The Marion School Committee on Wednesday approved funding a tuition-free Full Day Kindergarten program for the 2013-2014 school year, despite the Finance Committee’s recommendation to hold back.
With Vice Chair Christine Winters and member Jay Pateakos dissenting, the School Committee voted 3-2 in favor of the measure.
“I’ve received e-mails from a significant number of families who are really onboard with this, really supportive,” member Michelle Ouellette said. “Their reasons are financial, academic, and social.”
Superintendent Doug White told the Committee that the district would have a roughly $5,000 shortfall, “worst-case scenario,” in the case of state grants not coming through as promised for Full Day K.
Winters expressed concerns about a lack of “modeling” the program for future kindergarten cohorts. The current cohort is small – 33 families – and Winters said that the Finance Committee had not gotten the opportunity to project the program’s financial implications in the long term. She asked that the Committee consider 2013-14 as a “transition year.”
Pateakos agreed. “The Finance Committee recommended waiting until they can see the numbers.”
But the majority, including new member Christine Marcolini, responded swiftly.
Citing Mattapoisett’s recent passage of Full Day K, Ouellette said that Marion must act to “keep our students on level ground with the rest of the Tri-Town.” She also lamented the “serious disadvantage” that half-day kindergarteners face.
“This is for the good of the students and the good of the community,” member Joe Scott said. “We will have plenty of time to do our due diligence in the future if things look different.”
A Marion resident and parent of an incoming kindergartener agreed.
“A worst-case $5,000 shortfall for a potentially great program doesn’t seem like a very difficult decision to me,” the parent said. “It makes a ton of sense to do it now.”
On top of the Full-Day K decision, the Committee’s last meeting before the summer break featured an extensive agenda. Included among numerous items was the approval of a new in-ground basketball hoop and two soccer nets for Sippican School; a 2% increase in the YMCA’s lease; and the School Committee’s meeting dates for 2013-14.
Meanwhile, the Committee heard from Sippican Principal Lyn Rivet, who reported 97% overall attendance for 2012-13 and Director of Food Services Caitlin Meagher, who reported a 41% participation rate that she said the district will focus on increasing.
In addition, the Committee recognized the service of Dr. John Conway, who submitted his resignation as physician for Old Rochester Regional High School and Junior High School, and Lisa Horan and Mary Jane Menezes for the 2012-13 Marion Teachers Association Merit Award.
After most new business had been navigated, the Committee reorganized, with Scott ascending to chair, and Jay Pateakos taking over as Vice Chair.
By Shawn Badgley