Theilman: School Options Need Exploration

School options now must have thorough exploration
MaryLou Theilman
op-ed published at Amherst Bulletin, Friday Nov. 25

I was sorry to read that Rick Hood was so disappointed in the vote for a new school that he believes Town Meeting should be abolished.

I can understand his disappointment as I served on the previous Elementary School Building Committee to replace Marks Meadow School. At that time the school administration believed there was a need to provide an up-to-date facility for a school that needed some repair and lacked the amenities of the other three elementary schools.

Just as the present building committee, our building committee spent many hours engaging in similar activities and presented its proposal to Town Meeting. After much discussion, Town Meeting voted against building a new school. Was I disappointed? Yes.

However in hindsight, Town Meeting was right. The school administration and the school and building committees were wrong. Enrollments began declining and it reached a point that the School Committee believed that it was fiscally responsible to close Mark’s Meadow, much to the dismay of those whose children attended the school.

This year, I again voted for the new school. However, it’s clear that the town is divided. While there was a small margin in support in the townwide election, which only required a simple majority, the Town Meeting vote also was close and evenly divided, 106 for and 108 opposed. In Town Meeting, a two-thirds vote is required for passage, unlike the townwide vote where only a majority is needed.

On the townwide ballot, 1,500 voters chose not to vote on the school question. It was reported that some voters were confused by the language on the ballot. I would suggest that Town Meeting members had information and spent more time studying the school proposal than the public at large who voted townwide.

Since a new statement of interest will not be considered by the MSBA until January 2018, now is the time for the school administration to bring all of us together to engage in discussions that explore thoroughly all options. Hopefully this process would result in a plan that best meets the needs of Amherst’s present and future children, so that the town does not spend another 50 years unhappy with a new school that only half the town supports.

Finally, unlike Rick Hood, after losing the vote at Town Meeting for a new school to replace Mark’s Meadow, no one recommended abolishing Town Meeting.

Marylou Theilman
Amherst
The writer is an Amherst Town Meeting member from Precinct 7.

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