Whittier Tech Leadership Meets With Municipal Officials About School Building Needs

Tuesday February 27, 2024

Superintendent Maureen Lynch, rear, speaks with mayors and municipal leaders regarding Whittier Tech’s building needs. (Photo Courtesy Whittier Tech)

Whittier Tech Leadership Meets With Municipal Officials About School Building Needs
HAVERHILL — Superintendent Maureen Lynch reports that mayors and municipal leaders from Whittier Tech’s sending communities shared their thoughts and suggestions on Tuesday morning regarding next steps in the Whittier Tech Building Project.
The District sought approval for a new building to address a series of long-standing maintenance issues and to provide a modern technical education for the 1,280 students who attend Whitter.
Voters rejected the project in a districtwide referendum on Jan. 23, leaving Whittier with two options:
Hold a new referendum on the original project. This second vote would be for the original plan without changes or cuts, as required by law, and no later than April 11 to meet the MSBA’s 120-day window. The MSBA has refused to allow an extension or any changes to the project.
Withdraw its Statement of Interest and leave the MSBA process at this time.
Superintendent Lynch and the School Committee had communicated these options to city and town leaders in advance of the vote. The options will be discussed, and next steps are expected to be decided at the next scheduled meeting of the Whittier Tech Regional School Committee on Feb. 13.
Superintendent Lynch requested the meeting at the school on Tuesday to hear more from stakeholders about the referendum and how to move forward with a building plan that best meets the needs of students and their communities.
Attending the meeting were: Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove, Haverhill Mayor Melinda Barrett, Newburyport Mayor Sean Reardon, Ipswich Town Manager Stephen Crane, Salisbury Town Manager Neil Harrington, Groveland Town Administrator Rebecca Oldham, Newbury Town Administrator Tracy Blais, West Newbury Town Administrator Angus Jennings, Merrimac Finance Director Carol McLeod, Whittier Tech Business Manager Kara Kosmes, and Whittier Tech School Committee member Richard Early of Haverhill. Officials from Georgetown and Rowley did not attend.
The municipal leaders expressed strong support for career technical education, but shared a number of challenges in funding large-scale projects:
Whittier Tech’s Regional Agreement, which distributes capital costs based on total numbers of K-12 students per community rather than the number of students who attend Whittier.
The challenges of seeking Proposition 2½ overrides to pay for large projects in the current economic climate.
The low state reimbursement rate for technical school projects; the Whittier Tech project reimbursement was 37 percent, considerably lower than other school projects.
The need to improve communications between Whittier and its School Committee, and the sending communities.
Improved long-term planning with District communities that more clearly outlines Whittier’s capital needs.
Superintendent Lynch outlined several capital projects that require immediate attention, including wastewater, electrical, and HVAC systems.
Whittier will begin to create a strategic plan to address the maintenance issues of the existing school building in a triage order starting with the building’s most serious problems. This process necessitates a thorough evaluation of all systems and careful prioritization of the next steps for replacement and/or rehabilitation, acknowledging the complexity and significance of these decisions.
“Thank you to the community leaders for their openness in sharing their ideas and challenges,” Superintendent Lynch said. “We agree that we have to work together in the best interests of our students today and in the future. It’s imperative that we find a path forward, and today’s meeting was an excellent step toward that.”

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