Letter: Town Meeting school budget thoughts

May 11, 2023

I was one of 728 people who attended Town Meeting that day, and – like the vast majority of the attendees – was at the meeting for the express purpose of voting on Article 17, which focused on the Concord Public Schools Budget for fiscal year 2024.
I voted in support of the Superintendent/School Committee budget and against the Finance Committee /Select Board budget. I estimate that 90 percent (maybe 95%) of attendees voted like me, which meant that only 10% (maybe 5%) voted in support of the FinCom/Select Board.The vote was not remotely close. Along these lines, before we voted, I estimate that 15 attendees spoke, and all 15 spoke in support of the Superintendent / School Committee. Two other details of note:

  1. The meeting started at 1 p.m. but the vote on Article 17 did not occur until around 4:15 pm, as there were 16 other articles that preceded it.  So we all waited for 3+ hours to vote.
  2. The town recently debated the importance of public education in Concord.  I am referring to the recent vote – in Town Meeting and at the ballot – for an increase in the budget for the construction of the new middle school.  This vote was not close – residents voted overwhelmingly in support of funding the construction of the new middle school.

I grew up in Concord and have lived here as an adult since 2016 (my wife and I are raising our two young children here), I am new to town government. I am unhappy with what I witnessed April 30.
Concord’s elected officials decided that 728 residents should spend over three hours on a Sunday afternoon in the Concord-Carlisle High School gym to support their recommendation to effectively the school budget. And – to nobody’s surprise but perhaps their own – the community overwhelmingly rejected their recommendation and voted in support of the Superintendent/School Committee.

My hope is that the FinCom/Select Board has gotten the message that the Town cares deeply about our schools and does NOT support the idea of singling out education as a budget item that we should cut. Having said this, I (along with most other residents whom I know) are happy to engage in a broader conversation about the future financial health of the town, as it sounds like there are some legitimate concerns that we should discuss.

James Cohane

Central Street