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ORRHS Musical Ushers in Spring
By Jo Caynon
Come usher in the springtime by going out to see the Old Rochester Regional High School Drama Club's musical production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!
Beginning March 30, come see the age-old biblical tale brought to life with a bit of colorful flair by the talented high school cast and crew.
Directed by Paul Sardinha, the musical tells the story of Joseph (played by junior John Roussell) as he is betrayed by his eleven brothers who are jealous of his multicolored coat that symbolizes he is the favorite son of their father. Follow Joseph throughout his journey through Egypt as he is faced with many trials aimed to defeat him. The musical also stars junior Elle Gendreau, senior Sara Achorn, freshman Ryu Huynh, senior Jonathan Kvilhaug, junior Christopher Savino, and senior Sienna Wurl.
"People should go see it because it is so much fun and it is guaranteed to make you smile," said Savino, who plays Potiphar, an Egyptian millionaire.
"It's a musical that is only singing with the exception of two lines," said senior and crewmember Alexandra Nicolosi. "Even though it's a Bible story, it's really interesting for everyone."
Senior Nicole Ochoa, another crewmember, agreed. "I think it's really funny, and the music is super catchy, too."
"It's a very colorful musical," freshman Liam Hartley added, who plays Joseph's eldest brother Reuben. "We just finished painting the stage [to add to the effect]."
The multi-colored theme of the musical is also reflected on the production's official title design and the ORRHS poster, illustrated by juniors Lindsey Merolla and Elise Parker.
"I didn't draw inspiration from the cast so much as the original play itself," Merolla said. "It's so colorful, and I wanted to integrate the elements from the play, such as Joseph's various dreams. I sketched a few ideas at first and everything just fell into place after that."
None of this would be possible, though, without the strong bonds that those in the drama club form throughout their weeks of rehearsal.
"It's a nice group of friends," Ochoa said. "All the friends I make [in drama] I am very close with."
"Being at the school [for rehearsals] for such long intervals with all the other drama members really makes you feel like a family," Merolla added.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be presented at the ORRHS auditorium from Thursday, March 30 through Saturday, April 1 at 7:30 pm, and on Sunday, April 2 at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $12 for students and seniors and can be purchased at The Pen & Pendulum in Mattapoisett, The Marion General Store in Marion, and Plumb Corner Market in Rochester.
Bonding Over Bobbins
This Mattapoisett Life
By Marilou Newell
The room was filled with anticipation as Bobbie Gaspar and Mary Chaplain introduced a group of 11 ladies and one younger lady to the joys of operating a sewing machine.
On March 18, the Mattapoisett Public Library sponsored a program on how to operate a sewing machine. Participants would learn the basics while making a covered pillow to take home. According to library staff member Robbin Smith, the program proved so popular that a second session is planned for May, although that one is also full to capacity. And while the goal of the two-hour program isn't to impart mastery level skills, these ladies were looking forward to taking home a neatly covered pillow, one they had crafted themselves.
Being in the library always makes me feel like I need to do some research, so I did. Looking back at the history of the sewing machine, one finds a patchwork quilt (pun intended) of early efforts dating as far back as the mid-1700s. None of the earliest machines ever proved practical. A century later, with many failed efforts, the sewing machine had still proven to be an interesting concept only.
By 1840, Elias Howe had patented his version of a sewing machine. So had Isaac Singer. Subsequently, there was a long drawn-out legal battle between the two. Although these gentlemen never fully brought their own machines to mass production, by selling their patents to others, they lived out their remaining days as very wealthy men. The rest is history, as they say.
What all these men did do, however, was to appreciate the importance of finding a way to mechanize sewing in all its forms, from commercial to domestic. The impact on what was and still is primarily women's work was profound.
Furthermore, the sewing machine was recognized during the industrial revolution as a critical invention.
Fast-forward a few centuries to 1969. I was enrolled in home economics classes at Wareham High School. Female students on one hand were being told "you've come a long way baby..." and on the other hand the importance of running a home with efficiency and grace. We girls who were deep in the throes of revolting against anything and everything that intimated "little woman" suffered through 'home ec.' Now I wish I had paid more attention.
As it turns out, home economics originated in the late 1800s as a science. The Huffington Post ran an article by Brie Dyas titled "Who Killed Home Ec? The Real Story Behind Its Demise," on September 29, 2014.
In her article Dyas writes, "The creation of home ec is often attributed to Ellen Swallow Richards, a chemist and instructor at MIT, who paved the way for MIT's Women's Laboratory, which existed from 1876 to 1883 with a goal of advancing the scientific education of women at the Institution.
At the Women's Laboratory, Richards turned her scientific attention to the study of how to make home life more efficient...Richards was very concerned to apply scientific principles to domestic topics - good nutrition, pure foods, proper clothing, physical fitness, sanitation, and efficient practices that would allow women more time for pursuits other than cooking and cleaning."
While I thought home ec classes were 'dumb,' I did want to make that A-line skirt Miss Jackson was valiantly trying to teach us how to put together using a sewing machine.
As I recall, two things stand out the most from that experience: 1) bobbins are living demons whose ways of becoming tangled are too numerous to calculate, and 2) making a waistband for an A-line skirt truly is a science.
Suffice it to say, I somehow managed to create the skirt and even wore it a few times before I was informed how misshapen it was. Kids can be so cruel sometimes. But that exposure to the mysteries of operating a sewing machine left a gap in my fabric-crafting soul.
Deep in the recesses of the library, the ladies chatted quietly over the sewing machines lined up along the walls of the meeting room. They encouraged one another as Gaspar and Chaplain showed them how to thread a bobbin, my nemesis. These ladies were happily bonding over bobbins.
The instructors described various parts of the machine such as the pressure foot, throat plate, and feed dog. Then it was time to begin sewing the straight seams that would form the covers for their pillows.
Ann Marie Ridings, Mattapoisett, had received her first sewing machine many years ago from her father and through the years had acquired others that she used for quilting projects. And while a seasoned veteran of sewing machine operation, complete with puncture wounds, she shared, "I wanted to learn how to make a pillow."
Patricia McPartland, Mattapoisett, said, "My mother could make clothing but I never learned." On this day, seated beside the youngest lady in the group, she was taking the first steps towards learning how to use a sewing machine.
And what about that youngest participant?
Well, it turns out that she was one of the most experienced seamstresses in the room. "I've made clothes for my dolls, and I've made pillows," said Brenna Carrier, 12 years old. She deftly produced a very straight seam indeed.
My take-aways are these: my desire to operate a sewing machine has been satisfied through vicarious participation and that operating one is both an art and a science. But moreover, the importance of passing on knowledge in the world that still needs home economics classes can't be overstated. We should be putting down the iPhones and revving-up the sewing machines.
Yee-haw for the Rochester Country Fair!
By Jean Perry
The Rochester Country Fair grounds may still be blanketed by melting snow, but underneath it all is a team firmly rooted in tradition, a neighborly network tightly-knit into the fabric of Rochester.
Even months before the always-anticipated event, the Rochester Country Fair Board of Directors and committee members are hard at work raising funds and planning the events that make the country fair the special event it always has been.
This past Saturday night was the annual country fair dinner dance at the Redman Hall in Wareham. Much like the country fair itself, the night was filled with music and the sounds of familiar folks having fun. Although the RCF folks are always planning and hosting fundraisers, this particular night is traditionally one of just getting together in the spirit of the country fair and having fun amidst a year of planning and organizing.
"It was probably a bit smaller this year than we're used to," said committee co-chair Julie Koczera, citing weather and scheduling conflicts of the usual partygoers, "but everyone who did go had a great time." The dinner dance is meant to be a kick-off event, said Koczera, so folks can hear about the progress of the country fair planning process so far.
There are some changes to the country fair this year, with the biggest being the restructuring of four days down to three. Instead of starting on Thursday, the fair will begin on Friday, resulting in a more jam-packed line-up of activities throughout the days and nights instead of the occasional lull in between events.
"That way," said Koczera, "we consolidate some of the events and that way we're filling in the gaps more efficiently and for less money. We think we have a great plan, and we're excited about the woodsman show that's going to take place on Friday night this year."
The woodsman show, one of the main events, used to take place in the evening rather than during the hot day, so this is a favorable move to both sides, said Koczera.
"We'll have a jam-packed Sunday this year," said Koczera. "Military trucks will pull as well, and we haven't had that before so were excited about that."
There will also be a new "man versus food" hotdog eating challenge for those who dare...
Also new this year is the first annual Lego Building Contest, celebrating the American farmer. Contestants can submit one creation built on imagination to the Rochester Country Fair photo booth on Friday, August 18, the first day of the fair. The three categories for prizes are: best farm display, best farm implement/vehicle, and best farm animal.
(Also, expect a few guest appearances, like Old Colony Superintendent Aaron Polansky who will be a guest wrestler!)
The committee still needs volunteers for some small projects around the fairgrounds, including creating a volleyball court.
The Rochester Country Fair is Friday, August 18 through Sunday, August 20. For more information, visit the website at www.rochesterma.com/index.html, or email the staff at Rochestercountryfair@comcast.net.
See you at the country fair!
Five to Run for Selectman in Marion
By Jean Perry
The deadline for submitting nomination papers in Marion for the annual town election passed on Monday, March 20, with five candidates vying for the one open seat on the Board of Selectmen.
Norm Hills, former Planning Board member and current Conservation Commission member, ran last year against Steve Gonsalves, and has turned in his papers again this year to fill the seat of retiring selectman Stephen Cushing.
William "Dale" Jones will also be back on the ballot this year. Jones has run a number of times without success, and last year withdrew from the election and threw his support behind Gonsalves.
Matthew Vander Pol, whose election signs started popping up around Marion over a week ago, will appear on the ballot, along with Christine Winters, a current Marion School Committee member whose term expires this year, as well as Marion School Committee and Marion Zoning Board of Appeals member Michelle Ouellette Smith.
The race for Planning Board is a four-way one, with the four candidates vying for three seats on the board. Hills has thrown his hat into the Planning Board ring as well, and incumbents Eileen Marum and Michael Popitz are running for re-election. Edwin "Ted" North, who lost his seat on the board a few years ago, has run again since then but without success.
The only other contested race is for town clerk between incumbent Ray Pickles and Frank Ryder III.
Board of Selectmen member and Planning Board member Steve Gonsalves is also running for tree warden uncontested.
The remaining uncontested races are as follows:
For assessor, Patricia DeCosta; town moderator, Brad Gordon; Board of Health, Elizabeth Dunn; Marion School Committee (two seats), Ronald Gerhart and incumbent Kate Houdelette; Old Rochester Regional School Committee, incumbent Paul Goulet, Jr.; Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission (two seats), Amanda Chase and incumbent Jeffrey Oakes.
There will be a Candidates' Night at the Marion Music Hall at 7:00 pm on May 4, hosted by the League of Women Voters.
The Annual Town Election is May 12. The polling station is the old VFW building at 465 Mill Road. Polls are open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Almost a Drive-Through Meeting
Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals
By Marilou Newell
With only one hearing on the agenda and no resistance to the special permit application, the Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on March 16 was a short and sweet process, much like a drive-through window.
But make no mistake about it, when it comes to handling the business of reviewing applications, the ZBA readily peppers applicants with questions as they did on this night.
Coming before the board members was Rick Charon of Charon & Associates, representing Todd Henshaw of 9 Chesapeake Run.
Henshaw's 28,000 square-foot parcel at 41 Prospect Street abuts his Chesapeake Run location and has an existing home built in 1890.
The long, derelict structure would be razed, Charon explained, and a new single-family home with a four-bay detached garage would cover 19 percent of the lot.
Zoning board Chairman Susan Akin and member Mary Anne Brogan asked why Henshaw needed such a large garage, while board member Norman Lyonnais asked if plumbing was planned for the structure.
Charon said that Henshaw planned the oversized garage to accommodate his boat, a vintage farm tractor, and other personal vehicles. He assured the board members that living spaces and bathroom facilities would not be included.
The board also questioned the height of the two buildings. Both, Charon calculated, would be no more than 27 feet high.
Colby Rottler, an associate member of the board and abutter to the applicant, spoke as a private citizen saying, "The building has been an eye sore ... this project makes sense."
In just over 12 minutes, the board unanimously approved the special permit.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals will be April 20 at 6:00 pm in the town hall conference room if there are hearings scheduled.
Questions Raised Over Paving
Mattapoisett Planning Board
By Marilou Newell
The Mattapoisett Planning Board met on March 20 with an agenda absent any public hearings or discussions. But that didn't mean business wasn't conducted. Indeed, it gave the board members plenty of time to hear from Barry Denham as he updated them on the paving of Appaloosa Way, a short private roadway off River Road.
Denham said paving had taken place sometime ago and without the developer contacting him beforehand. He said the paving was dubious due to the cold weather and subsurface viability.
"I didn't have a clue they were going to pave it ... on the day it was done, I went there about two o'clock it was down," Denham stated. He continued, "I have no idea what temperature it was, but it was below freezing overnight and cold that afternoon."
Denham explained that asphalt temperature was critical to the proper compaction of the material. He said that paving requires 2.5 inches of base and 1.5 inches of top, but that he had no idea of the thickness actually applied to the road base. "I have nothing to report on means and methods," he told the board members.
Denham said he had contacted the developer's engineer, Brian Grady of G.A.F. Engineering, but that Grady didn't know anything about the roadway paving either.
Denham also pointed out that the interfacing between River Road and Appaloosa Way was not properly executed.
Board member Nathan Ketchell suggested that the only way to ensure the roadway had been properly paved was to provide test data from borings.
Chairman Tom Tucker instructed Planning Board Administrator Mary Crain to contact Grady and invite him to meet with the board for the purpose of certifying that the work was completed to specifications.
Regarding Brandt Point Village, another sub-division the board has struggled with for years, Planning Board member Gail Carlson brought up Board of Health certifications on the private septic system. Carlson lives in the development. That opened the door for Denham to say that a long list of to-dos remained undone, according to Ken Motta of Field Engineering, the town's consultant for the sub-division.
Tucker asked Crain to follow up and report back on the list that had specific completion dates attached to various pending items, such as guardrails and a mail kiosk.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for April 3 at 7:00 pm in the town hall meeting room.
Climate Resiliency Dominates Master Plan Discussion
Marion Planning Board
By Sarah French Storer
The conversation during the Marion Planning Board meeting on March 20 centered on two elements of the draft Master Plan, facilitated by Ken Buckland, the former town planner and consultant for the town.
Whether the board was discussing climate resiliency or open space - the two Master Plan elements under review that evening - the central theme was the same: Marion is a low-lying coastal community and would be well served to keep in mind extreme weather events when contemplating future infrastructure modifications and open space planning.
Planning Board member Stephen Kokkins underscored the need within the plan to consider the time horizon when discussing sea level change. Kokkins questioned the emphasis placed on sea level changes and the ranking system outlined by the plan.
Board member Jennifer Francis said, "[The plan] is underwhelming about coastal resiliency and severe storms. The threat is going to be here in the same timeframe that we are going to be able to do something about it."
The Master Plan considers a ten-year time horizon, and the board acknowledged a disagreement among its members as to the rate of climate change and its affect on Marion and the coastal communities in that time, but agreed that climate change is contributing to severe weather and increased sea level.
Board member Michael Popitz remarked that the town, in its planning for infrastructure, should "keep in mind the ideas discussed in this and other sections, ideas such as flooding in the Gateway area of Marion - investments in areas of sea level rise should keep that in mind as part of the planning. Be forward thinking, have a vision of the future."
Popitz suggested that the town should consider future sea level rise so that adjustments are made now to prevent the need for revising the projects in the future. Francis agreed and felt this idea should be added as its own paragraph to emphasize its importance.
"Whenever we spend money in town on infrastructure," Francis said, "we should remember that it should be designed with extreme storms in mind, maybe even more than sea level rise, right now."
Kokkins added, "We should make sure Marion is working in concert with other towns in the region, including on large infrastructure projects."
Francis highlighted the Town Resilience Committee contemplated by the Master Plan and suggested that its main focus be on town infrastructure and town properties. She suggested it could also be a resource for private property owners and for other towns.
Board member Will Saltonstall asked if the town had a Hazard Mitigation Plan, to which Francis replied that there was an application in for it, under the purview of the town administrator and Board of Selectmen.
The town is not eligible for FEMA disaster relief funds until the plan is completed.
The discussion moved to Open Space and Recreation, the second element of the Master Plan to be reviewed that evening.
Efforts are underway to set up an advisory group to include the Community Preservation Committee, the Sippican Lands Trust, Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission, Marion Tree and Parks Committee, the Marion Marine Resources Commission, Marion Recreation Department, Planning Board, and the Washburn Trust to coordinate efforts to protect and manage open space in town.
The group, called Stewards of Community Open Space (SOCOS), still in the beginning stages of formation and waiting for selectmen review, believes it has an important function in town and can effectively influence policy changes.
The group would like formal recognition by the town before the Master Plan is completed. In response to whether the individual land protection organizations within the group could all be under one umbrella, Buckland replied that this should be taken one step at a time, but, he added, "If the iron is hot, it's time to brand the cattle!"
The board acknowledged that the protection of open space within the town has broad implications with regard to other elements in the Master Plan. Board member Eileen Marum suggested that open space be considered during the planning of housing developments.
"Open space can help with temperature control, reduce impervious surface percentages, provides more value versus man-made structures for water treatment facilities," said Marum.
Chairman Robert Lane noted that cluster housing developments, which would have the same housing density as allowed under current zoning but would allow houses to be clustered to maximize contiguous open space, would require a zoning bylaw change.
Francis suggested that people in Marion feel that there is enough protected open space in town. "A lot of people may feel we have enough open space - forty-nine percent of the town - and maybe we should consider changing the wording from expanding open space to maintaining open space."
Saltonstall noted in the discussion of harbor resources that the plan should "emphasize public access to the waterfront and preserving or enhancing that use." Francis added that the plan should "explicitly remind people we are also talking about the harbor environment."
In closing the discussion, Buckland reminded the board of the last two elements of the plan to be reviewed: Natural and Cultural Resources and Implementation.
In other business, the board voted unanimously to approve an ANR plan presented by Rich Charon on behalf of Nadler and Malone located at 81 and 91 Allens Point Road. The plan described a legal non-conforming lot, which the board approved with the note that the parcel was approved only for conveyance purposes and was not a buildable lot.
The board also briefly touched on the creation of the Transportation and Circulation Task Force. Francis will be contacting potential Task Force members and will report back to the board.
The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for April 3 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.
School Choice Attacked to Save ORR Music, Tech Programs
Old Rochester Regional School Committee
By Jean Perry
After an over three-hour-long meeting with almost 200 parents, students, and educators (past and present) in attendance, the Old Rochester Regional School Committee voted to accept the less preferable fiscal year 2018 school budget - the one town administrators and officials forced upon the school district, saying the towns could not afford any more.
With only a $320,000 increase offered by the three towns collectively, the $18,093,215 school budget placed the junior high music program, as well as technology and technology upgrades at the high school, on the chopping block, drawing out in droves the students, parents, and teachers who opposed the budgetary measures.
ORR School Committee Chairman Tina Rood said the committee's preferred FY18 budget called for an $834,000 increase in the budget to allow for an additional guidance counselor, psychologist, and art teacher, among other things.
"So you can imagine our dismay when we saw that number ($320,000) and realized how that was going to impact our school," Rood said. This prompted the thought, she said, "This cannot happen. This devastates our school in a way that we're not coming back from for a long time."
Rood recalled the recent budget meeting with the three towns two weeks ago when that $320,000 became a FY18 reality.
"They were very angry that our school needed this type of increase," said Rood. In her opinion, she said, the budget the committee put forward was about supporting staff and improving the school. The towns' anger was irrelevant. "As a school committee member, I'm OK with that."
According to Rood, as it stands, the three towns spend below the state average for a regionalized school district, with a negative 2 reduction in spending over the last three years while the state average has been a six percent increase in spending.
"I am not going to apologize to our towns," said Rood. "The townspeople have always supported our school budget."
Superintendent Doug White led a slide presentation introducing the proposed budget, and it was not long before the hands went up and people started asking questions.
Increasing School Choice was the option chosen to make up the shortfall between what the district needed for a level-service budget and what the towns were willing to contribute. The committee during its last meeting voted to cap School Choice at 125, after a steady attempt over the last few years to curtail any increase in School Choice slots.
"As we pull those students in ... those dollars are going to be used to bring those positions (music, technology, and social science) back so we don't lose them and we will be able to keep everything that we have and move forward with a level-service budget," White said.
Of the 125 available slots, 90 have already been filled. "And we still have time going forward before we close those out," said White.
One person asked why the music and technology departments were chosen for cuts. White said it was mainly due to resignations or retirements in those areas, which would make it easier to simply not fill. Also, there would be no unemployment costs that go along with them.
"And none of these decisions is one that the school committee supports," Rood said. "We wanted to show the towns the kind of impact it would have on our schools."
With the threat of cutting out the music program from the junior high, including band, seemingly solved through School Choice that brings in an additional $5,000 per School Choice student, people present still expressed outrage and opposition to the measure, taking turns reading pages of handwritten letters and submitting petitions - one with 200 student signatures, and one with 322 parent/resident signatures.
Over the course of the evening, school committee members defended their contract negotiations with teachers and administration - the reason, according to the towns, for the school district's dire financial situation.
"We spend a lot of time in negotiating our contracts," said committee member Jim Muse. "These people are treated fairly ... and we do it because we want the best people to dedicate their time and be here ... and we want them to want to come here and we want them to stay."
Students stood, expressing outrage, as did parents. Some parents offered veiled warnings to the selectmen of the three towns, especially those up for re-election.
"This is our opportunity to show our elected officials that they can be ousted," said one man in a sea of faces.
Mattapoisett Selectman Tyler Macallister stood and faced the music. He defended the towns' position on the budget.
"We are only allowed to assess 2.5 percent annually," he said, referring to Mattapoisett's new revenue of $565,000 "of which we have to finance everything in town."
With its own infrastructure, its own contracts, Macallister said, "It was very concerning when [the Town] put together budgets and issued forecasts for 2016 [to the school district] that there was negotiations going on that weren't considering those budgets." He continued, "I would like everyone here who is very concerned about budgets and funding ... to come into meetings and understand how we (selectmen) have to make decisions every day. We can't spend more than we get. So we try to do contracts that make sense and we can afford."
"Before you go blaming the Board of Selectmen and the town administrators and the finance committees, I really think you need to take a look at how these numbers were derived, because I don't want my daughter not to have band and you're all looking at me ... and I am up for reelection and I am jeopardizing that.... It's a very difficult job. It's a problem. We can work the problem; we don't need to post blame."
Some weren't buying that argument, though.
"We are three wealthy communities," said one woman. "It makes no sense that we're here. This is crazy that we're in this position ... we're here and this is our will and we want these programs to continue and to grow and were not going back in time.... The contract was in the best interest of our students because when you are supporting our schools, and you are supporting our teachers, you are supporting our students."
One after the next, parents and teachers voiced the importance of music in academics, as well as in social-emotional development.
Technology was also supported by a number of residents, as well as high school Principal Mike Devoll.
"I think I speak for everybody when I say nobody wants to cut any of our positions," said Devoll. "I don't want to run my school without a technology department. If that goes away, I don't want to work at that school." Devoll encouraged all to continue to come back to future meetings. "Because it does not look better in the years to come.... There are a lot of other opportunities that I don't want to see go by the wayside ... and we're going to need you moving forward beyond tonight. It's gonna have to be a long-term sustaining effort."
Committee member Heather Burke said she did not believe that area selectmen want to see ORR become a mediocre school. "But they need to know that it's OK with the townspeople to pay a little bit more, because when it's spread across all the townspeople, it's only going to be a little bit more."
Music teacher Hannah Moore begged the people who still remained after three hours, "Please everyone, stay involved. Stay passionate, engaged, never ever lose your diligence. Keep talking about it.... We have a very blessed community here and we need to work very hard to do what we can to keep that going." She continued, "There's a lot of unknowns and hang in there."
The committee voted to accept the budget, but Rood voted to reject the budget as proposed. "I have to protest," she said.
"We need to become an activist board moving forward," said Burke. "It is swallowing some bad tasting medicine to do this, but I think it's because this group has worked so well to find a way to meet the needs of the students. It's a tough pill to swallow, but if it gets you what we need."
The committee expects further discussion on the annual town meeting floor in May, and hopes for another good turnout of supporters on May 8.
The next meeting of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for May 10 at 6:30 pm in the junior high media room.
FY18 Sippican Budget Up a Mere 0.6 Percent
Marion School Committee
By Jean Perry
The FY 2018 school budget of $5,896,051 approved by the Marion School Committee on March 15 reflected only a $35,395 (or 0.6%) increase from last year, but committee members lamented that it did not include the part-time physical education teacher eliminated from the FY17 budget, and it also excludes the district's request to add a part-time health teacher.
"This is perhaps the most disappointing piece of this particular budget," said Assistant Superintendent Elise Frangos. "I know that next year I will be coming back to request this again."
Frangos said Rochester managed to add a health teacher to its budget this year, and Mattapoisett has enjoyed the benefits of having a health teacher for one year now.
"The health teacher position not only augments the science and technology curriculum," said Frangos, but it also fosters healthy decisions around friendships, substance abuse, nutrition, and exercise. "Sadly, as our children from Marion move forward to the junior high, they will not have that foundation knowledge as our sister community schools will." Frangos continued, "Data points directly to the students needing this important knowledge."
The Town of Marion has been under a financial constraint this year, and the Finance Committee only agreed to support the modest $35,000 increase.
"We had to absorb all of the other increases," said School Committee Chairman Christine Marcolini. "We weren't able to bring [the health and the .5 physical education position] without sacrificing something else from the strong program that we currently have."
Marcolini continued, "This is something that the school committee, both of these pieces, feel very strongly that Sippican needs ... but it just wasn't possible without cutting something else."
The goal, she said, was to preserve the current level of staff at the school and the services students currently receive.
Frangos pointed to some cuts in spending for supplies for social science and science and technology classes. "...Supplies to really do the kinds of things we would like to for STEM," said Frangos. "It's very, very challenging when you see some of those cuts."
One item included in this budget that is new to the school this year is the addition of a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA), which Sippican School Principal Lyn Rivet referred to as critical at this point with the changing dynamics and student population at the school.
"Students are coming with greater needs.... We as a staff need a different skill set in order for ourselves to know how to approach these children," Rivet said. The BCBA would assist with supporting students as well as staff and offer strategies both within the school and at home for children with higher social-emotional needs. "At this point, this is a critical position to our building," said Rivet.
A part-time psychologist position of .4 was added to the budget this year as well.
Some major areas of the budget that helped account for the under 1 percent overall increase were a $21,000 reduction in Bristol Aggie tuition, a realignment of kindergarten staff accounting for a $27,000 decrease, and a circuit breaker offset of $54,000.
Contractual obligations rose by $103,731, while special education costs went down by $15,000 and the supplies line item was decreased by $83,000.
What we have here, said Marcolini, is "the best case scenario with the hand we've been dealt."
"It's not perfect, but I think we can live with this budget," Marcolini said, adding that the budget is the most stressful aspect of being on the school committee. "And I feel good about the experience the kids are going to have walking into our school on a day-to-day basis."
The next meeting of the Marion School Committee is scheduled for May 3 at 6:30 pm at the Marion Town House.
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