For many years, the town of Shirley has failed to do long-range planning, to work with neighboring towns, save money, or raise taxes to a level that would support its growth in population and services. Now the town has a nearly $2 million deficit, and has lost its police chief, DPW director, several firefighters, town assistants and much of its school system.
Finally, our Board of Selectmen is following the lead of the school district and is beginning to work with other towns to look into regionalizing what is left of our public services — fire, police, DPW and communications.
But that will not be enough. The citizens of Shirley need to dig their heads out of the sand and look at the state of their town. Now that the town has cut the schools down to its barest bones, they must support the regionalization of our school district so that we can save money and save our children’s future. Renovating the elementary school would be a very costly proposition. By regionalizing with neighboring towns, not only do we gain a high school, but we also will be in a pool with other towns so that we can share resources and provide a better education for our children.
No longer would our middle school students have two hours of so-called Enrichment and Tech Ed classes that are underfunded and malnourished. No longer would they go without a full year of science and social studies. No longer would they have no foreign language studies. And no longer could our town leaders hack and hack away at our children’s education in an effort to cover the fact that they have no strategic plan for the town. No longer would our elementary kids have substandard playground equipment and a building so decrepit that sheet rock crumbles overhead and frayed wires spark. No longer would our high-quality school teachers and staff continue to be asked to do more and more with less and less.
Shirley has shown that it cannot be a good steward of its assets. But Shirley can change. Shirley can reinvent itself in a way that preserves what we most treasure about our town, but also come out of the dark ages. But it will not happen without effort and money. Consciousness and taxes must be raised.
We need to get the Town of Shirley back on the right track.