This past Tuesday, March 15th, Finance Subcommittee Chairman Chris Casatelli facilitated the Committee's second annual Public Information Session in which the Superintendent addressed questions e-mailed in advance, followed by questions from the audience. She noted in her remarks that:
* The budget is a living document that changes frequently as we get more information.
* The budget process is interactive and dynamic until the Mayor sends his budget to the Board of Aldermen (projected to be early May).
* Budget deliberations will begin with the Supt. talking about fees (next Tuesday).
* The Committee must send to the Aldermen a budget that falls within the city’s means.
* The state budget is not finalized.
* Legislators are pressing to raise per pupil payment to cities and towns to $50/student from $20/student, which would greatly support our budget.
* The House isn’t taking up the Governor’s budget until mid-April and then the Senate will take it up; then they’ll have to come to compromise (and it's possible that firm numbers from the state won't be determined until July).
Supt. Taymore addressed a wide variety of questions including issues surrounding level-service vs. level-funded budgets; ECC and/or Ed. Stations tuition potentially being higher for non-Melrose attendees; Kindergarten enrollment, class size, and paraprofessionals; the possibility of Assistant Principals for selected elementary schools; middle school team structure, library materials, and Performing Arts Center; MHS guidance needs, teaching area for a prospective new teacher, pathways, and tuitioned students; on-line and blended learning at the secondary level; long-term plan for facilities and the possible restructuring of grades into a model like middle = gr. 5-7 and high = gr. 8-12 after exploration by the Permanent School Building Committee (given that, after study, the Beebe is not a viable option although the potential for using modular classrooms is also a possibility). She also addressed questions on individualized learning, Competency Based Education and Project Based Learning; substitute pay and the potential to use parent volunteers as subs; athletics (including the budget impact of concussion safety); retention of teachers and the related importance of delivering the professional development that helps them advance by lane; the impact of previously enacted legislation (like sterilizing school-owned musical instruments), new legislation (like the Opioid Law signed this week for which districts await state regulations), and the possibility of new laws/regulations (like potential for state-mandated socials studies/history testing); needs for additional certifications for teachers and how that reduces available time for teachers to learn other things the district feels important; the continued need for print materials in addition to electronic materials since research shows that students prefer print; the potential for more vocational classes; educator evaluation; current partnerships with other cities/towns to realize efficiencies and improve services; grant funding and grant writing; English Language Learning challenges; the Supt’s budget priorities; and the impact of charter school funding on the district. Regarding making budget choices, Supt. Taymore concluded by saying “Your willingness to sacrifice is someone else’s need” so we can’t pit departments or groups against each other.
Ms. Casatelli thanked everyone who sent questions and came to the session, and also thanked the Supt. for her frank answers about the budget situation noting that it’s a challenge. She encouraged people to let us know their priorities for the budget and concluded by thanking everyone for doing their best for students.
Next meeting: Tuesday, March 22nd at 7:00 in the Aldermanic Chamber of City Hall!