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Selectmen Raise Concerns with Updated Statements of Interest for SHS and the South School

The process to submit Statements of Interest for SHS and the South School is still not settled. The Selectmen and School Committee are expected to meet Dec. 13 to further discuss the documents.

The School Committee appeared before the Board of Selectmen Tuesday evening to discuss the updated the School Department had drafted to start the process to potentially replace two of the town’s school buildings. But after a lengthy back-and-forth between members of the two boards, the statements remain unsigned.

The matter, which was first discussed between the two boards on will be taken up again on Dec. 13.

Members of the Board of Selectmen expressed concern that the School Committee had not yet voted on these updated SOIs and cited errors in spelling and grammar, as well as concerns with the formatting and presentation of the two forms.

The Statements of Interest (SOIs) are for and for the . Submitting an SOI is the first step in a lengthy process for replacing or renovating a school—it allows a school system to enter into dialogue with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).

The deadline for submitting a SOI is January 12, 2012. The Chairs of both boards (Joyce Husseini, School Committee and John Stagnone, Selectmen), the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Marguerite Rizzi, and the Town Manager, Francis T. Crimmins, Jr., must sign the SOIs before they are submitted to the MSBA.

The SOIs were not signed by the Town Manager or Stagnone because Crimmins found that the application used was outdated, so the School Department submitted the updated SOIs Tuesday evening.

Husseini, who was joined at the meeting by fellow School Committee members Deborah Sovinee and Tom Colburn, indicated that she was hoping the selectmen would reaffirm their in regards to the two Statements of Interests.

Selectmen indicated that they did not consider the updated versions of the SOIs presented to them on Tuesday to be the same as the SOIs they voted on during their .

Selectman John Anderson said the Nov. 1 SOIs had “no bearing” on the SOIs presented Tuesday evening.

The selectmen were told they were not voting on the content of the SOI. Instead, Sovinee told Selectmen that they were voting on “the motion to authorize the Superintendent [to submit the SOIs].” 

Members of the School Committee indicated that their Nov. 1 vote and the Selectmen’s Nov. 1 vote was still binding.

But, Selectman John Anzivino disagreed and said there was a “difference of opinion “ between the two boards. Because these were updated versions of the SOIs, Anzivino and other members of the Board felt another vote needed to be taken.

So, Anderson made the motion to reconsider the Board of Selectmen’s Nov. 1 vote in regards to the SOIs. The motion to reconsider, which in essence rescinded the Nov. 1 vote, passed 4-1, with Selectman Cynthia Walsh casting the lone dissenting vote.

But, Selectmen did not vote on the updated SOIs because they had a number of concerns, chiefly that the School Committee itself had not voted on the updated documents.

“There is a proposed Statement of Interest for two schools dated Dec. 2 that never went before the School Committee,” Crimmins said. “This is a different Statement of Interest.”

He said it was “absurd” that the School Committee had not reviewed the document before submitting it to the Board of Selectmen. “They have the process wrong,” Crimmins said.

Husseini reiterated that the School Committee (and Selectmen) had voted to merely authorize the Superintendent to submit the forms, but Crimmins said he “couldn’t disagree more.”

Anderson wanted to see a cover page included with the SOIs for both SHS and the South School. He cited a number of area towns that had included a cover page with their submission to the MSBA.

“I’d be embarrassed to send that in,” Anderson said of the documents in their current state.

Walsh pointed out errors in spelling and grammar and asked that acronyms be spelled-out the first time they were mentioned so the “layman” could understand it.

“It’s not a jigsaw puzzle,” she said.

 Sovinee said that submitting the SOIs was “supposed to be the easy part of it.”

“The heavy lifting is still to come,” she said.

But, the SOI process has now stretched .

Selectman Steve Anastos said it was “troubling to discuss the document over and over again.”

“I think clearly there’s a bunch of folks up here [the selectmen] who would like to see the process move forward,” he said. “We want a document that all of us are proud to sign. We want to support you [the School Department].”

The South School, which opened in 1958, is dealing with water intrusion problems, according to the SOI. There are concerns with the school’s windows, roof and furnace. There are cracked floors and ceilings, ramps pitched at too steep a slope, and limited space (including classroom, storage, physical education, media center, clinic, guidance and specialized instruction). There are also ADA handicapped accessibility issues. 

The High School, originally built in 1923, with additions in 1952, 1955 and 1965, “does not support 21st Century learning needs,” SHS Principal Matt Colantonio told selectmen on Oct. 18. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), , credited the school’s maintenance upkeep, but said the condition of the building needs to be addressed.

The current heating system needs improvement, there is no handicapped accessibility to the fourth floor of A-building and the auditorium and gymnasium can’t fully accommodate the whole student body, among other issues, according to the SOI. The school is also dealing with water intrusion; the clinic and media center are undersized; and the science labs are antiquated.

Stoughton High is the higher priority of the two potential projects, School Committee members told Selectmen on Tuesday.

While the physical needs are greater at the South, other factors, including sheer number of students using the building and potential of jeopardizing its NEASC accreditation if the building’s condition is not addressed, make the high school the top priority.

The updated Statements of Interest are posted in the media gallery. To see the original SOIs, click .

DarkKnight December 08, 2011 at 12:34 AM
How embarrassing. It's ironic the school committee is submitting paperwork full of typos and grammar errors. Just another proud moment for the town. I wish someone has the guts to admit why this is being held back.

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