The town administrators of the three towns have asked the Old Rochester Regional School District to devise a prioritized 20-year capital plan, which led the Old Rochester Regional School Committee on December 6 to seek feedback from the budget subcommittee before moving forward with the seemingly daunting task.
Members of T.U.R.F. (Tri-Town Unified Recreational Facilities, Inc.), a committee dedicated to a complete overhaul of ORR athletics facilities, are hoping that facility upgrades will appear as a priority in that 20-year plan.
“They need it,” said ORR School Committee member Carey Humphrey on befall of T.U.R.F. “It needs attention and they have spent so much time in coming up with this plan with numbers, and it’s just a matter of, how can we make it happen?”
And the goal for an athletics facilities upgrade is to make as minimal an impact on the school budget as possible.
Humphrey said, during a recent meeting with Tri-Town administrators, that the towns’ passion for athletics upgrades “is very apparent.”
Hal Rood, member of T.U.R.F., said, “I was very encouraged that they see the need, they see the safety issues.” He continued, “They were very motivated to figure out, ‘OK, how can we finance this?’”
Superintendent Doug White said town officials are mainly looking for the school committee to get the conversation started on planning for large facility projects and to formulate a long-range plan. The important part of that plan, White said, would be figuring out priorities to a 20-year capital plan.
Business Administrator Patrick Spencer in cooperation with Director of Facilities Gene Jones drafted a proposal; however, it would be up to the School Committee to prioritize projects.
The towns also asked that the school district provide information on retirement debt.
School Committee Chairman Tina Rood said she had a chance to review the draft proposal the prior week, saying, “I’m looking at this as an investment over time.” She added that the list before them was a list of “needs, not wants.”
Although no in-depth discussion on specific projects listed on the proposal took place, while looking over the draft School Committee member Heather Burke commented, “Whoever put together this information did an incredible job and must have had a massive migraine.” She added that she wasn’t aware that a 20-year capital plan was a requirement “or an exercise of something we were looking at as a whole.
“But we need to look at it,” said Burke. “We can’t always be behind the eight ball.”
Would the school district be looking at a Proposition 2½ override? That remains uncertain.
“The only way you can get that is with selectmen approval,” said White, “but the town administrators thought that they weren’t even ready to have that conversation … until the School Committee could articulate what our plan is going forward.”
Burke felt that a 20-year plan would be difficult at best, since looking down the road, even just at fiscal year 2019, “You really can’t anticipate the costs…”
Spencer commented that the typical long-range capital plan goes as far as 10 years.
“The town administrators wanted a twenty-year plan, so we accommodated their request,” he said.
Rood thought it best to first look five years ahead, then start looking further.
“Two out of three towns have capital improvement committees,” Rood said, stating that she felt some pressure faced with a 20-year plan. “Because we do have to have something happen for our facilities. Something has to change here,” she added.
If nothing else, said White, “Hopefully it brings everybody together.”
The School Committee anticipates the budget subcommittee will be meeting shortly, and during the next School Committee meeting the matter will again be up for discussion.
“This is a great start,” said Rood.
In other matters, the committee praised the junior high and high school for their improved scores on the MCAs test.
Junior high school Principal Kevin Brogioli reported that in Grade 7 and 8 science, students scored an average of 12% higher than the state average in the proficient and exceeding expectations category, with 49 out of 89 Grade 8 students scoring just five raw score points below proficiency.
“And it’s our job to push them over that bar for the next exam” Brogioli said.
Grades 7 and 8 students scored especially high in questions pertaining to technology and engineering questions – either at or above state average – and performed particularly well in the areas of communication, manufacturing, and transportation technologies.
In English Language Arts, Grade 7 did particularly well this year, Brogioli said, with Grade 7 scoring 24% higher than the state average for meeting or exceeding expectations.
“That was the highest in any disciplinary we had, or any grade level we had,” Brogioli said. “They really did a nice job.”
The Grade 7 student growth percentile was 47% and Grade 8 was 58%.
However, the school needs to increase its emphasis on writing, Brogioli stated, specifically with “synthesizing writing.”
Fifty percent of ELA students in the partially meeting expectations category were within five raw score points of success, Brogioli added.
In math, 11% scored proficient with 8% scoring advanced. Fifty percent met proficiency, versus the state average of 40%.
“I know we should be better than the state,” said Brogioli.”We are, but we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
Grade 7 scored 18% higher than state average in meeting or exceeding the standards, and Grade 8 scored 9% higher than the state, with only three Grade 7 students not meeting expectations – 1% compared with the state’s average of 11%.
Grade 8 scored 24% higher than the state average of meeting or exceeding expectations.
“I think it’s great that we consistently score above the state averages,” said Burke, “but as you referenced, that’s exactly what I would expect.”
At the high school, Principal Michael Devoll reported that ORR has returned to a Level 1 school status.
“A year ago I sat here and predicted the return to Level 1 status, and we have returned…” said Devoll. “For us, the fifty-eighth percentile is the highest we’ve ever been in the state ratings. We have met and surpassed our targets for all students.”
Devoll continued, “While I predicted this, I was very, very surprised and excited and pleased to see how well we did.”
In Grade 9 biology, Devoll said students scoring in the advanced category “skyrocketed,” improving by 10%, and increasing from 78% of advanced students to 88% – 14% higher than the state average.
In ELA, Devoll said, “We continue to perform at a very higher rate.”
Students increased from 98% proficient/advanced to 99%, with an increase on advanced scores from 55% to 64%.
“To be up to sixty-four percent of our kids at advanced levels is very impressive,” Devoll said. “Lots to be proud of.”
In Math, the school went from 88% proficient/advanced to 95%, which is 12% higher than the state average.
The next meeting of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for January 17 at 6:30 pm at the ORR Junior High School media room.
Old Rochester Regional School Committee
By Jean Perry