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Staff cuts identified to balance school budget


May 2, 2013
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

LONGMEADOW — Longmeadow Public Schools have identified the cuts that would need to be made if the School Committee is unsuccessful in getting the fiscal year 2014 (FY14) budget amended on the Town Meeting floor.

School Committee Chair Michael Clark said the district plans to reduce staffing by 10.2 full-time equivalents, including four teachers as well as support staff, if it is required to operate with a zero percent increase in the budget. Reduced funding would also most likely prompt the end of some programs.

"These cuts are going to be pretty much across all levels — high school, middle school and elementary," Clark said.

The School Committee will ask residents at Town Meeting to accept an amended FY14 budget that would give the school department $353,000 in additional funding, a number that a working group consisting of Clark, School Committee member James Desrochers, Select Board Chair Paul Santaniello and Vice Chair Mark Gold negotiated after a $726,000 difference between the budgets proposed School Department by the Select Board was identified.

However, the Select Board voted 3-2 at its April 16 meeting not to accept the negotiated terms. At its April 22 meeting, the School Committee agreed to present the compromised figures to residents at Town Meeting on May 7 and let them decide.

Clark said that among the teaching reductions would be two positions at the high school, one at a middle school and one at an elementary school.

"We don't know which ones will be cut yet, but we do know that they are teaching positions," he said.

In addition, educational support assistants and reading specialists would have to be let go.

Clark also pointed to elementary instrumental music as one of the programs that would have to cease.

"It's really unfortunate because the fourth and fifth grades had their highest numbers ever and now that program is in jeopardy," he said. "This also comes at a time when [Director of Instrumental Music] Michael Mucci is leaving. He's leaving the program in capable hands, but it's a devastating loss in terms of seniority and skill."

Clark said that while it was not the School Department's intention to cause fear among the staff of losing their jobs, he felt it was important to make the staff and the community aware of the possibilities. He added that the School Department has done its best to keep faculty apprised of the situation.

"The administrative team has had conversations with the teachers to let them know what's going on," he said. "We don't want the morale of our teachers to go down, but we want to make sure that they are as prepared as possible."

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