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Letter to the Editor: School Does Not Recruit School Choice Students

The chairwoman of the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Committee responds to an article about school choice in a recent Enough is Enough publication.

To the Editor:

I feel it’s necessary for the School Committee and the district to address an article contained in an Enough is Enough publication – - as it is having an impact at the school level.

The article and is about school choice. The District is very aware about the controversy that surrounds choice and the appetite from our community for more study of choice’s impact on our high school costs, scheduling and class sizes. The article is not about that; rather, it alleges impropriety with respect to our school choice selection process, which is inaccurate and misleading and must be corrected.

The Massachusetts school choice law (General Laws Chapter 76, Section 12B) was enacted in 1991 to allow parents to send their children to public schools in communities other than that in which they reside. School Committees choose whether or not to become school choice receiving districts. We post the application online - it contains only basic information (name, address, phone and current school). There is never any school information attached to the application. If a parent sends anything beyond the application, it is separated and shredded.

The applications are either dropped off or sent electronically, and when received are assigned a number in no particular order. The High School principal’s administrator dates the form and files it. The numbers are marked on slips of paper in preparation for the lottery when they are drawn from a hat by the high school principal. The school choice lottery is held in the lobby of the high school during the school day fully visible to anyone who wishes. Parents of accepted students are notified and invited to attend an information session and have the option to shadow for the day before making a final decision.

So what don’t we do:

• We do not make phone calls to recruit “desirable” students and we don’t have access to differentiating information in the first place.

• We don’t need to solicit applications because we always have plenty - this year we accepted 40 students but had over 100 applications. 

• We have no urgent need to boost our test scores; we are ranked ninth in the state and are not recruiting students to change our averages.

It is my hope that the above provides the necessary facts around our school choice process. If anyone needs further information regarding this topic please contact John Hughes, principal at at hughesj@hwschools.net.

Alexa McCloughan

Chairwoman of the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Commitee

Mary May 05, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Alexa, Although the EIE letter has some inaccurate info as you noted, you also have just made a misleading error in your own comments. I would guess that your comment "We have no urgent need to boost our test scores; we are ranked ninth in the state and are not recruiting students to change our averages." is based on the Boston Magazine information. However, the test scores published in that report position HW at 16th for MCAS English/Math and 19th for SATs. The 9th position ranking we received is weighted upward mostly because of our spend per student and student teacher ratio. Note that schools like Acton-Boxborough, Winchester, and Belmont who all outscored HW, have more AP classes, etc., but spend less, end up being ranked lower? How does that saying go? ....."those who live in glass houses......."
Michelle Bailey May 05, 2012 at 03:43 AM
I guess when it's free, you get what you pay for...
Jay Burnham May 05, 2012 at 10:24 AM
NOTICE to readers: The letter to the Editor headline states: "School does not recruit school choice students". .......Present tense. The article in the Hamilton-Wenham FREE PRESS, titled "The Abuse of School Choice", referred to a specific incident that took place that the author states she knows about firsthand.. ....Past tense. For anyone that has not read the article in the FREE PRESS, I urge you to do so and decide for yourself which story is true (both can be, by the way). Perhaps the cartoon on Page 8 will help you decide.
john May 05, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Why do we have school choice in the first place? I guess I should have just moved to Beverly and had my kids go to HW.
Jay Burnham May 05, 2012 at 12:16 PM
CORRECTION: Ms. McCloughan states in her opening remarks in her letter-to-the-editor that the article in question in the Hamilton-Wenham FREE PRESS ("The Abuse of School Choice") is not, in her words, about "the controversy that surrounds choice and the appetite from our community for more study of choice’s impact on our high school costs, scheduling and class sizes." Actually, if you read the article you will see that she is sadly mistaken... more than half the article is precisely about the controversy surrounding school choice.
Lisa Gaquin May 05, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Did this recruitment take place before the current school choice law went into effect? I find the story I read hard to believe. What's the other story you refer to?
Bill Bowler May 05, 2012 at 03:08 PM
The fact that some people refuse to believe the earth is round does not make it a controversy. The school committee determines on an annual basis based on enrollment projections whether there is excess capacity - empy seats on the plane if you will. It is better to fill those seats at SOME price than not fill them at all as the overall cost of the operation will be the same. If as some urge, class sizes are increased, excess capacity will increase, and there is the likelihood of more choice students. If you are opposed to choice, be careful what you wish for.
Paul J May 06, 2012 at 04:20 AM
The real question is, "Why participate in School Choice?" when the taxpayer of Hamilton and Wenham are subsidizing these students. The sending school district only pays a small portion of the cost to educate these school choice students and town residents pick up the remaining tab via our taxes. Stop the program and reduce our school costs.
Paul J May 06, 2012 at 04:25 AM
I sure would not want you running my business. The cost would not be the same as there would over time be a teacher cost reduction along with supplies and administrative cost. All of what you say are scare tactics that our kids will suffer.
Johnny B May 06, 2012 at 12:37 PM
The article on school choice is based upon the cherry picking of one example (I think-like to have more information on that one example), and the sad irony is schools like PIngree recruit constantly. To infer that part of the problem with school choice is the recruitment by Hamilton Wenham is misleading and not true. Based upon that one example, this article should not have been written. Come on!
Jim Smith May 06, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Fast forward to 2012 and America continues to lag behind the rest of the world despite spending significantly more per student than any other country. Why does America continue to fall further and further behind the rest of the world? There is a litany of reasons, which I won’t go into now, but suffice it to say that America needs to seriously evaluate the entire education system. Of course the liberals will never admit that we need to make wholesale changes to the system, because they have been in the driver’s seat for the last century, and to admit we need to change things would be an admission of failure on their part and they will never do that.
Jay Burnham May 07, 2012 at 10:09 AM
Like inappropriate "free" comments posted on online news sites?
Anne Sweeney May 12, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Voting, NO, send a message to those who choose to dominate local governance. Maybe then they will go back and re-do, and do their due-diligence by and for the tax payers whom at some point if not already default on their home and family budgets. Where do they go ? There is no deficit spending for the home owner, just stark reality. By saying, NO, keeps budgets in line and keeps the town in line with all of us little people. Why is it unfair in asking the town to follow the same rules and same guidelines we as home owners have to face while doing our own home budgets ? The injustice is when the towns people are marginalized and disenfranchised from the Clicks that run small towns. I believe Alexander Hamilton would approve of Referendum Government as what true democracy is about. Since we are a republic, would you like to leave Hamiltons decisions up to the Courts as republics do ?

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