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Decide on new high school "as if you were paying for the whole thing"

Date: 3/1/2010

I attended a Select Board meeting on Feb. 1 and was fascinated with the posturing taking place regarding the proposal to have a special town meeting for the high school project. It seems that this town has been preoccupied for several years with the question of either renovating our high school or building a brand new one with a number of in-between proposals.

No one has to be reminded of the current bad economic conditions. Let's assume that each individual in this community has a house that needs a new roof, an upgraded furnace and A/C system, the replacement of the original windows and a kitchen and bathroom upgrades. How many of us would decide not to fix these items but decide to tear down the house to its foundation and build a better one? If we were using our own money, you can bet most of us would fix the problems as they occurred. But since we are not using our own money, the "tear most of it down and build a new one option" seems to have captured the imagination of many people in this community regarding the high school project. Whether we have a special meeting or not, I ask each of you to think about the several high school options as if the money being spent is your own, as if the entire high school belonged to you.

It is very interesting that the entire renovation option has a cost slightly higher than the current favorite new building option (the one that will provide greater efficiency and synergism). If you called a contractor to give you an estimate on the revisions to your home that I mentioned above as well as an estimate to tear down your house to the foundation and build a new one and he said that the two would cost about the same, what would you do? You bet you would find another contractor.

In my work experience, we had many tools for making decisions. One was to break down the problem into its elements and then decide if each one was a need or a want. I suspect that many of the items in the high school project are only wants. We should only tackle the needs.

It is also very interesting to note that with the so-called "inefficient pile of bricks" our high school students continue to thrive, continue to excel in their classes and SAT exams, a significant percentage continue to go to top universities and excel there with the education they received in Longmeadow. Everybody likes a new house, a new car, a new high school or a new anything. But let us be reasonable and more importantly be responsible in these tough economic times and fix the necessary things in our high school that have been neglected for many years and that has brought us to the situation we face today. Make your decision as if you were paying for the whole thing.

Leo Vartanian