Nashoba Finances on Track… Feb. 3 2016

By Ann Needle
The most recent financial report on the Nashoba School District pointed to sound financial health. At its Jan. 28 meeting, the Nashoba School Committee also heard good news on the work of teachers across the district.

Assistant Superintendent George King termed the district’s financial health over the second quarter of the fiscal year as healthy, with a number of positive trends to report. Among these were lower salary payouts, stemming mostly from a drop-off in employee leaves of absence; the filling of several retired employees’ positions with new employees starting lower on the pay scale; and two positions still open, King said. He added that health premiums also could show a surplus, thanks to low growth in the number of employees.

Still, King cited areas of concern as: special education out-of-district tuitions,  and contract services. On SPED tuitions, the worst-case scenario would be a deficit of about $200,000, while contract services may need to be supplemented due to the superintendent search, the scheduled financial review by the MA Association of School Business Officials, and the cost of the demographic study being conducted for the district, King explained.

Later in the meeting, Interim Superintendent Dr. Curtis Bates mentioned that the MASSBRO financial operations review will be conducted March 1 and 2, with a full report of results by April 7. The SC already approved spending up to $6,500 for this review.

As for the general 2016/17 school budget, in a separate conversation SC Chair Lorraine Romasco of Bolton explained that, in a departure from past budget seasons, Nashoba administration presented a preliminary budget to the SC at its Jan. 25 Budget Workshop. While the preliminary budget has been unveiled at a general SC meeting in past years, Romasco said that the presentation would not fit into a regularly scheduled SC meeting this year. She noted that administration took comments and questions from the SC at that workshop, and will have a revised budget ready for the Feb. 8 Budget Workshop, which is open to the public. After that, the SC will continue discussing and finalizing the budget over the next few months, she said.

“Yes, we’re doing things a little differently this year, but we think that this approach will help us understand what the budget supports and where we may need to make enhancements,” Romasco commented.

Teachers Rate and Innovate
Curtis Bates reported that, in the state’s eyes, Nashoba’s teachers are doing a good job. In the highlights of results Bates presented from the state’s third annual Educator Evaluation Ratings, of the 284 educators evaluated under the system throughout Nashoba, 94.3% earned ratings of Proficient or Exemplary. Exemplary ratings were awarded to 7.7% of Nashoba educators, while 86.6% were identified as Proficient, 5.3% as Needs Improvement, and 0.4% as Unsatisfactory.

Also, two NRHS teachers and some of their students gave the SC a glimpse into a unique, inter-disciplinary class they began teaching last year. The Epidemiology/Maritime class combines Science and English Language Arts. In this web of class sessions taught back-to-back in the schedule, Science Teacher Johnna Doyle explained that she and ELA Teacher Kim Rocha cover topics throughout the year ranging from the plague to oceanography.

Throughout the course, Rocha said students study literature connected to the topics, such as “Years of Wonder” when studying the plague, to “The Perfect Storm” when discussing the oceans. Doyle noted that students even write “grants” for sample public health projects, with Stow’s Dr. Edward DeLuca of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics volunteering time to  guide students in the process.

The class is part of an overall movement at the high school to bring in more project-based learning that calls on students to work with each other and manage several disciplines simultaneously, Rocha commented. “Our students are going into a world where you can no longer be just a science person or a liberal arts person.” She noted that NRHS also hosts interdisciplinary classes in such areas as Culinary Arts and Social Science.

Doyle remarked that the class is time-consuming in terms of teacher planning, and urged the SC to support more room in the schedule for professional development around these classes.