HOLDEN, Mass. — After community outcry over Monday night's announcement of the potential reduction of 15 elementary school teachers district-wide, the Wachusett Regional School District School Committee has added a public hearing on the matter to its Thursday night meeting.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the media center of Wachusett Regional High School, and will begin with a 30-minute public hearing.
In an effort to close a district budget gap now looming at $1.5 million dollars, Superintendent Thomas Pandiscio on Monday proposed sweeping cuts that included the reduction of 15 elementary school teachers across all five member towns, with eight to come from Holden schools.
At Thursday night's special meeting, the school committee will decide if it can avoid any of the cuts and prevent teachers from getting pink slips three weeks before the school year begins.
"The decision was made to endorse those cuts very late Monday night," said Holden Selectman Bob Lavigne. "When I heard that over half of them were Holden teachers, I wasn't very happy with it."
Lavigne was especially concerned about the effect the cuts might have on class size.
"I've read the studies about how you don't want 26 or 27 kids in classes, and that's why I fought so hard to try to work with the schools, so we could get the funding to keep class sizes down, and now all of the sudden we're faced with that because of this financial mishap."
Lavigne contacted school committee chair Duncan Leith as well as other members Tuesday to request that a public hearing be put on the agenda for Thursday "so that people who are concerned about this can address the school committee," he said.
While the initial agenda was posted without allowance for a public hearing, an amendment was made to give residents the opportunity to weigh in.
"I don't have any pie-in-the-sky dreams that we're going to restore all eight positions, but there's an inequity there, where eight out of 15 teachers are from Holden, and I don't want to see our kids give up a good education," said Lavigne. "I understand Holden puts in a big chunk of the Wachusett budget, we have a lot of kids in the school system, but it doesn't make it right. I have the job where I'm looking out for the tax dollars of all of our residents, but like I've said all along, I want to work collaboratively with the school committee and see if we can find a resolution to this."