Andover School Race:
Tom Deso decided to run for School Committee because he says the budget increase of $700,000, proposed by Superintendent Claudia Bach to bring Andover up to the state-mandated 990 hours for Time and Learning, was not necessary.
Deso noted that the state does not keep records of each districts compliance with this requirement and that the state made an issue of this for Andover only because of a complaint. Deso believes that Andovers Time and Learning estimate of approximately 860 hours is due to overly conservative accounting by the school administration.
We are not counting things that are counted by other districts, claimed Deso. Probably no school in the state meets the 990 hour requirement when counting only academic subjects. Even the state said were using a very conservative method to calculate Time and Learning.
Deso also sees a need to increase communications and the credibility of the School Committee. In this context he cited the recent controversy surrounding renewal of Superintendent Bachs contract as an indication of the method of operation (of the School Committee) that needs to be changed. Deso said he didnt oppose the action taken on Superintendent Bachs contract, up to the point of not making it public.
Another priority for Deso is to improve the way the School Department and Town work together on budget issues. Deso believes that the School Department should develop its initial budget within estimated available revenues. While he wants the process improved, Deso believes that the current year split of town funds is reasonable. In addition, Deso indicated that he would not support a Proposition 2 ½ override to increase school funding.
Deso believes that development and recommendation of academic programs are the responsibility of the administration. The School Committees responsibility is to approve these within budget constraints. Regarding student and parent requests for an advanced math program for the Middle School, he said the administration is responding by offering an on-line course for higher achievement students, and that anything beyond this is a budget issue.
On rising Special Education costs, Deso is unhappy about state mandated requirements that are un-funded or under-funded. Deso said that he supports Special Education, but he would also support a study of Special Education expenses. In order to deal with a program with a large budget impact on the District, we need to understand the cause of the problem so we can deal with it.
With regard to MCAS, Deso wrote that MCAS should not be a requirement for graduation. Students are graduated by school districts, not by the state. On school choice (e.g., Charter schools or vouchers), Deso commented, While I dont believe this would have a particular impact in Andover, as we have an excellent public school system, I do philosophically favor choice as a method of promoting excellence.
Deso, 56, is a graduate of the University
of Virginia (69) and owns his own business in New
Hampshire that sells furniture to schools. He is
currently on Andovers School Building Committee
that has been overseeing the construction of the High
Plain and Wood Hill Elementary Schools.
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