Opinion: On the context of some Old Rochester Regional statistics

May 21, 2024

To the editor:

I received a postcard in the mail today for the Eckert PAC that contained statistics without context. I was the Old Rochester Regional/Tri-Town data coordinator for many years and would like to address some of the data.

The student population is falling because of a number of complex issues, from students attending private schools, homeschooling and population declines. Old Rochester Regional is not alone in seeing a decline.

The price of buying a home in the Old Rochester Regional district has increased substantially, as it has everywhere, and families with school-aged children may find Tri-Town homes out of reach. The median income in Rochester is now $114,604 with a median home price of $686,000 with no real services besides trash pickup. One can live in a lot of places in the US for a lot less with more services. 

The Old Rochester Regional district and the sending towns commissioned a study of projected school population. It might behoove people to read the study and then speak.

MCAS scores have struggled to regain prior levels, everywhere, as a result of COVID-19. It is projected that students, without significant time and tailored intervention, will always have a learning loss. MCAS scores are designed to look at the individual child and cohort and curriculum and were never intended to judge from year to year in the aggregate. By cohort you may draw some correlations, but not causation, and you cannot use them to show success or failure year to year. The test is different year to year. The students are different year to year. Please note that the scores have been on an upward trend since schools reopened.

Stabilization funds protect schools from surprises. A student with significant needs who requires complex services can cost upwards of $350,000 a year. Like it or not, children are guaranteed a free and appropriate education. There could be a need for catastrophic building repairs, etc. Stabilization funds protect the school budget from unforeseen disaster. These funds cannot just be spent by the principal or staff without approval.

I hope and pray the Eckert PAC does not represent the viewpoint of the majority of the town. Fear mongering and censorship have no place in our schools. 

Marcia Kessler