|By Chris Maza|
WILBRAHAM While it is still early in the budgeting season, Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD) Superintendent M. Martin O'Shea expressed satisfaction with the initial Chapter 70 aid projections.
The projections, released by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Jan. 23, state that the district is currently in line for $11.3 million in state aid for fiscal year 2014.
"It is early in the process and the budget has to go through several more iterations, but given the governor's recent announcement, it is about what we expected," O'Shea said. "It is an $83,000 increase."
The announcement of which O'Shea spoke was Gov. Deval Patrick's Jan. 15 unveiling of a plan to re-invest in public education, including a $226 million increase in Chapter 70 aid, a raise of $25 per pupil.
"It is certainly encouraging to have a governor who is willing to invest in education," O'Shea said.
The district has already begun its own budgeting process.
On Nov. 13, 2012, O'Shea, the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee, the Wilbraham and Hampden Boards of Selectmen, Wilbraham Finance Committee and Hampden Advisory Board had preliminary discussions regarding the challenges and opportunities facing both towns and the district as the new budget cycle approaches.
In addition to that, O'Shea recently surveyed all HWRSD staff in an effort to better understand what they believed the district's highest priorities to be in terms of need.
Out of a list of 25 areas, "a large, representative response" from the faculty and staff identified staffing issues, including interventionists, core instructional staffing and paraprofessional staffing among the top priorities.
Counseling personnel and special education staffing were also listed as areas that need attention.
Instructional technology and classroom resources and service were among the top five concerns in what O'Shea described as "a weighted vote."
O'Shea said that a February budget roundtable would offer another opportunity for individuals to voice their opinions on the use of district funding. A date for that meeting has not been determined.
"The main thing we are trying to get across is that we want and need input from everyone when creating the budget," he said.
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