergarten.
Others pointed to the local teachers’ union as part of the problem. They said the teachers did a fine job in Barrington but their level of compensation — many teachers in town earn more than $80,000 a year, and approximately 87 percent of the school budget covers salaries and benefits for teachers — does not leave enough money for much else in the district.
One resident, Prashanth Galisukumar, had challenged the school officials time and again during the meeting, telling them that as the district’s “board of directors” they were failing their “stakeholders” by not finding the 1 percent of the budget needed to afford full-day K.
Later outside the meeting, Mr. Galisukumar said he was frustrated by the officials’ lack of response. He said he kept waiting for one of the committee members to offer some type of positive response to the line of questions, but that never happened.
Eventually, some of the moms and dads mentioned the next election cycle, posing that their best bet at ensuring full-day kindergarten is to find school committee candidates who will support their ideals.