School says ball fields don't make the grade
Despite the fact that baseball season has already begun, the school superintendent shared her concerns about the quality of the Lawn Avenue ball fields after having been assured that they would be completed before opening day.
In a deal made last winter with the Town Council, the school offered to stop charging outside groups for the use of the Lawn school gym, if, in return the town committed to maintaining the ball fields that are north of the school.
The item was on the April 6 school panel agenda because the town administrator had asked the school to fund $3,000 for a new backstop on the baseball field.
Superintendent Kathy Sipala told the school board that she was prepared to ask them that night to approve the town's $3,000 request and to take it from the school's reserve fund, but after conferring with parents and baseball officials, she said she was advised that the backstop was not of good quality.
Not only was the backstop an issue, Sipala said the fields have not been prepared, either.
"We made a deal," school board member William "Bucky" Brennan said. "Now there's no deal. What's going on?"
Town Council liaison to the School Committee Michael Schnack said, "I'm embarrassed" about the current state of the middle school field. He said he looked at the field the previous day, and "it's an absolute disgrace" that the infield is still full of holes. "Someone's going to get hurt," Schnack said.
He said that he would go back to the town administrator the following day to advocate for a speedy resolution to the field maintenance work.
In other business, the School Committee:
+ Approved a revised budget that is $41,742 less than the previously passed spending package due to a reduction in anticipated costs from the Blue Cross health plan. The new budget bottom line is $10,677,358, which also includes $78,000 more in the revenue line for anticipated state aid.
+ Further discussed the proposed Lawn Avenue School Survey that would ask parents and members of the school community if they want to send junior high school students off the island for their education. The committee has called a special meeting April 21 at 8 a.m. to go over the proposed questions.
+ Voted to endorse federal legislation that would give teachers the ability to deduct up to $400 of classroom expenses, which is up from the current maximum of $250.
+ Voted to endorse a resolution that asks the state legislators to repeal any state laws on special education that exceed or are more restrictive than federal legislation. This initiative was started by the federal IDEA Act of 2004, which asks states to "minimize the number of special education rules, regulations and policies" that local districts are subject to.
"There's not a chance in hell that this will become legislation," Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser said about the resolution, but she added that the School Committee's endorsement was important "to begin the dialogue and ask for accountability."
When asked if the resolution would impact local students, Beth Pinto, the district's special education director, said, "It will depend on the financial situation in each town."
The committee members are waiting to see a complete list of state mandates that exceed federal laws, Kaiser said.