Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

March 14, 2013

Editorial:


The Andover Townsman

---- — Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski has been asked to consolidate the Plant & Facilities and Public Works departments. Each of these departments has an acting or interim director.

Conventional wisdom would be to replace the two heads with one. It seems from comments at a meeting Monday that the manager’s plan is to make the two directors positions “assistant directors” and hire an approximately $140,000 director who will oversee them, as director of the new Municipal Services Department.

We’d like to hear more about the plan. Hopefully it includes a specific plan to increase accountability, particularly within the town’s water treatment plant. Since the a judge gave a slap on the wrist to a worker charged with working for another firm on town time – essentially making it clear the judge believed that was the culture within the plant – the public has heard or seen little change within the department that would be aimed at improving that culture. Some acknowledgment of a problem and plan to change things is long-awaited.

Barring that kind of focus, we have to agree with Selectman Mary Lyman who argued that when the schools are looking for $2.2 million more, it’s tough to add expensive new management positions elsewhere.

Finance Committee member Joanne Marden, one of the most respected voices when it comes to the town budget, argued, “If I was going to add to these departments, I’d add to the bottom... not a super-management person at the top.”

That’s another reasonable argument. More workers on the ground – workers who put in a good day’s work for a good day’s pay, of course – tend to produce a greater return than another manager.

School year can start earlier

If there’s one more sizable snowstorm this season, Andover won’t have to worry about where to put its snow. But it will have figure out where to put its snow day.

Students must attend 180 days of school. Right now, the elementary and middle schools have used all five snow days built into the school-year calendar. Their students will finish on Friday, June 28, assuming their is not another snow day. They would not be able to go to school on Monday, July 1 if there is, because the teachers contract does not allow it, according to the School Committee.

Andover High missed an additional day of school this year because of a gas leak, so the town must figure out how Andover High will make up that day. The school officials contacted by reporter Dustin Luca were offering no possible solutions prior to Townsman deadline this week, but planned to meet Wednesday night, March 13. One would suppose they would have to at least consider having a few longer days, going to school on Saturdays or sacrificing a planned day off.

But the system didn’t have to be in this situation.

With many experts expecting extreme weather and powerful storms to be more common – and with power outages in the area seemingly on the rise as well – it would be a good idea to build a bit of extra cushion into the calendar. This year the first day of classes wasn’t until Sept. 6. The students could start earlier than that. There’s no reason the school year must start the Thursday after Labor Day.

Parents and teachers everywhere know kids are a lot more focused in September than when the steamy days of late June are pulling them toward the beaches and playgrounds.