The need for the town, state and Gilbert School to reach a contract has become critical. All parties have an agreed-upon contract budget number and the state has already budgeted for special education at Gilbert. The $400,000 budget reduction will require sacrifice on the part of The Gilbert School but, if it finally leads to a contract which, has partially been agreed upon it will allow us to continue to concentrate on TGS as a center of educational excellence.
Because the second-year tuition in the state's two-year offer does not preclude further cuts or guarantee an amount, the School Corp can only proceed with a one-year contract. Additionally, the state's proposed MOU on special education creates significant issues of fairness and access for our students. We cannot accept language that creates a separate and unequal class of special education students and parents by preventing TGS staff access to these students by now adding an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
Also, there are three new special education programs proposed in the state's MOU that are undefined. Because TGS would be responsible for funding these programs, we need specifics of enrollment and scope to proceed to ensure these students receive the best education.
Because the special education MOU we proposed in 2010 and which continued through June 2015, was agreed to by both School Corp and WBOE (the past two years we have operated without a contract or MOU for special education), the best way to move forward for everyone, especially for the students and the parents of special education students, is to allocate the current approved budget amount for special education to TGS and let us proceed to implement services. This will not only result in more effective and efficient services, but also provide needed certainty for our students and parents.
If the state wants to add elements to the special education program, as indicated in the MOU, we would be amenable to discussing those along with funding sources as a separate agreement.
I know we are all disappointed that we will not achieve a longer-term contract but it remains critical for us all to support the Selectmen's budget and the Town's commitment of $330,000 for education support.
The state has done its job by putting the structure for a new Winchester Board of Education in place, and if a one-year contract with the state can now be signed, it will leave us in much better shape going forward to create a long-term local partnership. It can only happen if you and your neighbors support the budget as adopted by the Town Selectmen and vote to approve it at referendum in early June.