By Abram Neal
Tuesday evening the Halifax Board of Selectmen began on a sad note by acknowledging the tragic death of 43-year veteran Halifax Firefighter Bruce Wood in a head-on collision Friday afternoon, and offered their condolences to his family, several of whom also work for the Town of Halifax.
Presentations from the Beautification Committee and a dialogue with State Representative Thomas Calter were also on the night’s agenda.
Representative Calter was invited to explain to the Board why the town was moving forward with a non-binding ballot question asking if voters support continuing with the current Massachusetts Common Core Standards, or wish to go back to the MCAS curriculum framework that existed prior to 2010. John Shiavone stated from the audience that a group within town had formed opposing the Common Core Standards, and wanted to gauge where the rest of the town stood on the subject.
Representative Calter stated that about a year and a half ago he been to a forum, also attended by Selectman Kim Roy, which was clearly opposed to Common Core. He believed that decisions should be based on data, not emotions as at that forum. He left the Board with some data he had prepared for other legislators. Representative Calter stated that he did not want to take a stand on one side or the other.
Calter went on to say that critical thinking was the most important skill lacking in today’s youth. He then repeatedly stated that the Common Core Standards taught critical thinking, despite emphatically taking the position that he wasn’t taking a position.
Rep. Calter also pointed out that under either standard, area community colleges were reporting back that large portions of their budgets were being spent to teach remedial math and English to students who had passed S.A.T. and MCAS testing, seeming to indicate a severe deficit in education today. From a businessman’s standpoint, Representative Calter said that this was frustrating as mid-career employees were now filling jobs once held by entry-level college graduates, and college graduates were now graduating with only a degree, but without the right skill-sets needed to get jobs.
He said that there are plenty of jobs available, yet the employment rate lies artificially high because people are not being trained in the right job skills. He finished with a heart-warming anecdote of a friend’s daughter whom, when unable to decide what to do with her business degree, he counseled to combine her two major interests from high school, sports, and writing, and become a sports writer, which she had never considered. She is now a well-known sports writer, but apparently had never been taught critical thinking skills before her encounter with Representative Calter, he said.
Two forums will be held for the public on the issue of the Common Core ballot question, one on Wednesday April 29 and again on Thursday May 7.
The Beautification Committee presented to the board three proposals for a spring and summer garden outside Town Hall. Selectman Roy, a self-described “former gardener”, seemed most interested, and the major debate revolved around which type of tree to plant in the middle and was it appropriate for the site. Selectmen were solicited for their ideas outside of the meeting. Work will begin in May and the garden is hoped to be ready for a dedication ceremony in June. Selectmen moved to allow the project to continue to go forward with the caveat that they be updated if any major changes are made to the proposal.
Russ Kleekamp, an engineer, updated selectmen on a grant for feasibility studies to put automatic flood controls on a dam on Monponsett Pond. He expects to be able to report back soon on the feasibility, cost and size of the project, but noted that it is a multi-faceted project with many stakeholders, and it might take some time before any work begins, if the grant is awarded.
Finally, a debate on issues regarding parking on a town-owned parcel at 15 Ocean Street was held, and was obviously a difficult subject for the Board. Town Counsel strenuously objects to neighbors or anyone else parking there, due to liability issues for the town. A Mr. Dale Anderson was present, and has an unregistered car on the site. It was a hardship for him to move his car until next week, despite the deadline being April 14 to have vehicles removed, as Selectmen voted last week. All selectmen were visibly torn regarding the issue of balancing Mr. Anderson’s hardship against the town’s liability. Mr. Anderson submitted a written letter to the Board asking for a one-week extension, which in a 2-1 vote, was granted, after a lengthy discussion by the Board. Selectmen Roy voted against, stating her duty was to the liability of the town and that this had been going on since January, and surprisingly during the actual vote vociferously exclaimed “No!.” after the first two “Yea” votes. Mr. Anderson thanked the Board for their time and apologized for putting them in that position.
In other news:
Police Officer Al Hingst was recognized for his work mentoring a young person through a difficult family situation. A letter was written by the person’s mother to the police chief who shared it with selectmen. The Board voted to send a letter of thanks to Hingst and also include a copy for his file.
The grant application to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for replacing the roof at Halifax Elementary was submitted by Superintendent John Tuffy.
Selectmen voted to extend the third year of a 3 year contract for gas and diesel fuel with Dennis K. Burke.
Selectmen will not meet next week.