The Independent’s Feb. 4 article on the proposed Nauset Regional High School reconstruction [“Supt. Claims School Choice Doesn’t Raise Costs,” page A6] contains inaccurate statements by Supt. Thomas Conrad and fails to note the recent vote of the Brewster Finance Committee to “not recommend” the project. The committee found that the school choice program and tuition pupils from Truro and Provincetown added $4.7 million per year to Nauset’s costs. Nauset High accepted 219 choice program students in fiscal 2020 out of a total enrollment of 921.
Supt. Conrad stated that the choice program is a financial benefit to the district. The facts do not support this claim. All of Nauset’s fixed and variable costs were considered in the Brewster Finance Committee study. Nauset’s total costs exceed $20,000 per pupil. Nauset is subsidizing these choice program students.
Why is it that, on average, choice program pupils compose only 1.7 percent of the statewide school population, whereas at Nauset High School they compose 23 percent of the student body? If 5 or 10 choice students were filling a few vacant seats, the $6,000 payment the district receives for each of them might represent a break-even proposition. But 219 choice program pupils? This proposition defies logic.
The regional school committee argues that there is no significant financial difference between building a new high school for 600 to 700 students and building one for 905. This is also false.
Three other highly rated regional school districts — Concord-Carlisle, Dover-Sherborn, and Northborough-Southborough — prove that Nauset can save millions of dollars annually if we reduce our student population by 280. They accept no choice program students and have approximately the same number of pupils that Nauset would have if we phased out the choice program. Their average total annual expenditures are $6 million less than Nauset’s. These schools achieve these savings even though they pay their teachers an average of $10,896 more per year than Nauset. These financial data are from the Mass. Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education website.
We have a lot to learn from these schools, including the fact that they can offer a rich curriculum to their students and do not need to import additional pupils to achieve excellence.
Bigger is not better. Bigger is just more expensive. Voting no on March 30 on the Nauset High School renovation is the only way we are going to be able to correctly size our high school.
Bill Dugan of Wellfleet served as part-time treasurer of the Nauset Regional School District from 2005 to 2018.