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School Committee approves superintendent's Fiscal Year 2013 budget

[media-credit name=”Jacob Schwartz” align=”alignright” width=”208″][/media-credit]

English teacher Jim Lallas teaches a class. With the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, which was approved yesterday, the equivalent of two regular education full time educators will be added to this school starting next school year. This addition of faculty members will offset the estimated enrollment increase, allowing classes to remain the same size.

by Hilary Brumberg

Last night, the School Committee unanimously approved Superintendent David Fleishman’s Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2013.

Among other funding increases, the $178,781,245 budget includes additional staffing at this school, including two regular education full time educators (FTE), and additional funding for the English Language Learning and the One to One program.

The two regular education FTEs, costing $193,964, will allow for similar class sizes and counselor caseloads to this year despite the projected enrollment growth of 34 students. Once student registration is finalized, principal Jennifer Price and department heads will allocate the additional staffing to each department, Fleishman said.

Additionally, a full-time custodian, a school-funded Innovation Lab director position and a partial secondary reserve FTE will be added to this school.

The budget includes an increase in ELL staffing at this school by 0.55 FTEs, which is funded via tuition revenue from other districts who send a small number of special education students to the Newton Public Schools. This partial teaching position will allow for additional sections of English as a Second Language and Power English, which is for students at risk of failing the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, the budget said.

In addition, the FY13 budget will allow for the implementation of a smaller freshman learning community at this school, a program that currently runs at South.

For the past four years, One to One, also known as Big Brother, Big Sister, has been funded by the Newton Partnership Grant. In order to keep the program running, Fleishman and the School Committee said they allocated 0.4 FTEs to be split between this school and South.

In the One to One program, juniors and seniors are matched with younger Newton students who “would benefit from an older student mentor,” explained assistant superintendent of secondary education Cindy Berganat yesterday’s School Committee meeting.

Approximately 40 South students and 80 students from this school are enrolled in next year’s course, according to Bergan. “This is a valuable program, and we need to continue to offer it the staff and support it needs,” Fleishman said.

To help close the $4.4 million budget gap, the FY12 budget included the addition of high school non-athletic extracurricular activity fees. However, the collection of these fees fell short of projections by 77 percent this year, according to the budget. The FY13 budget estimates that activity fee will generate $40,000 more in revenue in FY13 than in did in FY12.

The FY12 budget had estimated that 2,500 students at this school and South would pay the extra-curricular activity fee based on the numbers at comparable districts. So far this year, though, the fees have only been collected from 537 students between the two high schools.

Deputy superintendent and chief administrative officer Sandy Guryan attributes the gap between the estimate and reality to students acclimating to paying the fees. Also, she said that when she made the original projection of 2,500 students, she did not have actual data on how many students participate in non-athletic school-sponsored activities.
“We assumed that the same students who participate in sports and drama would pay fees for those programs as well as the activity fee, but we overestimated the total number for the activities,” Guryan said. She hopes to collect fees from more students this year after she finishes collecting club rosters and sending fee invoices.
In FY13, Guryan expects that the schools will collect activity fees from 875 students. So, “while $40,000 might seem like it isn’t much of an increase, we really can’t be more aggressive than that,” she said.
School Committee member Marjorie Ross Decter said, “We hope that we will not need to rely on fees in the future. But we do need them again this year, so we can maintain other programs.”
At the end of the meeting, Fleishman responded to a question about finding coaches for this school and South’s FIRST Robotics team, the Ligerbots. Fleishman compared coaching the Ligerbots to the intensity of coaching three seasons of sports.

Bergan said that she has been working with career and technical vocational education teacher Diana Robbins on restructuring the Ligerbots coaching stipend. This year, the Ligerbots added an assistant coach and an assistant worker, which are both funded by the stipends allocated in the budget, according to Bergan.

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