Just as he has managed to accomplish with all of the schools’ fiscal year 2015 budgets so far, ORR Superintendent Doug White presented a more palatable budget to the ORR School Committee, down from requesting an additional $828,000 in January to $206,000 on February 12.
The price of that decrease, though, will be paid in part with a decrease in staff, and so far one facilities position and at least two Special Education professional and support staff positions are slated for reduction, although White would not go into specifics until the staff was first informed. The budget also calls for reducing a full-time foreign language teacher to part-time.
Of the 27 sections of foreign language, the school would lose three, as the school closely monitors student enrollment in each language course to decide where to start phasing out classes.
The budget now stands at $17,060,000, up 1.22% from FY14.
“This number can be supported in the three towns,” said White. “So that’s where we are now.”
A cut in stipend positions would put an end to “delayed start” mornings, a program Principal Michael Devoll says has been very successful.
“As you go further down the cut list, you start looking at the impact on students,” said Devoll.
In addition to cuts in staff, $325,000 will be taken from the excess and deficiency reserve, which would leave about $200,000 in the reserve.
“That is not a good accounting practice,” said White, and the three towns have asked White if it was possible to reduce that $325,000 by around $100,000. This, said White, would depend on several factors such as state funding and other unknown final costs that cannot be calculated until later in the year.
The joint School Committees will hold a public hearing in March 13 regarding the budget.
In other business, the committee adopted a 4.0 grade point average system, doing away with the school’s 5.2 GPA system in order to simplify matters and make students’ transitions to state colleges and universities go more smoothly.
Devoll admitted that the system was confusing for students, even misleading at times, since a straight-A student taking B-level classes could still wind up with a 3.4 GPA in the 5.2 GPA system.
There was a bit on contention over Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses, which will now receive an extra .5 credits, an incentive for students to take Dual Enrollment courses which did not offer any credits toward the GPA before.
Cathy Smilan spoke on behalf of her son Justin, a student enrolled in Dual Enrollment classes who, at this time, excels in the courses but is not receiving GPA credit. She says this disqualifies him from being class valedictorian and speaking at graduation, something that is very important to him.
Devoll suggested allowing students like Justin to be considered by the Standing Committee on a case-by-case basis. No vote was taken to allow for further discussion of the matter.
The committee voted to require students taking AP courses to complete the national exam in order to receive full credit for the course, a move away from the old policy that allowed students to choose whether they wanted to forego the national AP exam and only take the class final exam for credit.
“We don’t necessarily view this as a problem,” said Devoll, who advocated for not changing the policy. He said it could potentially discourage students from taking the AP courses. “My preference is to maintain the status quo.”
Most schools in Massachusetts, however, require the students to take the AP exam for AP credit, and if they do not, they are dropped down to Honors-level credit.
Several committee members acknowledged that it was not fair that AP students who opted out of the national exam received the same credit as students who took the AP exam.
“This is a standard I think we should uphold,” said Robin Rounseville. “It’s like getting your driver’s license without taking the road test.”
With the policy adopted by the committee, the AP exam grade would not affect the student’s overall grade for the course per se, and students would not have to take the school’s final exam for the AP class.
Also at the meeting, after a lengthy discussion, the committee voted to reinstate the four-year physical education requirement for graduation, which will take effect with the class of 2017.
In other news, now that the committee has approved the request, a tree will be planted near the track area of ORR in memory of Dana Dourdeville.
The public hearing to discuss the ORR budget will be held on March 13 at 6:00 pm in the ORR School Committee Conference Room. Residents are welcome to voice their concerns and give their feedback on budget matters.
By Jean Perry