Notes from the 01-08-18 WRSD School Committee Meeting
The Budget Retreat
[Taken by M.A.]
Public comment – Lauren & Jana addressed the meeting on behalf of IAW
- Guidance counselors below high school level are lacking
- Special Ed support – IEPs denied due to funding
- Professional Development
- Supplies – science, music, textbooks, out of pocket teacher expenditures
- 1,500 signatures on petition. Emails, letters, etc. going to legislators
- Class Size – policy is not being met, staff levels are insufficient
- Presentation intended as discussion on priorities for budget development
- Recognition of staff who worked during storms
- Presentation given by several members of administration team – Superintendent McCall, Deputy Superintendent Berlo, Sp.Ed. Director Kim Merrick, Director Carlson, and Director Scanlon
- Enrollment is down by 140 students over the past year (to 7148). More kids are going to vocational schools. District trying to get better data on why 8th graders are choosing options other than WRHS.
- 115 school choice students going out, 116 coming in. School choice in is decreasing year over year. This is losing the district money.
- Most schools in district are decreasing slightly
- Smaller classes in K-1-2 than are graduating high school
Per Pupil Spending
- Resource Allocation and District Action Reports (RADAR) are used to determine effectiveness of funding, towns’ capacity to fund budget, etc.
- Wachusett ranks very low in per-pupil expenditure despite a higher “capacity to fund” (i.e., household income and property value) than other towns (Leominster for example). Lower capacity to fund results in more state aid
- Per pupil expenditure includes trans costs, which are naturally higher in a regional district.
Budget Priorities based on Strategic Plan
- Early literacy program ($200K) – create consistency throughout schools, measurement, PD to go with it (Moving up to G1, K done this year). Also part of Textbook Adoption Plan. Original 2018 plan was for K-2 in a single year, scaled back to 1 grade per year for budget reasons.
- Early Literacy Director ($90K) – dedicated position overseeing just literacy, generate consistency across district.
- Science/eng materials ($40K) – first part of 2-year plan to increase science equipment and teacher training, focused on upper elementary
- ELL teacher ($58K) – currently have 2, need another
- Tech integration specialist $70K
- HS Chromebooks $45K (1:1 for grade 9)
- Staff Chromebooks $20K
- Software and apps $10K (not comprehensive)
- Textbook program adoption ($530K) – this is one year of a textbook/software update spread out over 9 years. $200K of this amount is earmarked for early literacy.
- SPED programs ($270K) – therapeutic support (expand to HS) including vocational, and language based program (3-5, expanded from middle school)
Professional development ($200K) – local and grant funds, not a budget cost
- Staff needs – subject-specific PD needed (for example, for art).
Guidance Counseling – director, and middle/high schools
- Director of guidance and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) ($90K)
- Middle School Counselor ($58K) – there is not a full time counselor at every middle school, and this would not get us all the way there.
- High School Adjustment Counselor ($58K)
Other Budget Priorities – Increased needs for sped
- Out of district programming ($1.2 million)
- Naquag Asst. Principal/Devereaux manager ($86K)
- Therapeutic Program/BRYT program ($150K) – reintegrate after concussion, social/emotional issues
- SPED transpo ($240K) – increased students out of district
- Increased teacher support in schools (no cost) – trading para professionals for additional sped teachers
- Language based classroom ($120K) – class for kids with intellectual disability (like dyslexia)
Other Areas Where Budget is Expected to Increase
- Additional regular trans costs ($190K)
- Heating Fuel ($90K)
- Insurances ($1.1M) (8% increase)
- District anticipates additional staff will be added this year, but precise numbers aren’t known
Anticipated Cost Decreases
- Debt Service costs will go down (-$38K)
- Lower tuition opt-out charges (-$200K) – less students going to charter schools
Other notes of interest:
- WRHS turf replacement will not be part of budget proposal ($500K). Outside groups are not allowed to use the field, but it is at the end of its useful life. This will have to be an additional item from the towns or outside sponsorships.
- Governor’s budget expected January 24th
- Next school committee meeting January 23rd – mostly will be responses to questions posed by members at this meeting.
- Annual budget hearing 2/12/18 – this is where budget books will be presented
- Meet with town officials Early Feb 2018
- School Committee budget approval March 12, 2018
- Chairman Mills requests a detailed job description of any new hires to be able to inform the community on what they are doing
- Not all middle school students have access to a chromebook cart (uneven across middle schools)
- Foreign language curriculum is under discussion (cost?)
- District needs to focus on achieving their policy on class size/ratio
- How much of our enrollment loss is due to population vs students opting out of the district (i.e. to charter or vocational schools) – someone to consult town clerks on population data.
- Suggestion from Student reps to investigate solar energy – can be difficult with municipal lighting departments’ requirements, but will be looked into
- Staff costs listed in presentation do not include benefit costs, but should for clarity
- No reimbursement for administrative costs associated with Devereaux (PILOT payments)
- Nothing in there for late buses
- No line item for librarians
- Nothing for full day Kindergarten