Budget business is finally over, ending with the School Committee’s approval of the $5,672,343 fiscal year 2015 budget, up $121,000 from last year. The school budget, which is up a mere 1.53% from FY14, is now in the hands of voters at Town Meeting.
To balance the budget, Rochester Memorial School will see one less fourth grade teacher and one less reading teacher next year, along with a reduction in social worker services, dropping from a 1fte (full-time equivalent) to a .8fte. Also reflected in the budget is a drop in paraprofessional staffing due to a change in students’ needs, according to Superintendent Doug White.
“We value the contribution of everyone who is affected by this budget,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Elise Frangos.
“It’s a not-pleasant part of this job,” said Chairman Michelle Cusolito, “to know so many people face an impact because of this budget.”
Also during the meeting, the committee recognized the achievement of two groups of students who last month made it to the state level of the Destination Imagination competition held in Worcester after winning at the regional competition in South Yarmouth.
“They made us proud. They represented our school really well,” said Cusolito. She acknowledged School Committee Member Tina Rood’s role in the DI program at RMS saying, without Rood, the DI program would not be possible.
“Well, it’s a team effort,” said Rood. “It’s a real team effort.”
It was Cusolito’s last meeting as a School Committee Member, and the rest of the committee honored Cusolito with two book donations to the Rochester Memorial School Library in her name.
School Committee Member Sharon Hartley shed a few tears after dedicating the two books in Cusolito’s name, and thanked her for her three years of “very serious dedication.”
“It’s some of the extra noise that I just don’t have space for in my life,” said Cusolito. Earlier she spoke, “If this were all I had to do, then I would still be doing this job.”
Before adjourning, the committee approved this year’s READS Collaborative agreement, and approved the three-year bus transportation bid, but not without commenting on certain committee members’ issues with some of the bus routes.
Cusolito questioned why her children, who are the first students picked up, are the last to be dropped off at the end of the day. She questioned why the route was reversed, stating that her kids spend over 40 minutes a day sitting on a bus. “What is the logic?” she asked.
Hartley said they need to take a good look at some of the bus stops throughout town. She said she has witnessed busses stopping “every ten feet” for kids, adding that it is a waste of time and resources. She mentioned Snipatuit Pond Estates and Old Orchard Estates, specifically.
White stated that safety always comes first, but he will address the committee’s valid concerns.
There was a short discussion on creating a few school choice slots at RMS, but no action was taken.
The committee accepted a $3,000 donation from the Tri-Town League of Women Voters for a sixth-grade water stewardship program to begin next year. Students will listen to guest speakers and study water consumption, pollution, and collect data to learn more about the subject.
The paraprofessional contract was approved after the committee discussed a change in language within the contract and compensation in an executive session held before the open meeting.
The next Rochester School Committee meeting is scheduled for May 1 at 6:30 pm at Town Hall.
By Jean Perry