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Parent: Plan Doesn't Make Town Better

A Winchester parent says while the committees surrounding the redistricting plan want to make the town better, the proposed plan doesn't achieve this goal.

I live in Spruce-Lincoln community. Both of my kids are in though only my younger one will be forced to transfer to , according to the RAC plan.

I read RAC's report and do not think this proposed report will achieve the goals that they set up.

First of all, the goal of redistricting, according to RAC, is to establish close to similar size of schools for kids of different schools. There is no valid model to project student size in the schools for the future. Moving/renting/relocating due to economic and house market reasons makes the mode within a confidence level impossible. Even for the whole school, different grades will possibly to have different number of kids. To achieve an average class size or teacher-student ratio can not be solved by this redistricting plan.

Secondly, the concept of community for family is "school community", far more than "neighborhood community". Our kids spend a quality 8 hours every day at school; they are with their friends at school. For example, my 4th grade son has a kindergartener as his "buddy". My 1st grade son has a 3rd grader as his "buddy", both of them are not on our street. Imagine one young kids move to a class to 20, knowing nobody in his new class, knowing maybe at most 27 kids in the whole school assuming there is no one who will move out of our neighborhood in the next year, which itself is hard to predict, too.

Last but not the least, the members of RAC and the school commitee are overlapped. The plan proposed on May 22 will not be voted on by a complete independent committee. I am wondering: how many members in RAC or the school committee live in our neighbourhood? How many of them have actually investigated the real walking distance from our homes to our current school and the difference to Lynch. I am also wondering how many of them have a successful experience of transfering their school aged kids from a school of 10 (Lincoln) to a school of 8 (Lynch)?

Each of one wants our town to get better. This proposed plan does not achieve this.

-Jian Guan of Winchester

Katherine Waters-Clark May 30, 2012 at 04:49 PM
It is clear that more research and deliberation are needed. Any final vote the town might be planning should be POSTPONED until all the facts are reviewed, perhaps by an independant firm, so that Winchester's residents are not making decisions about other residents' schools.
Xiaoyun Wu May 30, 2012 at 06:34 PM
"Winchester's residents are not making decisions about other residents' schools" -- THIS IS EXACTLY THE POINT! With each of us contributing a fare share of the town's resources, it is not fair for any resident to be isolated out and be told by others which school he/she can send their kids to, AGAINST HIS/HER WILL.
Just Saying May 31, 2012 at 04:15 AM
The time for research was before you all ran out and voted for the override.
outsidein May 31, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Why didn't you suggest an independent review 6 months ago when the process was started? Let's face it, if you weren't impacted, you wouldn't be calling for an independent review. And let's say an independent review is conducted and now, I'm redistricted. Shouldn't I have the right to another "independent review"? Or another 6 mos of reviews? This issue has been debated for 6 mos. Now its time to vote yes or no.
Joe Peters May 31, 2012 at 02:42 PM
This plan has probably been five years in the making - that's how long ago the state asked for towns to give them their top priority for school reconstruction. In a lot of ways we can thank the city of Newton for where we are; had the new Newton North not been so expensive, the political powers would not have been so quick to devise a new state school building assistance program. Winchester had to rush to get in line when it happened. Had we more time to think, maybe we would have picked a different school or plan, but we had to do what we had to do at the time. At the end of the day, we will always have Winchester residents (i.e. the School Committee) making decisions for us. We elect them. They must work openly and democratically. I am not sure a firm would be an improvement. The decision before them is does the benefit of a complete redistricting outweigh the negatives of phasing it in. For example, would the harm of slightly larger than ideal class sizes or not recovering specialist space at some schools outweigh the potential harm done to some students through redistricting. Hard to say. Ideally we would have the time and space to make it a parents choice for those in the redistricted area, but I am not sure we have that luxury. I don't think an independent review will change the math. We are building a big school on the west side of town. We are over capacity elsewhere. We need to shift.
HML52 May 31, 2012 at 02:42 PM
For Ambrose families not affected by the proposed May 22 plan: if you would choose to attend V-O if given an opportunity, please let the School Committee know before June 4 by sending a note via the RAC website http://www.winchesterredistricting.com/. It might help to open up enrollment elsewhere for choice.
Jane May 31, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I understand that there are multiple ways to broadcast this redistriction procedure to us. But unfortunately, and to be honest, I never thought with our street so close (walkable) to our current school (about 0.7mi) will be redistricted to a third closest school (about 1.7mi). And my kid will be forced to transfer our in the middle of his early educational years despite how much he loves his school, teachers, and friends due to this most recent proposal. I did not follow the purpose and guidelines from the start, which I fully regret. I got this news the day after May22nd. After I talked to my neighbors, I realized that they thought in the similar way and missed the process for the same reason. That is why I think I need to speak out for myself and seek support from people who is following this process from the beginning like you. You are more than welcome to visit my home and experience our neighborhood. I can also introduce you to my neighbors. (1st part, to be continued)
Jane May 31, 2012 at 03:01 PM
(2nd part) I do not want to post my personal story here because I believe in diversity. Different parents have different concerns and different priorities. For example, some parents value small class size, some may not even care. Some parents fully embrace mixed neighbourhood, does not bother to transfer their kids. Some parents emphasize on school ranking. Some parents concerns about safety issues. Our committee members have been given a very challenging tasks. And I believe that during the whole process, there are numerous concerns about moving their children from the current school to another school. This belief in diversity contributes to my first point and questioning a valid mode of student number estimation. I believe what makes this town, this country great is all about innovations and great ideas. Give us more time, have fresh eyes (maybe even from the same person) looking at the same problem, a better and out-of-box idea will come.
Jane May 31, 2012 at 03:32 PM
@HML5: Great idea. Please forgive me for copying and extending your post here: For families not affected by the proposed May 22 plan: if you would value small class size most and would choose to attend new VO or Lynch school if given an opportunity, please let the School Committee knows before June 4th by sending a note via the above link. The whole town will appreciate your help.
outsidein May 31, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Why limit it to just Ambrose families that want to attend VO? If they get to pick VO, why I can't I chose to send my children to Muraco or Lynch or Lincoln? Or any other school? Why not let the Muraco families that are being redistricted find families that want to go to VO from their area and trade places with them? I thought the idea of school choice was discussed and the overwhelming feedback from parents to the committee was that people chose the neighborhood model.
Xiaoyun Wu May 31, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Rather than voting yes or no on a single plan (by the School Committee with possible issues as stated in the letter), wouldn't it be better to have several plans that we vote on. In addition, for a matter like this that affects the entire town for many years, wouldn't it be more fair to have a town-wide popular vote? For sure, no plan is perfect, and there will be some families be affected negatively with any plan. At least this will be a community decision and seems fair. I am not affected by the current proposal, but I feel for those families are being forced to go to a different school against their will. It is also unclear how much of what they think would eventually make any difference.
Stephen DeConto June 01, 2012 at 04:03 PM
@outsidein. I think the logic to Jane's post is that VO was built using Sate money with the requirement by the Sate that 100 new students attend the school. Let everyone in town who is in a school district that has overcrowding would like to send their child to this new school raise their hand. Perhaps this would fill the 100 seats and help alleviate some of the overcrowding issues.Note, I am not including Lynch at this point because they had this option already and only a handful chose to leave the school It would seem as though that speaks volumes for the commitment Lynch school families have toward the school. Also, it will not be overcrowded when the school adminstration leaves the building.
outsidein June 01, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Thanks for clarifying Stephen. I was not aware of a state requirement to fill 100 seats at VO (and 80 seats at Lynch). I'm not sure if this is a requirement or a goal. I suspect its a goal because I don't know how the state would enforce it or what remedies they would have if VO adds only 50 vs. 100 people for example. Perhaps asking for volunteers to move into VO and Lynch would accomplish this in 2013, but it probably won't help with projected future enrollments. What about houses with no elementary aged children that will turn over to young families in the next few years? Do we need an annual school choice to move kids into VO and Lynch? If each year we fall short of the targets do we have to redistrict? Also, once a family volunteers to go to Lynch or VO, does that house remain a "Lynch" "VO" house even if that family moves? It just seems to be a very difficult program to administer successfully. Either make it town wide school choice for all the schools or have boundary type redistricting (like the current plan). Selective school choice does not seem feasible to me.
Stephen DeConto June 01, 2012 at 06:05 PM
@outsidein. According to the Superintendent, increasing the enrollment by 100 students was a requirement attached to the funding received from the State. I don't see it mentioned specifically in his (RAC's) formal recommendation report, but he has stated it in several meetings as have various school committee members. According to RAC's projection, enrollment in elementary schools will remain fairly flat thru 2016 and they are unable to project reliably any further than 2016-2017. So, whatever is done now, might work for 4 or 5 years. Seems like history always repeating itself.
Jane June 04, 2012 at 03:16 PM
The first thing in the report that caught my attention is guideline of "minimal disruption". With the proposed model, the input is a small number (although it would be a big impact to families including me), any minor variation in the input parameter will dramatically change the output (solving or not solving the overcrowding issue). And by the way, I think "0" would be the "minimal" number. Particularly for our neighborhood, the plan against the workability, not comply to the green initiatives, bring more traffic and pollution, and big safety concerns, reduce home buying attraction. It seems to me that this plan is not improving/answering any of the above concerns. More importantly, as a mother of young kids, I really do not want my child to be forced to leave the school and friends that he loves. This precious bond we, as parents, ought to guard, protect, and encourage. I believe parents can understand my concerns and will support me on this. I am not sure if you know that early this semester, several kids from Lynch were opt-out to Lincoln. My kid's class accepted one. But most of existing parents choose to stay. It seems to me that even Lynch parents who has opt-out opportunity, still choose to stick with their beloved school. I understand and respect both choices. Now I am requesting that we should also have the same choice to let my kid stay for whatever plan is.

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