Sippican Prepares for New Leadership

            The Old Rochester Regional School District needs to find a replacement for Sippican Elementary School Principal Marla Brown, who has cited health challenges with her decision to step away, and a new vice principal, as Peter Crisafulli plans to relocate after the school year for family reasons.

            In speaking to the Marion School Committee during its March 14 public meeting, ORR Superintendent of Schools Mike Nelson offered public thanks to both Brown and Crisafulli for their impactful leadership at Sippican and expressed support for them in their future. He indicated that the hiring process for the 2024-25 school year is underway.

            ORR Early Childhood Coordinator Doreen Lopes, who is filling in as acting principal for the rest of the 2023-24 school year, called the experience of day-to-day work with Sippican students and teachers “a gift” and thanked the faculty for its support.

            Committee Chairperson April Nye expressed appreciation for Brown, noting that she had worked inside the building with VASE when Brown was new on the job.

            In the FY25 operating budget public hearing held on March 26, ORR administration presented a level-services operating budget of $7,080,780 for FY25, an increase of $414,587 (6.22%) over FY24 ($6,666,193). The budget was unanimously approved.

            Nelson explained that the drivers in the FY25 budget process included tradition ones such as contractually driven aspects dealing with collective bargaining, but the highest departmental increase is a new bus contract with Amaral that will drive up annual costs by 34% in the first year of the new deal. The FY24 figure of $518,500 rises in FY25 to $719,414, an increase of $200,914.

            Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Howie Barber broke down the budget process for the committee during the March 26 public hearing, identifying approximately $320,000 in budget offsets and then noting how those offsets can be used.

            On March 14 while still engaged in the budget process, Nelson said that while the ORR District is working within “a level-services ideology,” the district continues to advocate for “what Sippican needs” had prohibitive challenges in the process not existed. That would include the addition of full-time special-education and reading teachers and a full-time math interventionist.

            In her March 14 report, Nye recognized the arduous work done by Barber and Nelson during a difficult budget season. Nye also thanked Marion Finance Committee Chairman Shay Assad for recognizing needs at the school. She thanked Town Administrator Geoff Gorman and Finance Director Heather O’Brien for listening well to the school’s needs. Select Board Chairman Toby Burr, in attendance at the meeting, was also recognized for his support.

            The Transportation Contract was approved at the committee’s March 14 meeting, at which Nelson emphasized the rise in busing costs and that contract’s effect on the overall FY25 budgeting process.

            The current, five-year contract with Amaral expires at the end of the 2023-24 school year. It was originally a three-year deal that was extended two additional years on an optional basis. Coming off two extensions at the same cost, Barber characterized the new bid as essentially a three-year increase. At his recommendation, the board voted unanimously to award the new contract to Amaral.

            Barber said the original bidding process was meant to put all four school districts under one contract, but that scenario was not successful. The revised bidding process was based on a town-by-town basis.

            Nelson called the new negotiations “a difficult process.”

            In other business conducted on March 14, the committee voted to accept a $10,000 FY24 Safe and Supportive Schools Continuation Fund (grant) aimed at supporting social, emotional learning curriculum.

            Nelson used his administration’s report for lighter news, saying that Sippican has made progress on $19,000 in funding for a comfort dog for the school. He also discussed the renovation of the gardens outside the music room and the flagpole area near the bus loop, recognizing the efforts of Jody Dickerson at the Marion Department of Public Works.

            Dr. Shari Fedorowicz, ORR’s assistant superintendent of Teaching and Learning, updated the committee on the ongoing literacy program.

            The next meeting of the Marion School Committee is scheduled for Thursday, April 25, at 6:30 pm at Sippican Elementary School.

Marion School Committee

By Mick Colageo

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