We are “listening” to each other. Over the last 4/5 years I have been a part of a highly collaborative team of people made up of Selectmen, Finance Committee and School Committee members from both Mendon and Upton. This team, known as the Multi-Board, has invested a large amount of time meeting regularly to work through critical issues for both towns, listen to each other’s diverse views, and listen to the total community. It is through this group that we have built greater trust amongst the boards of both towns and reached consensus/compromise on many items. It is through this group that the collective teams have encouraged us to deal head on with the current funding crisis and not “kick this can down the road” for the future.
Re-certification of the same budget is not an arrogant approach, nor it is an example of the committee not listening. Those that have followed our work over the last 4/5 years in regards to the school budgets, would know that nothing is further from the truth. It is doing what is right for our children and our collective community. The compromises made and highly efficient management of the school budgets over this period has allowed our schools to regain much of what was lost due to the severe cuts of the past. This is seen in the minimal MURSD operational budget increases to each town, while state committed funding was cut, foundational budget requirements increased, and overall costs increased. This flexibility we gave back to the towns allowed them to strengthen the services provided to the collective community.
But we are at a cross roads. There is no longer flexibility in the system and in order to provide the right education to our children so they may emerge as productive citizens of our communities, we need to fund this re-certified budget. Funding this budget through the override will enable each town to support the total needs of its community, not just one specific area. It is not an “either or” town services versus the school but rather a collective need across the total community. This is not only a necessary thing to do, it is the right thing to do for our collective citizens across all ages.
An “us versus them” mentality will not get us to the answers we need and that as a community we should be making this decision. This is the reason why I support a joint town meeting if there is not a common answer (yes or no) from both towns. It is the tool that the state gives us to make a “community” decision. Only In this way we can truly “listen” to the total community versus just those that shout the loudest from either side. This is done with full respect to both towns.
Philip De Zutter
Chairperson MURSD School Committee