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School Committee won't relinquish revenue


June 6, 2013
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

LONGMEADOW — Responding to a proposal made by the Select Board, School Committee Chair Michael Clark said the School Department has no plans to relinquish any special revenue received from the state.

Select Board Chair Paul Santaniello made a proposal that was supported by the board at its May 20 meeting that would charge Town Manager Stephen Crane with negotiating an agreement with School Department Superintendent Marie Doyle that would require the schools to surrender excess state aid funding to the town.

"I know the town manager met with the superintendent, but we have no intention to accept any sort of agreement like that," Clark said. "I fully support the superintendent's decision on this matter."

The Select Board's plan was an effort to recoup some of the additional $353,000 that was awarded to the schools during the budget discussion at the Annual Town Meeting.

During the fiscal year 2014 budgeting process, the Select Board requested a zero-percent increase budget from all departments. The School Department, however, requested an increase of $706,000. Representatives from the two sides were able to negotiate a compromise of $353,000, but the Select Board rejected it by a 3-2 vote prior to town meeting. As a result, the School Committee made a motion to amend the budget on the Town Meeting floor, which was approved.

Santaniello said at the May 20 meeting it was his understanding that the $353,000 represented the schools' needs and any revenue from sources such as Chapter 70 that are in excess of estimates used during the budgeting process should be turned over to the town.

While not as robust as the hikes in Gov. Deval Patrick's recommended budget, the House of Representatives and Senate both voted for respective Ways and Means budgets that called for increases to educational funding.

Clark criticized Santaniello's assertion, stating, "That characterization is completely inappropriate."

He went on to say the $353,000 in additional funding the School Committee requested at Town Meeting was a compromised number that does not address all of the district's needs or its "strategic goals to keep the district moving forward."

"It seems the [Select Board] chair has some selective memory of what the compromise entailed," he said. "That number represents what the district would need to maintain the district's current needs without pursuing any of its other initiatives."

Those initiatives, Clark explained, included, among others, professional development to prepare teachers for the Common Core curriculum, for which full implementation will occur in Massachusetts public schools during the 2013-2014 school year.

"We have identified plenty of supplies and professional development to align ourselves with the Common Core standards," he said. "There are a lot of investments we need to make in order to be prepared for these changes."

In addition to Common Core, Clark said the state is moving from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests to Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers testing, a change for which the district must be prepared.

Special revenues, such as Chapter 70 and Circuit Breaker, would be used toward the costs associated with addressing those needs, he said.

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