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Joyce Endee

SB2 proposal sparks discussion at Shaker hearing

February 15, 2012
BELMONT — Voters in the Shaker Regional School District will be asked to select a moderator and two school board members in Articles 1 and 2 of the 2012 warrant, and in Article 3, a petitioned warrant article, they will be asked to decide if they prefer the traditional Annual District meeting for future decision making, or would rather move to ballot voting on all school district matters.

At a public hearing on the budget last week, district resident Rachel French said she was in favor of the petitioned article proposing an SB2 ballot vote, which would allow more residents to have their say at the polls. She pointed out that attendance at the district meeting is generally very low.

"A lot of people work at night. I think more would participate with SB2. The deliberative session (held a month or more before a ballot election) gives information on what people are voting on, and it's also available on their computers," she said.

District employee Patricia Piscetta disagreed. Piscetta said the traditional district meeting is in the best interest of the communities, as people can hear both sides of any debate on the budget and warrant articles.

"It's a lovely process where we can all have a say," said Piscetta.

Many spoke up on both sides of the issue. One consistent argument against an SB2 ballot vote on school district matters was the lack of participation, as Piscetta had stated. One resident said he, too, believed in the old-fashioned process of voters having a say at the open district meeting, and urged more residents to make an effort to attend the meeting where they can make an informed decision. Others, however, said the process was intimidating, and that they would prefer to change to a private ballot vote on all questions brought before district voters. A three-fifths majority ballot vote will be required for passage of the article.

School board member Diane O'Hara presented Article 6 to those at the hearing last week, calling for approval of a proposed $20,270,134 operational budget for Shaker Regional School District.

"We had extraordinary cuts to our schools last year. This would replenish them," O'Hara said.

Tom Goulette spoke on Article 7, which addresses the collective bargaining agreement reached with the Belmont teachers' union. Goulette said 126 out of the district's 256 employees are covered under the contract, with 87 of those employees already at the top of their pay scale. Those 87 would not receive a percentage raise over the next three years of the contract, should it pass, but would instead receive a flat increase of $750 each year.

"We took a long, detailed look at the economic situation in the Lakes Region, and struck on a package we feel is fair to everyone involved. It's not what everyone wanted, but it's fair," Goulette said.

Following the public hearing last Wednesday, school board members held their regularly scheduled meeting. Taking into consideration comments from the public on how long polls are open each year, the board voted to make one amendment to the warrant. The board agreed to increase the time for voting on the first three articles of the warrant. Polls will now be open from 6 p.m. until at least 7:30 p.m., instead of the past closing time of 7 p.m. The district meeting will convene at 7 p.m., as balloting is wrapped up, and voting on all other matters will begin once the polls for Articles 1-3 are closed.

The Shaker Regional School District's annual meeting and elections will take place on March 9 in the Belmont High School gymnasium.

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