GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 16, 2013

Letter: School plan critics should show alternatives


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Conversation about any subject is always difficult when one party approaches the matter from a subjective approach based upon emotions and beliefs,while the other party pursues the matter from an objective and informed approach with facts and data.

For example, my friend says, “I am sure I am going to win the lottery today because it is my birthday. I just turned 39, and when I took my number at the Deli counter, I got the number 39.” I respond by saying, “Coincidence does not change the odds, which are still a gazillion to one.”

The circumstances are similar when a city councilor says that he believes that the school population is going to increase in the future, while the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), after studying birthrates, building permits, developable land, and average attrition rates (studies which are done for every school project in the commonwealth) predicts that school enrolment will decrease slightly in the future. The MSBA’s track record and the level of confidence in their projections are high.

Similar wishful thinking is in play when Councilor Tobey proclaims that the Fuller Building is the best school building in the district — even though it is 48 years old and has had no significant upgrades other than the replacement of skylights over that span of time. On May 8, 2011, the Boston Globe reported on a survey conducted by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) indicating that, out of 1,700 schools in the Commonwealth, 23 were determined to be in the poorest condition. Four of those 23 are located on the North Shore. One of those four is the Fuller building.

One of my favorites, however, is when Councilor Tobey and the editor of the Gloucester Times grandstand on what a travesty it is that the Fuller Building is not included in the School Committee’s request for a physical and educational assessment of our remaining elementary school buildings.

In fact, the feasibility study currently in progress includes both West Parish and Fuller. This is the same feasibility study, again currently in progress, which Councilor Tobey voted to support when he received assurances that Fuller would be included, and that a comprehensive study of the other elementary schools would follow.

I think the time has come for the Gloucester Times and Councilor Tobey to lay out their plan to rebuild the Fuller building, and at what cost, spelling out which schools they would close and which would stay open, and how they would redistrict school catchment areas.

The School Committee’s plan is simple; it includes five small, personalized elementary schools with two or three classrooms of K-5 grade levels, an innovation middle school and a high school, which we will continue to upgrade as the city can afford it.

When their plan is on the table, I would welcome a public referendum.

JONATHAN POPE

Gloucester

Chairman, Gloucester School Committee

Member, West Parish Building Committee