Dear Editor and Tri-Town Community Members,
Over the past few months many comments, both positive and negative, have been made about the Old Rochester Regional District. Some of these comments, however, have been inaccurate. As a public, elected body, the ORR School Committee cannot publicly address these inaccurate statements until we have discussed them as a group in an open forum. On Monday, August 5, 2019, the ORR School Committee discussed some of these inaccurate comments and now would like to share the facts with the community.
First, ORR high school has plenty of desks and books. Principal Devoll has photographic evidence of extra desks and books at the school. Further, one of our members spoke with several teachers. The conclusion she reached is that, due to shifting schedules, a classroom may be short a desk or book during the first week of school, but that teachers are aware of the process to obtain additional ones. However, to try to eliminate any confusion in the future, the School Committee is asking Mr. Devoll to remind teachers at the beginning of each year how to obtain additional desks/books from storage, if needed.
Second, it was asserted that MCAS scores are falling at the high school. Data does not support this; rather the ORR high school MCAS scores continue to be impressive and consistently above state averages. Based on figures available to the public on the Massachusetts Division of Elementary & Secondary Education website, the number of Grade 10 students achieving the “Advanced” category from 2015-2018 has grown for both the English Language Arts and Mathematics sections, and represent the majority of the students taking the test. The Grade 10 Science section results have shown more variability, but have remained about the same from 2015-2018, with over 75% of students achieving “Advanced” or “Proficient.” Please note that each autumn the School Committee reviews MCAS scores at a public, properly posted meeting. We encourage anyone who is concerned about MCAS scores to please attend this informative meeting.
On another topic, a comment from a different committee’s meeting, as reported in The Wanderer on July 18, 2019, stated that “’most teachers’ at ORR have salaries close to $100,000 per year…” This information is not true. In fact, there are no teachers at ORR who have a salary of $100,000. There are 8 teachers, out of a total of 107 teachers, who earned between $90,000-$92,300 in 2018-2019, due to a combination of their advanced degrees and their tenure. These teachers represent about 7% of the faculty and the rest of the teachers earn significantly less.
It was further reported that one person asserted that “ORR teachers are ‘the highest paid in the state.’” In fact, according to MassLive.com, ORR ranked 74th in the state in terms of teacher salaries in the 2016-2017 school year. As a committee we regularly discuss teacher salaries, both their effect on the operating budget and their value in attracting the best possible educators to maintain the high standards we have for the school. We welcome all members of the community to join this conversation at our meetings.
Finally, it was reported that at this same committee’s meeting, that a staff member said that “the towns ‘never really have the chance to look at their (the ORR School District’s) (sic) overall expenses.’” This statement is misleading and untrue. First, Budget Subcommittee meetings are open to the public. Then, each March, there is a Special Public Hearing, properly posted and taped for public television, to present the ORR budget in depth. Further, once the School Committee passes the budget, it, along with supplemental documents, is immediately sent to all town administrators and town treasurers. How widely town administrators and treasurers choose to share it is beyond the control of school administration, but each town is duly informed throughout the process and has the opportunity to comment on and distribute information.
As the ORR School Committee, we feel it is important to correct the misleading and false information that has recently been circulated. Such inaccuracies can damage public opinion of our schools, which are some of the most impressive and inspiring institutions in the Tri-Town. We are deeply concerned that people felt the need to share information on social media or in other public forums without first attending a School Committee meeting or contacting a School Committee representative to tell us of their concerns. We are here to protect and improve one of the most important assets of a region dependent on residential property values – your public schools – but we need to work together to continue the success we have had so far.
The Old Rochester Regional School Committee
*Editor’s Note: This letter refers to comments and opinions expressed on social media pages unrelated to The Wanderer, as well as a letter to the editor written by Michael Vincent Amato featured in the May 23 edition of The Wanderer. It also references quotes featured within the Marion Finance Committee article titled “FinCom Criticizes ORR FY19 Deficit Report” and featured in the July 18 edition of The Wanderer. This coverage of the July 10 Marion Finance Committee contained quotes made by Marion Finance Committee member Karen Kevelson expressing her own opinions and views. Video footage of this meeting can be viewed by visiting www.orctv.org.