By Kim Becker
Due to a huge increase in special education costs, the Board of Education has struggled this school year to meet a serious budget shortfall. Over the past few months the Board has slowly managed to reduce the budget deficit with expenditure freezes in services and supplies. Business Manager Harry Traver reported that a final reconciliation of special education forecasts to actual end of the year purchase orders showed a $92,000 reduction in outplacement costs. The forecasts anticipated a higher level of services than what the children used throughout the year. This leaves the board $191,000 over the budgeted special education costs.
The regular education budget freezes, with the revised special education costs, means that the board will not need to request an additional appropriation from the town. In fact, monies were available to fund other necessary expenses, such as an architect to support declining enrollment planning, tree removal, computer software to comply with new tax regulations, and financial advice on employee benefits.
The general education fund balance projection is now $194,000, which means the board has a $3,000 cushion.
Parents Call for Action
Concerned parents spoke to the board about the lack of resources for advanced learners in the district. While they emphasized that expensive programs aren’t needed at the elementary and middle schools, they asked that a comprehensive plan and classroom resources be developed to challenge learners who master the material early. Teachers, they argued, have the creativity and innovation to spearhead that process. They urged the board to consider the issue at the summer retreat, noting that advanced students may have behavioral or motivational problems due to boredom and may leave the district for magnet, private, or home schools. In response to these concerns, Jenny Emery and Mark Fiorentino asked Alan Addley, superintendent, to put the issue on the agenda and come up with statistics about how many advanced students have left the district.
Year End Reports
The board also heard two reports about the current status of the superintendent’s goals and the district’s curricula. Highlights of the superintendent’s goals, which are linked to the board’s goals, include:
New school improvement plans and capstone assessments
New writing standards to show student growth in writing
Successful transition to Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
Successful initiatives in one-to-one computing, world languages, and summer school, etc.
Dr. Patricia Law, director of curriculum and professional development, also reviewed successes, as well as items to be improved in the coming year:
Alignment to the CCSS in math for K-8 and in ELA for K-10
Grades K-8 science units updated, though new standards expected later this year
World language implementation complete grades K-12
K-12 art and music programs will be updated
Grades 9-12 math curricula need to be aligned to CCSS
Social studies has new standards, so current units need to be revised
School Lunch Program
The Board also re-adopted the Healthy Food certification for the 2015-16 school year as well as accepted Sodexo’s bid to continue to provide food service to the district.
The Board of Education will have its summer retreat on August 26 to discuss its goals for the upcoming year.