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Poll: What's Your View on Redistricting?

With the public hearing on the proposed redistricting plan less than a week away, Winchester Patch wants to know what you think about the plan.

The Redistricting Advisory Committee made its final recommendation for the redistricting changes affecting several Winchester elementary schools. If passed, the changes will go into effect for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Before then, a public hearing is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. at .

The School Committee, who makes the final decision on redistricting changes, will hold a special meeting for the final vote 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7 at the high school.

The proposed map has been attached to this article. You can also view Superintendent William McAlduff's presentation from Tuesday, May 22 when he presented the final recommendation to the School Committee. More information about how to submit comments to the School Committee and other presentations can be found here.

Winchester Patch has also received several letters concerning the proposed school boundary plan. You can see the following letters below:

We want to know where you stand on this issue leading up to the public hearing. Take the one-click poll, and feel free to elaborate in the comments below.

Stephen DeConto June 01, 2012 at 08:28 PM
@Winchester Parent. Just for the sake of accuracy, here is an excerpt from the ressult of the overide vote for the new Vinson Owen; Winchester will be getting a new elementary school. Voter turnout may have been lower than normal for the override vote, but those who came out voiced their support for building a new Vinson-Owen Elementary School.The override passed by a vote of 3,026 to 2,121. "I'm thrilled that the question passed," said School Committee Chairman Sarah Girotti. "I'm looking forward now to the construction phase and the eventual opening of the new school." Overall, 37 percent or 5,147 people out of the 14,041 registered voters in Winchester made their way to the polls. "It's nice to see the citizens of Winchester continue their commitment to education that they've had for generations," Girotti said. The estimated cost of this project, according to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is $28,170,307. Out of that amount, the state is reimbursing the town $10,188,822 and Winchester will spend $17,981,485 on the project. "I'm delighted the town voted in favor to move forward with this project," said Cindy Bohne, Vinson-Owen PTO co-president
Stephen DeConto June 01, 2012 at 09:06 PM
@BAV. Well yes, I do believe that close proximity, the sort that I have raised comparing homes 300 yards to a elementary school to homes mile or more should be a major consideration in deciding who should be redistricted. Nor are all 1/2 mile or 1 mile walks the same. We are also talking about 6 to 11 year old children going to schools not adults walking to the train. Surely there is a difference in the expectations one has when they buy a home in Winchester right next to a school compared to what one envisions when they purchase a home a mile away from a school. I know that many home buyers gravitate to a "neighborhood” first and school second when buying homes in this town. The reasons being; they like the house and neighborhood first and they believe their children will receive a great education in any one of the excellent elementary schools Winchester offers. All of the schools in Winchester are highly rated on state wide reviews of schools.
upsidedown June 01, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Well said.
Xiaoyun Wu June 01, 2012 at 09:58 PM
On the 5th grade school model, I think it makes more sense to have Lynch be the 5th grade school. By sheer distance on the map, Lynch is of equal distance to any outside periphery of our town. The entire Lynch neighborhood is within 1.5 miles to one of the remaining 4 schools. The downside is that probably 50% of the current Lynch community won't have a walkable school. This will be especially hard for families who are now within walking distance to Lynch. But maybe we can compensate by granting them the flexibility of choosing their school so as to maximally fit their family needs.
Townie June 01, 2012 at 10:06 PM
The enrollment projections for Lincoln and Muraco seem to decline significantly over the next four years. So if through this redistricting they go to 100% in 2013, they will be significantly under capacity by 2015 or 2016. This also means that the other schools will be significantly over capacity.
Winchester Coalition for a Safer Community June 01, 2012 at 10:38 PM
@Townie -- Not sure what chart you are looking at, but Chart 3 of the redistricting committee's report shows Muraco and Lincoln significantly over capacity in 2013-14. Furthermore, the capacity number used for both schools in Chart 3 is inflated. Where Muraco's capacity is listed at 440, the true capacity is 400 (or less, depending on how you count classrooms) and the true capacity of Lincoln is 400, not 420, as Chart 3 suggests. If the true capacity is used, both schools remain over capacity through 2015-16, the years targeted by the RAC. There were 475 kids at Muraco this year. In 2014, there were 315. In 2006 there were 18 classrooms; now there are 24.
Winchester Coalition for a Safer Community June 01, 2012 at 10:47 PM
CORRECTION - that should have been 2004, not 2014, in the second to last sentence.
Townie June 01, 2012 at 10:49 PM
@maura, we are looking at the same charts. Lincoln and Muraco will be over capacity in 2013, true, but in the out years they fall dramatically. My point is, if they start AT capacity in 2013, they will be significantly under capacity in the out years. As far as the capacity issue, these are the capacities as agreed to through through the extensive feasibility study by the MSBA. Arguing them now doesn't solve the problem-the students are still enrolled and we need to relieve overcrowding at some of the schools.
Winchester Coalition for a Safer Community June 01, 2012 at 10:55 PM
@Townie - Can you show me what MSBA documentation you are looking at for when you say that the capacities were "agreed to"? I have the 2007 Statement of Interest that the former superintendent submitted to the MSBA and Muraco's capacity was listed at 315. And I have the presentation slides from the 2004 redistricting committee where Muraco's capacity was listed as 300, with 15 classrooms.
SG June 02, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Agree.
GB June 02, 2012 at 12:48 AM
RIGHT ON, Jason. Agree agree agree. All exactly what I am seeing/thinking.
Fabrizio June 02, 2012 at 12:54 AM
THe three options presented were not presented as the final three. Just some examples of some of the models the committee was looking at. The final recommendation is similar to all three, it just happens to be one that you don't like. That said, I agree that the school committee should consider sustainability, practicality, safety, and overall classroom and school distribution when evaluating this plan. I don't see how we could make any reasonable , factual comments about home values and even if you could accurately measure the impact of this plan on your home value (somehow excluding the myriad of other factors that impact your home value), what would you do with the info? For example, if a plan increased your home value and decreased mine, would that be a good plan? Would you somehow aggregate the net value increase and decrease throughout the town? Why didn't you suggest your grade school model at the last public meeting? To use your football analogies, why throw this desperation pass on 4th and 20?
BAV June 02, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Fabrizio - In fact there are no changes in the final model that weren't in one of the three preliminary models. And there was no unanimity in preferring one of the models to another--people just heard what they wanted to hear. No one seems to want to move to a new school and everyone would like someone else to move. We can switch to a new model but the fact that someone will have to move doesn't change. I hope those clamoring will be supportive of those who ask for yet another round of changes if changes are made to this model.
Jason Capodanno June 02, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Actually Fabrizio I did send a similar proposal to the RAC via the web site. Also, during the open forum they said they ruled out school choice and a few other options this is why they presented the three options that they did. On your second point regarding my home value, I do not live in a district that it will have a huge effect on the value of my home. however, having lived in town for 38 years I feel I have a decent gauge on the effect of properties this may have. To my point if you see the length of time that a house in the Muraco school district stayed on the market during the last 5 years versus other parts in town I would say there is a direct correlation between school and housing . So with that said, this plan may or may not be the best it just does to have to be decided on June 7th. Lets exhaust the possibilities before rushing into something that could effect so many peoples lives.
Fabrizio June 02, 2012 at 01:43 AM
@BAV - thanks for your clarification. I agree that any of the new suggestions will anger some other group that is redistricted and won't get any closer to a decision. Jason - I certainly don't have the history of information that you bring to this discussion, so I'll defer to your real estate knowledge. My point is that it would be impossible for any committee to figure out the net economic impact to the whole town based on any school model with any degree of accuracy. I personally feel that the model proposed is a good one, that maybe there should be some tweaks to it, but I certainly don't think throwing it out and starting with a whole new concept like grade level schools would get us any closer to a solution. In fact, it would probably lead to another 6-12 months of new plans, discussions, and probably we'd all arrive back at the neighborhood type models. I think we should also consider why we need to make a choice and move on. Its important that those children and families impacted by the redistricting will have time to acclimate to their new school. I believe the goal was to have this finalized before people take off for summer vacations and to give PTOs and schools a chance to prepare welcome events, and other activities next year for new students. The longer we postpone a decision, the less time new students will have to get acclimated before these changes take effect.
Gang Xing June 03, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Problem: RAC lists one parent's comment earlier suggesting that the best redistricting plan should be the one minimizing the number of students and families impacted and uses it as the goal for its final proposal. As the debates over this issue evolves, it is clear that the impacts enforced on the minimized families to be affected are so huge not only including risking little kids' safety but also home value depreciation, let alone its other social economic consequences. It is evidently unfair to ask small group of families to shoulder the whole town's burdens no matter how small this group might be. The goal of RAC and school committee should provide the fairest redistricting solution. I appeal to the school committee and every stakeholder family that the fairest solution is the one that can impact most of the family but with the minimized extent to each one. In this case, the burden of redistricting will be shared by most of families instead of limit number of minorities. The universal impact will keep the neighbourhood intact, safety concern minimized, and preventing otherwise impacted area home value depreciation. As Mr. Jason Capodanno's comments on Winchester Patch online: the final proposal actually changed rule from a neighbourhood plan to a balanced school number plan. It is time we should take a close look at this plan to see how it will change the areas of this town, including student safety, plan sustainability, and financial impacts such as home values.
Gang Xing June 03, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Solution: As many others suggest online that putting all 5th graders and/or Kindergarteners in VO or Lynch, which are the most under capacity schools, will free up classrooms in all other schools. This plan will, to the best extent, evenly impact everyone in the least extent rather than to a few ones with maximized consequences. This is going to be at least a fair solution, i.e., every Winchester resident makes contributions to the redistricting solutions. To prevent the questioning on impartiality for decision, an independent outside panel should be brought in to evaluate any final decisions. It is a more than challenge task, however, when accomplished fairly, it will unify the town of Winchester instead of dividing it.
GOC June 06, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Another idea if no redistricting is NOT an option: create a selective placement Gifted Kids/Special Placement program in VO. This program will naturally attract families from the individual schools. Families will feel "honored" and not "forced" into moving into a new school. This is completely voluntary. Families can then make the decision of what is their priority- walkability or customized education.
Jane June 06, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Another great idea!!! Yes, "attracting" kids/families instead of "pushing" kids/families. Great thinking.
Xiaoyun Wu June 06, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I am not quite sure how tomorrow's voting process will go. But I hope the following points can be addressed/reiterated to the public either before or after the actual voting. 1. The rationale for sticking to the 2013 school year for the projected implementation. If it is only because that is when the new VO is ready for use, then given all the doubts from the public for the current plan, the decision should not be rushed just to meet the grand opening of the new VO. 2. It would be professional and considerate for the RAC to outline the specific reasons why previous models of redistricting were VETO'ed. A simple remark of "We've looked into those options and they don't work" is NOT SUFFICIENT. Solid factual evidence is needed to be convincing and to really show that these options have been evaluated carefully. (continue on the next comment)
Xiaoyun Wu June 06, 2012 at 04:04 PM
3. I was happy to see one bonus that has come out from all the public commenting -- the clarification and reassurance of the Lynch performance status. However, I do wish that such clarification and reassurance could come earlier to every household (not just the current Lynch community) and by person in charge (superintendent). And again, SOLID and FACTUAL evidence is key. 4. Along the same lines, I was totally shocked to learn that McCall is also falling below the state standard during superintendent's presentation on Monday. I was shocked and worried. I also felt outraged that we, as future McCall attendees, were never been communicated about this. I feel that the status of McCall must have been address to the current McCall families. However, as a future McCall family, I urge the superintendent to address the status of McCall to EVERY HOUSEHOLD in town. Transparency issue has been one major public criticism to the current redistricting plan. But looking at the unnecessary negativity towards Lynch and my shock over the status of McCall, I feel that the insufficient transparency has becoming a trend. I certainly hope this can be prevented in the future.
Bob K June 06, 2012 at 07:31 PM
fantastic idea! Please, please, please, send it to the committee right away!
Fabrizio June 06, 2012 at 07:57 PM
So create a "gifted kids" program that will move 100 kids or even 220 kids to balance out the schools? That's anywhere from 5 to 10 classrooms at VO. Doesn't seem plausible. I doubt that many would volunteer and I don't think VO has the space to support it if they did. What happens if 220 kids don't volunteer? Do we then redistrict? Redistricting is balancing among all the schools, not just moving people into one. Also, what do you propose for the "gifted kids" curriculum"? Or are you just proposing to call something a "gifted" program and hope people will sending their kids into it? If its truly a special program (assuming the school committe can secure funding to develop and support this), won't it give some some the town an academic advantage? how would you select who gets in in a fair and transparent way? This idea is definitely out of the box, but doesn't seem effective or sustainable. Sorry.
Winchester Parent June 06, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I completely agree with Fabrizio. Solving one "problem" by creatiing a multitued of others is not the answer. What about the VO families who want to send their kids to VO, but might not be able to if their child doesn't qualify as "gifted?" Where's the walkability for them? Change for the sake of change alone, without merit or cause, is a pointless exercise.
GOC June 06, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Hello. Thanks for the people who like the idea. I have already sent it to the school committee. Please submit the idea too to gain support for it. Fabrizio, the program could be as big or as small as you want it to be, depending on space. You qualify kids based on objective metrics (math, science, advancement, teacher's recommendations, etc.) If you take the top 1%, then you might end up with 1 classroom, if you take the top 10%, then it may be much more. Nevertheless, no matter what number of students you can move, you will at least be alleviating some overcrowding in the other schools. In NYC, gifted kids programs are overflowing with applications. People would travel across town just to get to them. Massachusetts, although is a state that provides good education across the board, is actually one of the states that don't have a lot of support for gifted/advanced kids. Other schools and other states (ie Texas) are doing it. Check out this website http://aceraschool.org/. This is a school in Melrose that was set up by a Winchester mom. She felt that there is no support in Winchester for her gifted son. And the school is thriving! True, it will give some kids in town an academic advantage, but it will be those kids who deserve it and who work hard for it. Well, everyone applies to Ivy Leagues but not everyone gets in. But then, not all Ivy Leaguers are successful. I am not an academician but I believe there is a way to design this.
GOC June 06, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Winchester Parent, I am merely responding to the idea that a) VO has extra capacity b) if we cannot redistrict based on neighborhood, then let us recut the students another way. And we need to recut the population to make the move attractive to parents and make it worth their while. VO students will always have room in the school since I assume that the RAC's calculation has already taken into account current and future VO volume. The gifted program will just replace the student volume who would otherwise be moved to VO due to redistricting. This idea is not without merit- in recent years, there have been many applications for chartered schools to address this need for a different kind of education. This idea is an attempt to marry up an excess capacity issue and an unmet demand.
DRW June 06, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Arlington is facing the exact same issue and having similar redistricting debates at the moment. I thought this was an interesting article from a realtor around potential impact on home values: http://arlington.patch.com/blog_posts/redistricting-realizations-hits-homeowners I'd say we share a lot of the same characteristics as Arlington -- maybe not the same amount of restaurants and amenities, but we do have a more compact and accessible downtown and easy access to the commuter rail. We have a lot of friends looking to move into Winchester right now, and anything that is reasonably priced -- in any part of town, regardless of school district -- seems to be generating a bidding war. I also read that Winchester is one of the few Massachusetts towns that has preserved home values throughout the housing bust.
Fabrizio June 06, 2012 at 08:56 PM
It just seems that this is less of an answer to how to move 100-220 student around the district to balance out the class sizes and more a new initiative to offer a charter school option in Winchester. I agree that Charter schools are a popular option in school districts that perform at a lower academic level. I don't believe there are any examples of where a public school district set up their own charter schools. For Winchester parents that are frustrated with the lack of a charter school, why not apply for one of the many already out there (Melrose, Malden, etc). Why create another with all the associated costs? I read your original proposal as starting a gifted program not an entirely new charter school. But, if you think there's alot of pent up demand in Winchester for a charter school, then why hasn't the market already started one? Its because, in general, people are happy with the school performance and don't need a charter school. So, I'll go back to my original point, if you are suggesting a gifted program, you need school funding, space, and enough people to sign up. And those people that sign up have to be in the right proportions to equally balance class size across all 5 schools. Not likely.
BAV June 07, 2012 at 12:08 AM
GOC - That is an intriguing idea. (For what it is worth, the idea was recommended by another friend too). I think that it comes with its own set of problems too. In the short term, while it is being set up, I am not sure that many would sign up for it, thus little immediate help. (As indicated by the RAC, there were 1000's of letters and all of them asked for their kids to stay in their current schools.) If successful (a big IF), then, in the long term too many people might sign up for it. You would have to limit the number allowed to enter the program every year to match the space requirement. You might also have to limit from which schools the students could come from (coming from Lynch or VO doesn't help with redistricting). And you might set up a tiered school system which we all claim to dislike. Still, I think this is one of the better alternatives I've heard.
Gang Xing June 07, 2012 at 02:28 AM
I used to live in Plano, TX and know this kind of program. I believe that GOC's idea is a very good one. For kids who are bored by something they already know, a bit more knowledge and opportunity will keep motivating them. It will help build the whole school district performance as well. As I see from people who live in Texas, this program does not necessarily to lead to an advantageous group, rather it creates diversities.

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