By Meg Weston
At the January 7 School Committee meeting, Superintendent Sills presented the first draft of a revised FY15 budget, attempting to bring a proposed 6.7% increase in the school budget closer to the Finance Committee guideline of 2.88%.
Potential cuts for round one ($501,060) could impact central administration, facilities, technology, and all four Bedford schools. One of the possible cuts would impact Lane’s foreign language program that— if the cut is ultimately approved— could be phased out over 3 years. While acknowledging the program as “value added,” Superintendent Sills stated that it did not “outweigh the benefit of increased uninterrupted instruction time at Lane for math, English, science and social studies.”
Interim Assistant Superintendent Claire Jackson remarked that foreign language is “not treated as important” and is seen as “an add-on,” adding, “If it’s important, invest in it.” Emily Moss, Student Representative to the School Committee, added that her own experience with the Lane school’s foreign language program had been “very positive.”
With the proposed cuts, Davis School could lose its Response to Intervention (RTI) specialist. “The reduction of the RTI position will impact students who are struggling to meet the Common Core standards in kindergarten,” Sills said.
Additionally, John Glenn Middle School (JGMS) could have to delay purchase of its 6th grade social studies textbooks until FY 2016, and Bedford High School (BHS) could lose its library Educational Assistant, which, Sills noted, “would reduce adult presence in the library.”
On the plus side, savings of $150,000 will be realized, as CASE, a collaborative for special education students, transitions to a new tuition model, and because a lower price for iPad keyboards for BHS has been found.
Round Two potential cuts ($250,760.55), if adopted, would impact special education programs and technology and result in reductions in positions at all four schools. Staff increases had been proposed to address larger than optimal class sizes and the growing need for support services. The JGMS Bridge after-school program might be eliminated, which, Superintendent Sills commented “. . . allows further development and practice [in] homework, organization, social skills, and the life of the school activities…[and] will impact students’ abilities to stay connected to JGMS.”
Additionally, there would no longer be a full-time technology specialist at Lane, and the reduction of a full-time Teaching Assistant at Davis ”will impact the quality of implementation of intervention plans and individualized support for kindergarten students,” according to Sills. He added that a reduction of a part-time library Educational Assistant position at Davis “will impact all classrooms and the level of adult support for students.”
A third round of proposed cuts ($151,000) would additionally impact staffing and program impacts as well as funding intended for professional development.
In response to the Superintendent’s presentation, School Committee member Michael McAllister said, “Either we need more money or people’s appetite for bigger classes is going to have to increase.” McAllister added, “A lot of these reductions also mean an increase in someone else’s job. The need doesn’t go away.”
Budget discussions will continue, leading up to a vote by School Committee prior to Annual Town Meeting in March.