Monday, January 18, 2010

FM #54 - Week ending 1/17/2010

This is session #54 in the series for Franklin Matters. Let's take about 10 minutes to keep current with what happened during the week ending Jan 17th 2010.

Time: 14 minutes, 0 seconds

MP3 File

Session notes:

Take about ten minutes to keep current with what matters in Franklin, MA as the week ends January 17, 2010

In this session I’ll cover the School Committee meeting of Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Several items come from this meeting. It attracted the largest attendance to a school committee meeting in a long time. The Council Chambers were standing room only. Better yet, this attendance was not due to some protest or uproar. It was due to the recognition being provided to a number of school groups. The major theme covering these activities I think can be summarized in how pervasive the schools are within the overall Franklin community.

First was recognition of the various student and school personnel who participated in the fund raising for the war memorial dedicated on the Town Common on Memorial Day, 2009.

I won't repeat the names of the individuals here. It is quite a list covering all the schools in town. You can see the school committee meeting notes on Franklin Matters for the details.

Second the presentation of grants to the Best Buddy chapters at Franklin High and Annie Sullivan Middle School. More than $6,000 in grants were awarded to enable these student operated chapters to continue their efforts in the Best Buddies program. If you are not familiar with Best Buddies you can find out more information at the link provided

From the School Committee meeting notes:
Third was a presentation by the local chapter of teen angels.

Lead by Linda Keohane, the local chapter is currently made up of 17 students in 7th and 8th grade. They are going through some training and working on projects under the auspices of the national wired safety .org

They presented a pledge to raise awareness of cyberbullying. They have also developed a survey to capture data on cyberbullying. The survey will be released to the Franklin middle schools, then to the high school and ultimately made available to other school districts across MA.

Technology advances have been occurring so rapidly, that the proper behavior and etiquette has generally been developed after the fact, that the device or service has become heavily used. This student lead initiative will help to address the cyberbullying practices from a student perspective.

Frm the School Committee meeting notes:

Fourth was a presentation on the World Challenge. This would be a trip for about 15-20 FHS students to Peru. The students would start planning and fund raising now. Preparing for about 17 months for the trip to last a month. It would bring them to Peru for service, educational and recreational opportunities that should last a life time. A video overview of the organization and the trips they conduct from both the teacher and student points of view are available on Franklin Matters. The School Committee did approve that the planning for this trip can continue.

World Challenge:

On the regular school committee meeting topic list, a couple of items rose.

The MA assoc of school committees sent some information on developing regulations about vehicles idling on school property. After some discussion, the SC recommended reaching out to the Police Dept for advice on how enforceable this would be before proceeding.

The State and Federal Race to the Top program was discussed. There is potential for a small gain for large pain is the short way to say this. The program would provide some stimulus funds for education but is targeted to poorly performing districts and we are a high performing district. Even if we did spend the time and effort to try and implement, the return would not cover the effort involved. I like the fact that the return on investment (ROI) was considered in this case.

The School Committee provided some guidance to Superintendent Maureen Sabolinski, Asst. Superintendent Sally Winslow and Director of Finance, Miriam Goodman on what the SC would like to see in the 2011 school budget package. The first presentation on the budget is scheduled to occur at the next meeting, Jan 26th.

The School Dept received a visit from the DESE in December. The visit included a fiscal review (not an audit) that was praising the operations of the Business Office.

It was not too long ago, it seemed like every time you turned around, something or someone was chipping away at the block of trust that citizens had in Franklin's government. The low point probably occurred just before Thanksgiving 2007. The School Committee released information that irregularities in the School budget had been discovered by the Town Comptroller. This appeared to be a "classic release bad news before the holiday move". However, this was not a story to be buried. This was the most serious of several incidents that had residents of Franklin questioning who they could trust. The January 9 2008 Town Council meeting was actually a joint one as the Town Council sat along with the School Committee to hear the auditors present the details of their findings.

Sorry to have brought the bad news back up but I want to put this real good news in the proper perspective. The Town (including the Schools) budget has been audited since then by the Town's regular auditors and the results have come up clean. Policy and procedures have been revised and implemented to improve the financial operations with appropriate checks and balances. The "trust" issue from a budget perspective should have been put to rest.

If someone was still looking for another source to confirm the Town auditor's findings, I think we have one. The School Department was recently the subject of a "fiscal review" by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and received praise for their operations.
The Franklin Public School has done well in maintaining a comprehensive system of written internal policies and procedures relative to its operations of the School Business office. Implementation of a comprehensive system of internal controls ensures that funds are expended in compliance with state and federal regulations and are used for the intended purposes of the grant.

Franklin Public Schools has a number of best practices being performed. Management and other department personnel should be commended for not holding credit cards in the name of Franklin Public Schools.

Additionally, the school district does not have an administrative petty cash fund, while most districts find this a necessity; Franklin Public Schools has done well in eliminating this potentially risky practice.

The credit for this commendation goes to the work of Miriam Goodman who came into this role specifically to address the problems and create good practices. Kudos to the School Committee for the hiring process that resulted in approval of Miriam for Business Administrator.

Miriam has done great work, she shows integrity in her work and the Town is better off for it.

The full text of the DESE letter can be found on Franklin Matters. Along with the long term financial planning committees' work, this goes a long way to helping to restore trust in our local government.

DESE Letter:

Looking ahead this week, the Town Council meets on Wednesday, Jan 20th.

The agenda includes a presentation from the architects of the plan to re-do downtown and a report from the subcommittee on the Charter revision.

Both of these topics are critical to Franklin's future. The Charter determines how we govern ourselves to conduct our town business. The Downtown presentation will determine what the downtown will look like.

As a frequent commuter train rider, I am interested in finding out how they will handle traffic coming out of the downtown parking lot when a train arrives especially if there is two way traffic on Main St. It already takes several minutes to get out with one way traffic. Allow a left turn between Dean Bank and Acapulco's Restaurant and I wonder what the effect will be?

There will also be a presentation and vote on a change to the solid waste and recycling rates. You should pay attention to this for a number of reasons;
  1. it affects what you put on the curb
  2. it will potentially effect your pocketbook or wallet
  3. it can position the town better off for being green and environmentally conscious

To recap, the School Committee had some good recognitions, and good educational opportunities to highlight.

The Town Council meeting Weds can help determine our future in real ways.

I strongly suggest that you take an active role and come down to the Council Chamber to observe and take the opportunity to speak up if necessary.

As I close this session this week, let me remind you that
  • If you like what I am doing, please tell your neighbors
  • If you don’t like something, please tell me
Thank you for listening.

For additional information, please visit

If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana" c. Michael Clark & Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission
I hope you enjoy!

Note: email subscribers will need to click through to the website to listen to the audio version.

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