School budget vote: Start time funding intact

School committee member Anna Clancy votes against amended budget

Posted 6/11/19

The Barrington School Committee voted 4-1 to approve an amended budget that includes funding for two-tier busing and the school start time changes. 

At a meeting on Thursday, June 6, members …

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School budget vote: Start time funding intact

School committee member Anna Clancy votes against amended budget

Posted

The Barrington School Committee voted 4-1 to approve an amended budget that includes funding for two-tier busing and the school start time changes. 

At a meeting on Thursday, June 6, members of the school committee listened to a handful of people ask questions and share concerns about the upcoming start time changes. Later on, committee members shared their own comments about the situation. 

Committee member Erika Sevetson said she was proud of how hard district administrators had worked to prepare for the upcoming start time changes. She also told Barrington teachers that their work is valued, adding that she was "saddened that this issue has been so divisive."

Ms. Sevetson later made the motion to approve the amended budget, which includes money for the shift to a two-tier busing system and a change in school schedules. More than 400 people had voted for a $246,000 cut to the school budget during the May 22 financial town meeting in Barrington; that dollar figure matched the amount of money needed to implement the two-tier busing and school start time changes.

Barrington School Committee Chairwoman Megan Douglas had said in a prior interview that she believed the vote at the financial town meeting was not a clear statement for or against anything in particular. 

"I don't take it as a referendum on anything," she said. "There are some thinking that the school start time change won't happen, and some who just don't want to see their taxes increase."

At Thursday night's school committee meeting, three Barrington teachers shared their concerns about the implementation of the start time changes.

Bill Barrass teaches at the high school and coaches three sports teams at the school. He said he has the sense that much of the new initiative has not been figured out yet. He also said many of his fellow teachers have questions about the upcoming changes. He asked if teachers will be able to work with students in the morning before the start of the school day; he asked if clubs and activities can meet prior to the start of school; he said teachers are uncertain about the timing of staff meetings once the district shifts start times. 

Will they be happening in the morning or will they be happening in the afternoon. "We haven't gotten answers about this," he said.

Mr. Barrass also questioned the impact the start time changes would have on certain sports, such as track and field.

He said the community needs a plan, but does not have one.

Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore said he could help answer a lot of the questions Mr. Barrass and others had. He also mentioned a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page on the district's website. 

Barrington High School teacher Patrick Scott also spoke to the school committee during Thursday night's meeting. Mr. Scott said there are a myriad of factors impacting students' health, and that the district could be doing other things to address the issue.

Mr. Scott said officials should consider limiting the number of Advanced Placement classes a student can take each year. He also said the district needs to take a much closer look at its policy concerning use of cell phones in school.

"It is a significant problem," he said. Mr. Scott also referenced the importance of parents setting bedtimes for their children and taking away cell phones and other electronic devices prior to bedtimes.

Mr. Scott said the committee's work on student health needs to be more comprehensive than just a shift in start times. 

Barrington resident Greg Beers asked Mr. Messore if administrators and the school committee had ever discussed the teachers union's opposition to the start time changes. Mr. Messore said there was some discussion about that issue during a recent executive session meeting. 

Mr. Beers asked if the teachers' opposition to the change has been included on the district's FAQ. Mr. Messore said it was not included because nothing formal had been sent to him from the teachers. 

Mr. Beers later asked how the district planned to properly implement start time changes without the support of local teachers. 

Mary Roberts, a local teacher and head of the teachers union, said the start time changes will drive a larger wedge between the teachers and the school committee. She then begged the school committee to reconsider implementing the changes.

School board comments

Following the public comment period, members of the school committee took a few moments to share their thoughts.

Patrick McCrann said it was important to remember that the committee had already made reductions to the budget and that some of the decisions officials made will impact future budgets. Mr. McCrann later said he received a lot of email about the start time changes and he wanted people to know that he heard peoples' comments. He also said there is a lot of work still to be done.

Ms. Sevetson said the last few weeks have been difficult ones, but she believes that everyone involved in the discussion wants what is best for local students. She said she was proud of how hard administrators have been working on this, and hopes to heal the divisions that have been created.

"I truly believe this is the right thing to do for our students," she said. 

Gina Bae thanked all those who have supported the upcoming school start time changes. She also said she hears everyone who has been involved with the issues, including those who oppose start time changes. Ms. Bae said she is committed to developing a plan to measure the effectiveness of the changes. She added that she believes start time changes are the best decision for the district. 

Ms. Clancy said she hoped that no matter the outcome of the budget vote, people would roll up their sleeves and work together.

Dr. Douglas said other districts have found a way to make start time changes work and referenced the Monomoy school district in Massachusetts. Dr. Douglas also she was proud of how much work the district had done on the issue and then said she was ready to call for a motion. 

Mr. McCrann, Ms. Sevetson, Dr. Douglas and Ms. Bae voted to approve the amended budget, while Ms. Clancy voted against the motion. 

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