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Nashoba Proposes a 3.9% Hike

By Ann Needle

The Nashoba Regional School District proposed a 3.9% budget hike last night for the 2013/14 school, up from a 3.1% increase in 2011/12. This puts the total potential budget at $49,054,064, before adding in projected revenue and grants.

However, in comparing the two years, changes in legal requirements on financial reporting mean the estimated hikes for the total budget and the net budget, are not being measured in the same way as last year. Wood explained that items have been moved for accounting purposes from the gross budget to the net budget.

“We are in a very good place as a district,” Superintendent Michael Wood remarked in his budget overview at Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting. As with last year, Wood explained that the district used a modified zero-based approach. Saying that he shunned the use of the term level services, Wood said he chose instead to say, “We are sustaining our curricular offerings. I feel there is always room for some growth.”

Still, Wood stressed that the proposed plan focuses on sustaining education services, yet providing needed space and technology to deliver equal services to all district schools.

Wood pointed to several staff changes planned, many designed to help bolster student performance. One of the biggest shifts will be in special education, with Wood noting that he is proposing to hire three full-time, licensed SPED teachers, to be placed in Hale Middle School, Nashoba Regional High School, and Lancaster’s Luther Burbank Middle School. In turn, Wood said he is planning to eliminate one educational assistant in each of those schools.

“Right now, we are not anticipating any layoffs, but it could happen if we do not get the attrition we usually do,” Wood said.

Other potential positions to be added are a part-time writing teacher at Luther Burbank, and another at NRHS. Wood also is looking to add a full-time Fine Arts position at the high school. He explained that this addition should, among other benefits, help address a wider variety of student interests and offer more options for meeting graduation requirements.

In Stow, Wood said the district will likely offer a pre-school option for the first time, given enough parents now seem interested in the program to build a class at Center. Currently, Stow’s Nashoba pre-schoolers attend programs at other district schools. Wood noted this likely would be a half-day class.
The Facilities budget showed one of the largest percentage increases in the plan, up almost 19%. Wood termed the capital spending plan, “robust, but  not as robust as I would like it.” However, he pointed out that the plan would address some of the repair issues highlighted when Nashoba was looking into renovating the NRHS Science labs last year.

Under this budget, Stow’s assessment would rise by almost 5.1%, or $698,530. Bolton’s assessment would be up 2.6% (+$304,471), and Lancaster’s by about 4.6% (+$457,833).

Go to www.nrsd.net for a comprehensive look at the proposed budget. For those looking for more on the nuances of the plan, there will be a public Budget Workshop at the Emerson School in Bolton on Saturday, February 2, at 8:30 am. As in past years, school administrators and principals from across Nashoba will present their insights —including specific needs they would like to address, whether or not they are included in the budget.

School Choice On the Horizon
Concerning future budgeting, Wood said there has been a “huge” increase in the number of Lancaster students heading out of Nashoba schools to private schools, or into public schools elsewhere that offer school choice.  With school choice, Nashoba pays $5,000 to the district where each choice student attends school, and vice-versa for districts sending students to Nashoba.  “It’s something we really need to look at,” he remarked.

With the Committee discussing how to study the issue, Wood pledged to put the annual topic onto the Committee agenda earlier in the year. Traditionally, it has usually been mid-spring when the Committee has discussed whether to change the school choice system.

Stow Rep. Lynn Colletti asserted that the district and Committee should work at soliciting all residents’ thoughts on the program, given that people without children in Nashoba schools also feel the tax impact of any changes in the number of choice students the district accepts.

Also, Wood noted that teachers reported some parents expressed confusion over how the Math curriculum seems to be taught this year out of sequence in some places. Much of this is due to changes in the state’s Core Curriculum, which he said has required Nashoba to “jump around” in the Everyday Math textbooks.

In Committee votes, the Committee voted unanimously to merge the student activity accounts of Center and the former Pompositticut schools. It also voted unanimously to accept a gift of up to $2,500 for a Spanish class projector at the high school.

Finally, in her report to the Committee, NRHS Student Liaison Louise Bennett reported that fellow senior and Stow resident Christina Orlando copped three gold medals in the annual Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards. Previously, Orlando was a silver key recipient for her photography.

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