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Keeping the Peace

Massachusetts education officials intervened last week to keep the peace after a school district threatened to bar about 150 seniors from graduation ceremonies because of a dispute over their tuition.

The school board of the Silver Lake Regional district, which is paid by the nearby town of Pembroke, Mass., to educate its middle and high school students, had voted to bar the seniors from attending their graduation ceremony at Silver Lake Regional High School after Pembroke officials withheld $500,000 in tuition payments.

The Pembroke leaders refused to send the payment because they questioned calculations used to figure the $10.6 million tuition bill from the 5,000-student Silver Lake district for this year's services. The town is located 28 miles southeast of Boston.

Needless to say, the Pembroke seniors—almost half the high school's graduating class—as well as their parents and Pembroke school officials were furious. They believed they were being used unfairly as leverage in an internal debate between government agencies.

Even Brian Caseau, the Silver Lake board member who first proposed the idea of excluding the seniors, admitted it was a knee-jerk reaction and was only meant to capture the attention of the Pembroke officials, according to TheBoston Globe.

The school board approved the measure after a lengthy night meeting, by a 10-2 vote.

Under the agreement worked out by a state mediator on April 30, Pembroke will eventually pay the money owed, which will be calculated by the Massachusetts Department of Education. The department has also offered to give an advance on the payment to the Silver Lake district, in order to give the cash-strapped Pembroke district more time to pay.

Silver Lake Superintendent Gordon L. Noseworthy said in a press release that the agreement would benefit both parties, and that his district was grateful for the state mediator's help.

The Pembroke district won't have to worry about tuition payment much longer, though. The district, which has 1,800 students in the elementary grades, is constructing new buildings as part of a plan to expand its district to include middle and high school students in the next two years.

The Pembroke board still will have to sign off on the agreement at a meeting this week, but that was not expected to be a problem as of last week.

—Joetta L. Sack

Vol. 22, Issue 34, Page 3

Published in Print: May 7, 2003, as Take Note

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