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A Glance at Nashoba Budget Items…Feb. 17, 2016

By Ann Needle
At the Feb. 11 Nashoba School Committee meeting, the principals of the district’s schools offered a glimpse into plans for their students and staff, highlighting some of the additions and increases to their proposed 2016/17 budgets. The SC also made plans for finishing up next school year’s budget, and took a first look at the possible calendar for the upcoming school year.

The principals did not mention dollar amounts for several of the items discussed. However, SC Chair Lorraine Romasco of Bolton stressed that the SC will focus on budget details at its meetings through March 3, which are all open to the public (see Calendar subheading).

Center School Principal Ross Mulkerin accented the district’s focus this year on shoring up students’ literacy skills, requesting additional reading books for the classroom libraries. And, with the Center School Band growing, Mulkerin explained that he is seeking to add some quality instruments.

As with Mulkerin, Hale Assistant Principal George King pointed to a growing interest in music as driving his request for instruments and other materials to enhance the middle school’s bands. The new Music teacher has added a wind ensemble to the popular, extracurricular jazz band, and has a 3-year “wish list” of items she is hoping to fulfill in future budgets, King said.
King added that his own wish list beyond the 2016/17 budget includes a half-time Math specialist, who could work with the various learning styles among the students needing extra help in the subject. The person also should be able to boost students ready to take on work beyond the curriculum, something King termed as having “a pretty big demand.”

In a long-discussed move, Nashoba Regional High School Principal Dr. Parry Graham requested that the school resource officer be assigned full-time, which would bring the officer’s annual salary to $64,000. The part-time SRO position was created a few years ago, with a Bolton Police officer assigned to the school as a mentor and law enforcement contact for students. The SRO’s salary is currently split between the Town of Bolton and NRHS. But, in requesting the full-time position, Graham agreed with SC Chair Lorraine Romasco of Bolton that the SRO is not needed in the school during the summer, so the requested salary amount could be trimmed.

Other personnel requests Graham discussed included another SPED teacher for the steadily increasing number of special education students, along with 1.8 total positions to make up for the hopefully expanded role of the department heads. According to Graham, these department heads would each need to drop one class they are teaching in order to take on more leadership responsibilities.

Among supplies and equipment are plans to build up band instruments and supplies, as NRHS aims to form a marching band, said Graham. Currently, the school’s pep band does not have the training and equipment to do formal marching, he noted.
Turning to his wish list, Graham noted that, with Assistant Principal Kerri-Ann O’Donnell resigning at the end of this school year, it may be a good time to make that position year-round through the summer to help with class assignments and administrative work left from the school year just finished. Also, with the district’s current eighth graders bringing their Nashoba-provided Chromebook devices to the high school next year, Graham said he would ideally like to provide Chromebooks to next year’s sophomores as well.

Calendar for Classes and Committee
The SC took a first look at the proposed 2016/17 calendar for the school year, which Nashoba Director of Human Resources Monica Visco reported was  similar to this year’s schedule. Visco explained that the proposed calendar was also built around the survey results from district parents and staff. The survey revealed a preference to continue starting school before Labor Day; to favor early releases over late starts in carving out professional development time for teachers (though high school parents preferred late starts); and not to consider closing school for a full week before Thanksgiving.

This calendar calls for school to begin for students on Aug. 31, and to end June 16 (without snow days). Visco noted the SC will see any final recommendations before it must vote on the plan.

Turning to its own meeting calendar, the SC unanimously voted to add meetings on Feb. 17 and March 3. The Feb. 17 meeting will be devoted to reviewing and fine-tuning the budget proposal so far, and takes place at Bolton’s Emerson School at 6pm. This means the SC meets weekly (Feb. 7 and 25, March 3 and 10) until its planned vote on the budget on March 10. Lorraine Romasco remarked that the SC needs the meetings, given its January workshop was the only formal discussion of the budget so far.

Winding down the Feb. 11 meeting, Interim Superintendent Dr. Curtis Bates gave a shout-out to the students at NRHS. Describing his recent visit to the high school, Bates lauded students for greeting him unprompted or asking if they could guide him somewhere, “And they [didn’t] know me. I’ve never seen anything like it.”