Dear Randolph Board of Education Members:
Based on Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, it is obvious you have all been listening to a variety of opinions. I am proud of our community members who got up to speak, proud of those who sent letters or emails sharing their opinions and ideas with Dr. Browne and you. If we don’t say anything, how will you know our opinions and ideas regarding school times?
I found it surprising to hear how many people were so quick to dismiss the studies that support later start times and discount a recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Many people said we should wait until more studies can be done, that we should not rush this important decision. Maybe they meant studies specific to Randolph and its schools, but why spend the money on studies when so many have been done which prove starting later helps students in several areas of their lives. If we don’t do it now, will it ever be done? Here are links to just a few sites that are helpful in understanding some of this information about starting schools later: University of Minnesota, South Orangetown CSD, Montgomery Schools, MD, Startschoollater.net .
One article may be particularly helpful to you. It is called School Start Time Change: An In-Depth Examination of School Districts in the United States, by Owens, Drobnich, Baylor and Lewin. It is an “in-depth examination of those school districts that have been successful in changing their bell schedules….” It looked at approximately 70 public school districts and 1000 schools and is “intended to support the efforts of other districts in various stages of contemplating this measure.” There is a fee for the article, but I think the price is well worth it to glean expert advice from those who have been there already. I found it very interesting.
I believe the research and support that Randolph Schools should start later. I believe you are all working for the best interest of our student population. If I didn’t believe that, I would have to pull my children out of this district. I don’t envy your positions, but I appreciate the difficult task ahead of you and am certain our students will benefit from a delayed start time.
Several discussions are happening and that is important. I hope more people will attend board meetings, subscribe to the board minutes, and be willing to share their opinions with you. Discussing ideas and having difficult conversations should not prevent people from speaking out to share their ideas, but people also have a responsibility to read the literature so they can make informed decisions, just as you have a responsibility to do the same. Studies have been done, maybe not at length in our school district, but to argue against years of research regarding sleep for teens and starting school later shows disregard to each of those institutions and for the researchers who performed the research.
I still have unanswered questions as a result of Tuesday’s meeting.
While I was happy most (all?) of you didn’t like the idea of children going to school until 4:15, if the 3 tier proposal were only for a 6.5 hour day, with the last schools ending at 3:45, would the board members have agreed to that system? Did the proposed 7 hour day, with an end time of 4:15 for the last schools, force the board to look closer at the 2 tier system with an earlier end time?
Three different scenarios were presented to you on Tuesday night. After hearing Dr. Browne explain each one, the board began its discussion. It was surprising to hear your reaction about the 2 tier system. Based on positive responses and interest from some board members, it sounded like you had not heard that plan in detail until then. Was the board meeting the first time you heard about the 2 tier system and its costs in detail? Dr. Browne consulted Transportation Director Donna Werge. She estimated costs would be between $140 - $245 per day for 17 more buses with the 2 tier run. Dr. Browne did the math for us (thank you) and said the cost would be between $400,000- $740,000. Why is there such a price discrepancy in the cost of the buses? Dr. Browne said it was not a “viable” option since we would have to raise revenue.
Mr. Matos alluded that it would be feasible to “find” $600,000 in the budget for a 2 tier bus system. The idea was reinforced by another board member; I believe it was Mr. Epstein. It was surprising to hear you believed you could “find” $600,000 in the budget. If cuts were to be made, where would they be? The Arts? Extra-curricular activities? Maybe sports?
If we can’t “find” the money, will a tax levy be imposed? Please keep in mind that not everyone has children in our schools. Many are retired, have children out of college or may not have children at all. While some of these community members may have benefited from having their children attend Randolph Schools at the time, increasing taxes will drive some people out of our community. It has happened in the past, I don’t doubt it will in the future as our taxes continue to rise. There are other ways to raise the money without taxing the whole community.
Like I have said previously, it is the community’s job to bring ideas and possible solutions to the board. It is your job to read the research, listen to public opinion and implement change based on what is best for our student population.