By Ann Needle
Nashoba District administration proposed a $50.5 million budget for the 2014/15 school year at last night’s School Committee meeting. This would be a hike of just over 3.7% from the current year’s budget, not including offsets such as grants.
The proposed hike is slightly less than the 3.9% hike proposed for 2013/14. However, as in previous years, the final budget for this school year ended up with a smaller increase of 3.14% once staff and the School Committee finished compromising over the numbers.
In his report to the Committee, Superintendent Michael Wood pinpointed the biggest forces behind the proposed Nashoba increase in the mainly level-services budget as rising personnel costs, individual school and site needs, and capital maintenance at Nashoba Regional High School.
The district’s three main budget focuses for the next 18 months begin with STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Wood said. This includes the scheduled purchase of new eighth grade Math materials (the district textbook adoption line item would increase almost 215%), along with time budgeted for teachers to form a new Science curriculum that should align with upcoming changes in state Science standards.
The second spotlight will be on strengthening the district’s early childhood education program. Declaring that Nashoba’s ultimate goal is to transition the district to full-day, tuition-free kindergarten only, Wood said each Nashoba kindergarten class will have a full day option this coming school year. He noted that part of this initiative came from the long waiting lists for full-day kindergarten throughout Nashoba, something a number of parents in the Committee’s audience were there to advocate. However, he stressed that any parent can opt for half-day kindergarten classes in the mornings throughout the year — and administrators are working on how both the full- and half-day curricula would coordinate with each other. The half-day kindergarten will remain free, but parents will pay $3,100 per child for a year of full-day kindergarten in 2014/15.
The third district priority Wood pointed to is what he terms response to intervention. As increasing numbers of students grapple with issues such as impulsive behavior, gaps in education due to family moves, and family and mental health issues, Wood mentioned the proposed budget would add two full-time educator positions that would be filled by social workers or school psychologists.
Among personnel changes, Center will gain a full-time, teacher and part-time instructional aide in kindergarten, along with a part-time Math specialist for the school. Center is slated to lose two instructional assistants. Hale Middle School would gain a part-time Math specialist. At NRHS, the budget calls for new part-time positions in English Language Arts (for Drama instruction), Social Studies, Science, and Math.
With the proposed numbers, Stow’s assessment would rise by 5.9%, Bolton’s by 5.2%, and Lancaster’s by about 5.6%. As for the proposed 3.72% increase, Wood also listed the proposed budget increases in some of Nashoba’s surrounding districts. These ranged from a low of 3% for Hudson, to a high of almost 15% for Shrewsbury. Wood concluded that Nashoba’s increase is “relatively low.”
The 2014/15 budget is listed at www.nrsd.net. Nashoba’s annual Budget Workshop takes place this Saturday, February 1, at 8:30 a.m. in the Emerson Building, Bolton. The Workshop allows school administrators and principals from across the district to discuss the nuances of the budget numbers and categories, and to make a case for specific items that may have not made it into the final proposal.
Calendar Tabled Again
A vote on the proposed 2014/15 school year calendar was postponed again. Though there was general agreement on version “B” – which provides for a district vacation day on Election Day, November 4 — the Committee chose to wait for the outcome of union negotiations, which could make a difference in teacher scheduling in other portions of the calendar. The town clerks have maintained that giving schools the day off on Election Day may ease traffic around the polls.
Reporting to the Committee on Monday night’s Stow Elementary School Building Committee meeting, Michael Wood noted that, after extensive negotiations, the bonding company has agreed to pay for several items involved with the Center construction project. These are items the Town of Stow has disputed were done incorrectly, poorly, or not at all. Wood also reported that there are only two or three items left in dispute.
In School Committee votes, the Committee unanimously voted to accept the first reading of some minor updates to ongoing polices. These were its Fundraising, Student Disciplinary Interventions, and Wellness policies. The Committee also unanimously voted to accept a $1,500 donation from Clinton Savings Bank, as well as a $2,000 donation from technology firm EveryNetwork, to NRHS’s DECA Club, a business competition club.
Finally, Wood recognized Stow’s Joshua Bricknell, an NRHS senior, for being invited to apply to be part of the US Presidential Scholars Program. Established by President Johnson in 1964, the Program was designed to recognize outstanding high school seniors for their achievements in overall academics, as well as the arts.