New School Committee chair adjusts negotiating team


Westborough – The School Committee realigned its contract negotiating team in the wake of Bruce Tretter's decision to resign as chair and return to his former status as a regular voting member of the committee.

As a result of Tretter's action, which came May 14, a week after he was unanimously elected School Committee chair, Craig Harris, who was elected chair at the May 14 meeting, adjusted the team.

Tretter is no longer a member of the negotiating team, having been replaced by Stephen Doret. Added to the team was Karen Henderson. Already a member of the negotiating team, Harris confirmed he will continue in that role.

"Steve has a distinguished track record that includes three decades of service to the town of Westborough," Harris said. "He has been a selectman and has served on the Finance Committee. In addition, he was also an integral part of the building committees that involved the building of the Mill Pond School and the High School renovation project.

"In addition, Steve is a big believer in education and his wife is a teacher. But, Steve's real-life job requires some travel, so when he can't be with us, Karen will serve as his alternate."

The negotiating team has been meeting with the Westborough Teachers Association (WTA) for 15 months about a new contract. The teachers are currently working on a one-year extension of the contract that expired in June 2007.

The WTA rejected a threeyear contract off er from the School Committee in October 2007, and since then negotiations have become increasingly strained. Recently, the School Committee declared them at an impasse and requested a fact-finding report be conducted by a state mediator.

"The School Committee is

" hopeful that the fact-finding process or any possible future bargaining sessions will allow us to meet the September deadline date for the October Town Meeting," Harris said.

In other news, the School Committee, at the recommendation of Superintendent Anne Towle, unanimously approved that the Westborough School District continue to accept school choice students "on a limited basis."

Towle explained after the meeting that "on a limited basis" meant no more than 12 students a year. Currently Westborough has 12 schoolchoice students in its schools. The school district from which the school-choice students come from are required to pay Westborough $5,000 per child to educate the student.

"The way we look at it, keeping it a 12 is a very manageable number and it allow us to, essentially, fund the salary of one teacher," Towle explained.

Towle also announced at the May 21 meeting that interest in Mandarin as a foreign language has not been as great as the administration expected. Only 11 students signed up for the subject at Gibbons Middle School and while more than 30 students at the high school showed interest, only 22 signed up.

The superintendent said the district plans to off er one section of Mandarin at the High School in the next academic year and continue to monitor the interest in the subject at the middle school level.