Reading Massachusetts Education

Reading School Building Committee, 2002

Russell Graham, Chair (RG) ---- Jeff Struble, Secretary (JS) ---- Timothy R. Twomey (TT) ---- Richard Radville (RR) ---- Warren Cochrane (WC) ---- Dennis Le Croix (DL) ---- Alex McRae (AM) ---- Bill Carroll (BC) ---- Paula Perry (PP) ---- Mike Scarpito (MS) ---- Ray Porter (RP)

Editor's notes 10/02/03:

The Reading School Building Committee dissolved without explanation at an April 2003 Town Meeting, in spite of ongoing elementary school projects and the $54.9 million ($103 million with interest) Reading Memorial High School "renovation" project. Without public oversight by a building or construction committee, construction of the new elementary school has proceeded, although the plans for the new Reading High School have yet to receive state approval.

Upon the dissolution of the Building Committee, school building projects allegedly moved under the oversight of the Reading School Committee and former Superintendent Harutunian. Since July 23, 2003, oversight has supposedly been under the control of a recently hired Superintendent Patrick Schettini (formerly assistant Superintendent from Natick). Under both superintendents, major project decisions, changes in designs and contracts (business that, in other communities, is normally conducted in the open by building committees or construction committees) have been discussed and negotiated behind the scenes, outside of public view.

School Committee Chairman Pete Dahl and Town Counsel have already signed contracts related to the RMHS "renovation" project without prior knowledge of, discussion, review or vote on the contracts by the Reading School Committee. Major decisions have been made but it is unclear who has actually made or authorized these decisions. Certainly, the full Reading School Committee has not reviewed or approved them in public.

Under the Harutunian administration, much of the groundwork -- signing contracts, honoring contracts without signatures or voted authorization, engineering override campaigns, negotiating "deals" with architects and contractors, pressuring and rushing the process while assuring the public about the need and legitimacy of the new buildings -- was laid for Reading's costly new school building projects.

Who is now responsible for "shepherding" Reading's lucrative ongoing construction projects?

Officially confirmed in information released at a 09/30/03 school committee meeting, the projects have been turned over to the Reading School Committee and Superintendent who now face the monumental task of simultaneously running the schools and several ongoing multi-million dollar school construction projects.

Have select members of the Building Committee (with expertise in school construction and, perhaps, an unwillingness to disclose information about their relationships to architects and construction companies) continued to influence the process from behind the scenes? What really compelled the School Building Committee to dissolve at this most critical point in the history of Reading school building projects?

Reading School Building Committee History

The School Building Committee is a Town Meeting created committee (formed in 1988 and revised in 1989) with members appointed by the Town Moderator. As SBC member Ray Porter explains, committee members are "appointed for life and have no term limits." Members terms sometimes extend far beyond the timetable of any one school building project. Committee membership changes occur only when someone resigns.

To date, there are no official rules of operation or organization for the Reading School Building Committee. Official records, minutes were, for many years, kept in the the private home of the Chairman of the Building Committee, in spite of numerous complaints filed with Public Records and the Middlesex District Attorney's Office. Only recently, Town Meeting action mandated that official School Building Committee Records must be kept at Town Hall. Unfortunately, this decision was not retroactive.

In spite of claims that Reading's recent School Building Committee operated as an entirely separate entity from the School Department and the School Committee, documentation (meetings, letters from architects, studies, correspondence, emails, minutes) suggests otherwise. Unfortunately, it is believed that at even the earliest stages of recent architect selection / design / construction projects, members of the Reading School Department and the School Committee played a major role in shaping the decisions of the School Building Committee.

The most recent incarnation of the Building Committee is no more. On numerous occasions, school administration and the RSBC Chair Russell Graham insisted that once a project is voted and approved by Town Meeting, the responsibility of the School Building Committee ends. Indeed, recent school projects have allegedly been moved under the oversight of the School Committee and the Superintendent. The last three Reading school construction projects were an excellent indication of what is happening now and few decisions regarding the upcoming RMHS demolition / construction project have been made in public.

In reality, there is no Town Meeting mandate to turn school construction oversight over to the School Department. The State has no specific requirements defining the composition and duties of Building Committees other than that a School Committee member must be included. Why is this happening?

Many building committees across the state continue to oversee school construction projects from conception to dedication. Some communities form school construction committees to direct the design and construction phase in a public process. This does not happen in Reading and no one (outside of the architects, school administrators or building committee members involved) seems to know why.

Massachusetts Association of School Committees Journal, Winter / Spring 1997, Is There A New School In Your Future? by Pat Smith and Jessica Billings [.pdf, 234 KB]

Massachusetts Association of School Committees Journal, Winter / Spring 1997, Planning a New School Project? Read This Before You Begin by Jim Hardy [.pdf, 173 KB]


Please right-click, "Save Target As" to download the linked files on this page.

The Delphi Technique - information about consenus building and the manipulation of group dynamics, often to achieve a predetermined outcome.

10/02/02, SBC Member Ray Porter questions how FAI Options evolved - "I am deeply concerned about the committee going along with plans that were obviously developed outside of the Committee, outside of the public process and behind someone's closed doors."

SBC Architect Selection Subcommittee Materials [.pdf download, 583 KB]

RSBC Committee Minutes from 04/13/00 to 10/30/02 [.pdf download, 6.82 MB] Minutes from 11/06/02 to 01/08/03 [.pdf, 438 KB]. November 6 - January 8 minutes were not released to the public until they were approved at the Final SBC meeting on April 3, 2003.

RMHS Feasibility Studies - information about the three major RMHS Feasiblity Studies and more.

12/23/02 RSBC - Flansburgh Principal-In-Charge Sid Bowen re: rmhs renovation project: "I'm not the architect, the architect is going to be chosen by School Committee. It's unusual... extraordinarily unusual to be in this position. I've never had it before. There's never been a vote between schematic and design development in my experience." [.mp3 audio, 936 KB]

2000 Affidavit of Sidney R. Bowen III - Design Process Practices re: new elementary school project. " is the standard in the area of school building design in Massachusetts for a master planner or a feasibility designer, who produces a feasibility study satisfactory to a municipality to be eligible to perform the follow-on design work, after an independent review of the feasibility study, in accordance with the procedures set forth in M.G.L. c. 7,..."

2001 Model Designer Selection Procedures for Municipalities - from the office of the Massachusetts Inspector General.

04/02, Porter inquiry regarding a more cost effective school energy audit through Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD)

01/15/03 Central Register Posting, RMHS Designer Services - Scheduled on the SBC timeline to be posted 02/5/03, this posting appeared without voter approval. Note the Project Program (RFQ) is available 1/17/03, yet School Committee neither discussed nor voted on its contents prior to publication.

02/12/03 Central Register indicates contractors / subcontractors and architects who picked up bid information on construction of the new elementary school and / or final design of Reading Memorial High School.

Ch 71 section 78 of the General Laws of Massachusetts: duties of the towns to maintain schools... "whenever a town shall undertake to provide a schoolhouse, the town shall appoint at least one member of the school committee or its desginee, to serve on the agency, board or committee to which the planning and construction of or other acquisition of such schoolhouse is delegated."