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Letter: Our responsibility to Diman Vocational

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First order of business… I do not dislike Mayor Coogan or Ken Fiola, but I do believe there is a very serious situation brewing regarding the next several years of city finances. To continue spreading six-figure job appointments and contracts to most favored supporters is getting old. The fact that part of his spending spree is being financed by “free” ARPA dollars, should be inconsequential. There should be a concerted effort to take a serious look at our immediate finances and squaring of our balance sheets prior to any new appointments. Perhaps a hiring/salary freeze might be called for?

I bring this up again, as we are currently being told by his honor that, despite a favorable vote (X2) by the City Council, the group who actually make some effort to represent their constituents, he is insisting that a decision to fund a new Diman be put to the voters in the form of another tax exclusion/override, for the cost of approximately $60K, because he can’t figure out how it should be paid for.

Let’s keep in mind that it was His Honor who, as a FRPS/Durfee teacher, turned administrator, turned school committeeman, who was at least partially responsible for the rapid degradation of Durfee II through lack of proper oversight and maintenance. He then stood behind the process and JCII, to turn the borderline legitimate override/tax exclusion vote into reality. We have an opportunity to change that without another override vote if we put our priorities in perspective.

Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School and its current building opened its doors in September of 1968. Built to accommodate about 800 students, it boasted the latest in equipment for the Voc-tech training it had provided for thousands of students over its forty-two (at the time) year history. Today, some fifty-three years later, it accommodates about 1400 students. Despite bursting at the seams, the incredible staff, from the instructors and administrators to some of the most dedicated and knowledgeable maintenance staff in existence, manage to keep things going. They have converted every conceivable space, including closet/storage spaces, into (almost) useable teaching spaces. They have added some new brick & mortar to the footprint, now utilized as administration offices, but are basically utilizing the same academic and shop spaces.

In a process that started in 2016, there have been several dozens of laser-focused and committed volunteers working to plan a new school building. This group includes many alumni, instructors, both current and retired, students, along with various sub-committees and local business owners. This dedicated group have invested thousands of hours in the discussion, planning, design and ultimately, presentation of a replacement campus to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, (MSBA). This is a process that must take place so as to obtain the approval of their proposal with the MSBA, who have agreed to provide up to 76% of the funding. Though a time sensitive and very demanding process, the building committee has satisfied all needed requirements, met every deadline, and based on approval of the four regional feeding school districts, have been invited to the final planning phase, the actual financing. This is the who and how this tremendous opportunity will be paid for and turned into a reality. There has been far too much work completed to reach this plateau for this administration to short-circuit this selfless and tremendous effort by so many dedicated individuals.

In closing, I will point out that if you’ve ever had your car repaired, your house remodeled, visited your doctor, had your computer updated, had a five star meal prepared or in general, lived in the greater Fall River area, you’ve been helped by a Diman graduate.

Mr. Mayor, you claim that the city cannot afford to fund this project, but I and many other others implore you to find a way to get it done because, frankly, you can’t afford to not fund this project.

For those interested, please call your councilors and the mayors office, and convince them to do the right thing by the regional school district and its future!

M.R.Napert
Fall River

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