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In The Arena

In the Arena: Further study required

The “dog days” of summer are underway for the Greenfield Town Council.

The “closer to your grandfather’s” council is going to be busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger over the next couple of months as it tackles a huge number of issues, including ordinances on parking and a ban on plastic bags and bottles, and tax break agreements for Argotech and New England Natural Bakers, among others.

But one item not on the list is a proposed noise control ordinance that was sent back to committee after being vetoed by the mayor.

Appointments and Ordinances Committee Chairman Alfie Siano says that part of the study will include discussions with the police and other town departments responsible for enforcing said ordinance, that, truth be told, is probably where the process should have started. Siano believes that there is a “consensus” in town that a noise ordinance is necessary. This may be true on the council, but not necessarily with the residents — at least not the ones I’ve been hearing from.

A lot of people may have turned out at the public hearings to speak in favor of this ordinance, but a lot of others clearly view it as governmental overreach to fix a problem that just isn’t all that serious.

I only wish those people would be willing to say that publicly. Maybe they will in the spring, when this proposal is expected to come up for serious discussion again.

A troubled road

I think it may be time for the commonwealth to take a serious look at changing its bidding laws.

Current law requires acceptance of low bidders for public works projects, something that has created an interesting situation in Montague, where selectmen were recently forced to approve a change order in a Millers Falls road construction project to correct uneven resurfacing work done by the Baltazar Construction Co. The town ended up hiring Warner Brothers Construction to come in and redo the road at an additional cost of more than $35,000, and it remains to be seen whether the town will end up having to go to court to recoup that lost money.

On Monday, selectmen were informed of another project, this one to redo a section of Greenfield Road. This job is being funded by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the low bidder was — you guessed it — was Baltazar Construction, a decision which Town Planner Walter Ramsey says is out of the town’s hands.

“There’s not much we can do about it,” Ramsey said. “We can file comments with the DOT expressing our concerns, based on what happened on Millers Falls Road, but that’s about it.”

So Montague may be faced with the possibility of having to go to court with a contractor at the same time that contractor is helping build a key road in their community, one that the town will eventually be responsible for maintaining.

Are you listening Steve Kulik?

Going with a new standard?

To PARCC or not to PARCC?

That’s the question facing the Greenfield School Committee, which must decide whether to stay with the MCAS exam or switch to the new “Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers” standardized test, one that may end up being the state’s choice as the high stakes test of the future.

“The state will adopt some kind of new testing not next year but the following year, and whether or not it is PARCC, it will have accountability consequences,” Greenfield Superintendent Jordana Harper said. “(PARCC) is a more rigorous test, and we can expect that students will have some adjustment period.”

This apparently is not a burning issue with Greenfield residents, considering that only six people turned out to speak at the recent public hearing, five of whom were teachers. Harper says the School Committee needs to decide by October whether to switch to the new test this year, thus allowing the district’s students a year to get used to the new format before the imposition of said “consequences.” If the committee takes no action, MCAS remains in place.

Aside from the meager turnout, the most disturbing part of the discussion was Harper’s explanation for the commonwealth’s motivation for the PARCC switch.

“A lot of students were graduating high school and going on to college and career and finding that they lacked the requisite skills to be successful,” Harper said. “They had to take remedial courses at college because they did not qualify for college credit, and simply didn’t have the higher order thinking skills and opportunty to really excel once they left the K-12 environment.”

If that’s true, it seems to me our education system has much larger problems than which high-stakes test to administer.

Chris Collins is news director/managing editor of WHAI FM and Bear Country 95.3. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder and a Greenfield native.

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