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LETTER: What Is The Most Important Criteria For Westford’s Success?

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Paul Cully. Letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the views of WestfordCAT or its Board of Directors. To submit your own content, e-mail [email protected]

Dennis Galvin and various Selectmen have stated that what is important for Westford are the quality of town services, the level of taxation, and the town’s bond rating.  While these are certainly important, surely for the overwhelming mass of residents there may be more important criteria. 

For example, when the town negotiated contracts with all unions other than the teachers union, and got them to agree to forgo for a year their promised step raises, with the provision that this would only happen if all other union employees agree to do the same, and then approached the teachers union with the choice of agreeing to forgo step raises or force the town to pay the raises for all employees of all other unions, the teachers were placed in an untenable position.  Many cried “foul play” and there were demonstrations on the town common.  The next school year, seven of the very best teachers in the Westford School system, left the system.  The town has consistently spent less per student than other Mass. towns of income parity, and now the results show.  And rating entities publish a 15 to 1 teacher to student ratio, which if you have children in the Westford school system, you know is utterly bogus.  Wonder where they got that information?  If the truth were known by those rating entities, how much lower would the rating for Westford be?  Selectman Andrea Peraner-Sweet has cited the wonderful Westford school system and that it is still in the “top 20” (just barely), but fails to acknowledge that the school system is no longer in the top 5 or even 10, as it used to be, and that instead of the 10 out of 10 rating the system used to get, it has fallen to a 9.  One rating entity has Westford 36th in the state.  This seems to be of no concern to those in town government who value taxation and bond ratings over school excellence.  It takes decades to build an excellent school system, but just a few short years to tear it down. This is the failure of Westford town government.

A comparison of property values in towns of income parity to Westford, that have schools that are rated higher than Westford, shows that Westford real estate values, while high, do not keep up with comparable towns with more highly rated school systems.  Those who value low property taxes and bond ratings over good schools, which is one of the main reasons Westford has been a highly desirable town in which to live, are actually “penny wise and pound foolish”.  That is the failure of Westford town government, and, as always, residents should ask, “Who benefits?”