Mass Innovations, From The Beacon, December 2018

Norwood High School students got a first-hand lesson in budgeting when the town raised $990 from public officials and gave it to the students to spend as part of its annual student government exercise.

High school students “run” for town offices and department head positions each year as part of the exercise, and spend a morning learning about how their department works before heading into a mock town meeting to debate a warrant.

In past years, students debated a warrant with articles such as legalization of marijuana, more funding for schools, or an open campus at the high school.

This year, however, the town wanted to give the students actual funds to debate, with the goal of recreating the decision-making that happens on the floor of Town Meeting.

According to Norwood General Manager Tony Mazzucco, the students thoughtfully and passionately debated where and how to spend the money allocated to them.

“What was fascinating about the process was how realistic the student debate was,” Mazzucco wrote, pointing to a debate over girls shower curtains at the middle school, a motion made to move funding from the high school library to the public library, and a request made on the floor for basketballs for the recreation center. “We even had one student who kept voting no to most appropriations because she felt they had no impact or benefit to her. It was just as good as any town meeting debate.”

The students decided to allocate the money as follows:
• $150 to purchase foreign language children’s books for the public library
• $150 to purchase dog beds and toys for the shelter
• $200 to the Board of Health/Impact Norwood for drug prevention programming
• $50 to the Model UN Club
• $120 to provide reduced cost lunches at the senior center for a few days
• $50 in Dunkin Donuts gift cards to be given to the homeless in honor of John Carroll, the 39-year town manager who retired in December of last year
• $150 in a donation to the Gift of Warmth fund, in honor of John Carroll

Town officials including department heads, the general manager, selectmen, the finance commission, and school committee members all participate in the program.

The town spends $1,500 annually for lunch and breakfast for the students, which comes out of the general government budget, on top of the $990 raised in donations from town employees and board members for students to allocate. Next year, the town aims to raise even more funds for the students to debate with and spend.

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