The Rochester School Committee met on March 23 with a focus on the local school budget.
Superintendent Doug White presented the $6,076,537 FY18 budget, which is a 2.34% or $138,735 increase over FY17. The increases comprise: $115,081 (6.55%) for special education; $21,793 (0.75%) in professional staffing, $7,251 (2.58%) in regular day transportation; and an unspecified ‘other’ category for $7,281, a new line item. Also noted in the details was a negative $12,671 savings in maintenance and utilities.
White said, “Special education is $1,871,771 and regular day $4,204,766.” In 2016, White’s data showed that the school system served 84 students in special education.
Director of Student Services Michael Nelson explained that towns must pay the first $50,000 in special education costs for a student, and then the district is subsequently reimbursed up to 75% for costs in excess of that amount.
White also said the budget reflects a request to fund a .3 part-time health instructor to achieve health directives identified through the Healthy Tri-town Coalition.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Elise Frangos discussed the importance of early health intervention. “Challenges in student choices start in the elementary grades … choices in friendships, nutrition and how the body works…” she explained. Frangos said it’s too late to start helping students make good choices in the absence of a program at the elementary level. “We found it’s too late by the time they reach junior high.” With the health educator in the elementary grades, she said, “Kids are going to enter the junior high knowing how to make better choices.”
The budget was unanimously passed.
School Principal Derek Medeiros reported that school enrollment in 2016-17 stood at 471 and that he’s seeing an uptick for the coming year.
Regarding the upcoming MCAS testing, Medeiros said the teachers had completed a run-through with the students using Chromebook technology. He felt confident the students would be ready to navigate the testing platform.
School Committee Chairman Tina Rood congratulated the Destination Imagination teams for their fine performances and said that, of the 14 teams in the district, eight were moving on to the state level competitions.
Frangos said that meetings are planned in the coming weeks to introduce parents to the new report card system that begins in the fall. Meetings are scheduled to take place at Sippican School on March 29 at 6:30 pm and at Rochester Memorial School on April 26 at 6:30 pm. Parents may elect to attend any meetings in the district.
The next meeting of the Rochester School Committee is scheduled for April 5 at 4:15 pm at Rochester Memorial School in the main office conference room.
By Marilou Newell