By Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – School Superintendent Marie Doyle unveiled a proposed budget to the School Committee at its Feb. 4 meeting that she said comes in below the projected allocation numbers the district received from Town Manager Stephen Crane.
“In the interest of being fiscally responsible, I feel the schools did an incredible job coming in under the budget directive,” she said. “I think this shows the administrative team has an understanding of the needs of not only the district, but of the community.”
The total proposed fiscal year 2015 budget (FY15) came in at $34.7 million, representing a $447,208 increase from last year.
Approximately $31.5 million of the budget would be funded through the town’s General Fund, an increase of $831,721, Doyle explained. The town projected an additional General Fund allocation of slightly more than $1 million in FY15, meaning the district came in more than $190,000 under that figure in its projections.
A significant drop in grants or special revenues of almost $400,000 resulted in the final $34.7 million figure.
When developing the budget, Doyle said the district took a hard look at the testing data and worked to develop a strategy for closing some of the gaps those numbers represented.
“We were somewhat disappointed with some of the MCAS [Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System] scores,” she said. “There were gains in some areas, but in others there weren’t.”
Specifically, Doyle pointed to struggles in elementary level special education. Third grade special education, for example, scored below the state average of students scoring proficient or higher in English Language Arts (ELA). Grade 4 and 5 ELA scores were also close to state averages.
“This is unacceptable in Longmeadow,” she said.
To address the concerns, Doyle announced the shifting of personnel, which included the removal of some positions and the addition of others.
“We are removing assistants in some areas and replacing them with certified teachers,” she said.
The budget reductions include the elimination of four resource room assistants, an educational assistant, and academic tutor, two sixth grade teachers and tuitions. Doyle said a decrease in population in the sixth grade made those reductions possible and class sizes would remain around 20 students.
Williams Middle School Principal Christopher Collins said there would be some reorganization required in team teaching aspects, but that was necessary anyway with the school going to a new schedule next year.
Additions include new certified special education teachers in the elementary schools and literacy interventionists in the middle schools and new reading tutor and literacy coach positions, as well as full-day kindergarten support would also be added.
Doyle’s proposal also called for a 0.1 full-time equivalent increase in the Blueberry Hill School instrumental music program as it has expanded and more hours are needed to address the increased interest.
The district would also add special education programs in order to keep children in town schools.
“This would allow six kids to remain in district, which saves a significant amount of money,” Doyle said.
The budget presentation is available for the public on the district’s website.
A public hearing at which members of the public can comment or ask questions will take place Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. in conference room A-15 in the administration building at the high school.