DRACUT -- If MCAS-score terminology was applied to the 14 pickup trucks, vans, trailers and a 1969 Ford tractor currently in use by Dracut Public Schools, the maintenance department's fleet would be given "warning" status and categorized as "deficient, needing to be replaced," School Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Andy Graham told the School Committee.
Yet there is no money available in the school district's budget to replace any of the vehicles, said Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone after Graham's presentation.
Monday night's meeting, which included an upbeat presentation by four principals on the district's most recent third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade MCAS results, and Graham's downbeat inventory on the maintenance department's fleet, began on an especially somber note with a moment of silence for three members of Dracut Public Schools' family.
Chairman Michael McNamara directed the meeting audience's thoughts and prayers to 10-year Greenmont Elementary School third-grade teacher Christine Burzalow, 54, who died Jan. 20, not long after being diagnosed with cancer, he said.
Also, two members of Dracut High's Class of 2012 died within five days of each other recently: F.A. Johnson Tien Pham, who died of injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash in San Diego on Christmas Day; and Nathan Nissa, 19, who died Dec. 30 in Saratoga, N.Y. Both Pham and Nissa were in the Navy.
Stone credited Police Chief Kevin Richardson with arranging for grief counselors to attend to Burzalow's students at the Greenmont school last week.
In the meeting's lengthiest segment, principals Nicholas Botelho of the Greenmont Elementary School, Dawn Smith of Brookside, Deborah Koniowka of Campbell School and Englesby Intermediate School Principal Maria McGuinness presented the board with an in-depth, charted analysis of their third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students' MCAS scores in English and math.
The principals described only slight variations in the math and English scores among the four schools, generally trending toward marked improvements in their "proficient and needs improvement" MCAS categories overall.
Graham, who was asked to provide an update on the maintenance department, listed Chevy and GMC pickup trucks with 240,000 and 260,000 miles on them, respectively.
Comments on those and other vehicles in Graham's report included descriptions of: "Body rotting away... inspection questionable... needs repairs... discarded by Highway Department... works intermittently..." And beside the listing of a 44-year-old Ford tractor, Graham noted, "cannot purchase parts."
"If you can't buy parts for the 1969 tractor, where do you put it?" School Committee member Betsy Murphy asked Graham.
"We still use it on the fields. We do," Graham responded. "We keep the vehicles all running. We utilize everything we have. Find a way to make it work."
In an effort to solve the problem, Stone said conversations have been ongoing with interim Town Manager Ann Vandal on the School Department potentially contributing its share to a replacement-vehicle fund with the town's police, fire and highway departments in the years ahead.
"We would have to pay every year into the pool... (But) we simply don't have the funds presently to put into the kitty," said Stone.
McNamara said he'd like to pursue the idea of pooling funds with the town departments, and that he planned to discuss it at the board's next tri-board session with the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee.
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