First let me introduce myself. My name is Garry Roy. Prior to moving to Groton, I lived in Bartlett NH for 20 years and spent 4 years on the Bartlett School Committee. Of those 4 years, I chaired the Committee for 2 years.
I learned a great deal in those four years and came away with a clear understanding of who is responsible for the school budget. That was one of the most difficult positions of my life. It was the Superintendent and his Building Managers (aka Principals) that developed the budget. The teaching staff was involved as well. This budget was then presented to the School Committee. We scrutinized it and made changes where it made sense. The School Committee presented it to the voters for their approval. The School Committee was solely responsible for managing the budget. The Board of Selectmen had no involvement in the School Committee’s Budget or for that matter anything else we did. The School Committee did not report to anyone. In fact it was the Superintendent who reported to the School Committee.
I wanted to make sure that the process works the same way in Massachusetts so I asked Michael J. Gilbert, Field Director, Massachusetts Association of School Committees. This is his answer:
School Committees as a whole are independent authorities. Individual members are subject either to election or appointment depending on the municipal charter in municipalities or upon the regional agreement in regional districts. In most school districts the membership of the School Committee utilizes staggered terms (7 member committee with 3 year terms staggered so that 3 are elected one year, 2 the second, and 2 the third year) in an attempt to ensure stability in governance. There are state laws that School Committees must adhere to but they do not directly report to any other entity.
So what is my point? The Board of Selectman, the Finance Committee and the Town Manager played no role in creating this $2,500,000 debacle (actually if you look closely at the numbers it’s more). It was created solely by the School Committee and their inability to manage a budget.
Having said that, now that we are in this situation, it’s going to take the Superintendent (with Principals and their staff) and the School Committee, with assistance from the Finance Committee, the Board of Selectmen and the Town Manager all working together to straighten this mess out. Then the voters are going to have to decide whether they will pay for what’s left. We should not be asked to pony up the whole $2,500,000. However, before we are asked to vote on anything the School Committee needs to show the voters a policy that will prevent this from ever happening again. Lastly, the Voters of Groton have to decide whether or not they want to re-elect Committee members who cannot manage a budget.
Groton Schools have always been excellent and will remain so in spite of this. The Superintendant and her staff are too professional to accept anything less.