Special Ed Slashed, No New Teacher

Superintendent Doug White has significantly whittled down Mattapoisett’s school draft budget, paring off a huge chunk from special education spending, which is now $43,000 less than fiscal year 2014, as opposed to the $236,000 SpEd budget increase requested just two weeks ago. The overall FY15 budget requested is now at $6,201,946, down from $6,625,733 – a difference of $423,787.

Also scrapped from the first draft budget was an additional teacher for Center School, which Mattapoisett School Committee Chairman Jim Higgins was pushing for in anticipation of a large second grade class size. Hiring another teacher is not a lost cause, though, and once springtime comes and committee members have a firmer grasp on FY14 expenditures and FY15 projections come more into focus, they will revisit the matter.

“I’ll continue to bang the drum for an extra second grade teacher,” said Higgins. Four first grade classes will be moving into three second grade classes next year, which has been a concern for Higgins since budget talks began.

White also pulled requested funding for new reading and math curricula from the budget after deciding that it would be wiser to put the $49,000 under Capital in an article on the Town Meeting warrant.

White said on January 31 that he conducted a student-to-student analysis and determined that student needs were different than originally estimated; however, in a follow up interview White said he could not go into specifics, fearing he would inadvertently identify individual SpEd students by describing specific services that were analyzed.

Subcommittee members, along with White, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Elise Frangos, and Technology Director Ryan McGee engaged in a lengthy discussion about the viability of purchasing book-based curricula in the future and if eliminating books all together to move toward electronic texts was the way to go instead.

But can the district afford the electronic devices, how would they be phased in, and at what point should they stop spending money on books?

“Today’s not the day,” said School Committee Member Jim Muse. “But we can’t wait too long.”

Finance Committee Director Pat Donahue seemed pleased with the budget, and once the School Committee reviews it during their next meeting on February 10, they will take the proposed FY15 budget before FinCom.

By Jean Perry

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