Remember, everyone, this is a draft. This is only a draft. School Committee Chairperson Michelle Cusolito provided this reminder on February 6 before round two of fiscal year 2015 budget talks, emphasizing that the committee is working on a draft budget and has not yet asked the townspeople for any funds.
“We have worked to make hard decisions and look at the needs of all our students,” said Cusolito. “In the end, we’ll be asking the voters to support our budget … but it is still a draft and it is still a work in progress.”
The second draft of the FY15 budget is a whittled down version of the first, down now to $5,440,000, which is $111,000 less that FY14.
To get there, an “adjustment” was made in the number of Rochester Memorial School staff members, resulting in the elimination of two classroom teachers, two paraprofessionals, and one reading teacher. The reading teacher, however, would be replaced by shifting one teacher from another area to Reading.
A part-time social worker was added, after having been cut completely in FY14, and the requested funding for a new math curriculum was removed to later appear as an article on the Town Meeting warrant.
Although the budget currently reflects a decrease, Superintendent Doug White commented that the budget would eventually wind up reflecting a $92,000 increase from FY14.
“When all is said and done,” said White, “there is an increase in the budget that the Town will need to support.”
Also discussed at the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Elise Frangos described ongoing efforts at exploring new math curricula for grades K-6; two programs have already been considered and two remain to investigate. Frangos said the Math Review Committee is looking for a “really optimal program” that will be phased in along with Mattapoisett’s two elementary schools.
“We’re looking at a unified program choice,” Frangos said, commenting that the committee was already considering “Everyday Math” as a strong contender. Frangos said this curriculum in particular would be a good choice for bringing the curriculum into alignment with new state Common Core standards.
At one point during the meeting, discussion over professional development days became an issue of some contention after the committee discussed the 2014-2015 school calendar in light of the question raised at the last Joint School Committee meeting: Should PD days be lumped together so two early release days could be eliminated?
White is a proponent of moving the two PD days into the week of Thanksgiving, and giving students the entire Thanksgiving week off, but at that January joint meeting, Frangos frankly stated that she did not support that philosophy. She cited “professional development fatigue” as a major reason, along with keeping the two PD days separate to allow teachers to learn new techniques, try them out, and then reassess them at the subsequent session.
The consensus among the committee is to keep PD scheduled as is, but School Committee Member Sharon Hartley candidly shared that she does not accept PD fatigue as a viable reason not to make the change, eliciting a few raised eyebrows and sighs among residents and educators in attendance.
No action will be taken on the 2014-2015 calendar until the Joint School Committee votes on the matter in March.
The committee approved the first annual Vocabulary Day at Rochester Memorial School to take place on Friday, April 4 at 9:45 am. The children will dress as a chosen vocabulary word, and members of the community will judge the best costumes.
The next Rochester School Committee meeting will be at 6:30 pm on March 6 at Town Hall.
By Jean Perry