Nashoba Personnel Changes Possible…March 2, 2016

By Ann Needle
As the Nashoba School Committee closes in on proposing a final 2016/17 budget, the school administration has suggested personnel changes that could have a substantial impact on the district, especially the central office. But these potential plans left a number of questions to be answered before the budget is approved.

Speaking to a standing-room-only audience at the Feb. 25 Committee meeting, Interim Superintendent Dr. Curtis Bates laid out his suggested personnel changes for either this coming fiscal year or beyond. In his plan, Bates stressed, “These are just suggestions.”

Major recommendations from Bates’ proposal included eliminating the assistant superintendent position and splitting the position’s duties among the superintendent, Facilities director, and Nashoba Regional High School principal; combine the Financial and Human Resources offices under a single director of Financial and Human Resources; provide a dedicated principal to Hale Middle School; consolidate all student services—from school nurses through Special Education—under a director of Pupil Personnel Services; and hiring two instructional Technology specialists, with one dedicated to Hale.

Bates explained that his ideas arose from conversations with Nashoba employees at every level, along with parents and community leaders. However, he cautioned that proposals such as this usually come from up to a year of observation, and he needed to put these forth in his 7 weeks on the job, with the goal of “handing over a new leaf.”

With the SC slated to vote a final budget at its March 10 meeting, SC Chair Lorraine Romasco of Bolton asked fellow committee members to consider Bates’ proposals for discussion at the March 3 meeting. While the SC should incorporate any of these suggestions it agrees on in this coming budget, Romasco expressed concern that hiring new employees into untried district leadership positions in the next few months may be a hasty move.

Other Changes More Certain
The SC did make other decisions on the 2016/17 budget. One paraprofessional was trimmed from the Hale budget because of enrollment fluctuations, something Assistant Superintendent George King noted the SPED director said should not affect students at the school. At NRHS, King said administration agreed to drop the proposed addition of .2 teaching positions for each department, in order to free department heads from teaching time.  Science and Math, however, will still receive the additional .2 positions. The SC also decided to trim the $17,000 the high school requested for uniforms for a proposed marching band, agreeing it wanted to first see a formal plan for building the band.

As for the central office budget, the Committee weathered extensive debate over what to do with non-union employee raises, proposed at 2%. The controversy surrounded former Superintendent Michael Wood rolling these employees’ travel allowances into their salaries without SC approval, after the SC questioned the amount of these budgets. The SC contended that the pumped-up salary bases would mean bigger raises in coming years.

Some SC members pointed out that reducing or taking away raises would be punishing these employees for something done beyond their control, so the 2% raises will remain for at least this year. But the SC agreed it needs to consider what to do with these raises in the future.

Also at the central office, the SC is still considering rolling the custodial manager’s job into the part-time assistant’s position, making the assistant’s job into a full-time administrative assistant’s position. Though the custodial manager’s annual salary was about $75,000, King explained that $24,000 of that salary would be added to the administrative assistant’s pay, if approved.

The March 3 SC meeting is a public hearing on the budget. A final vote is planned for March 11, in time for the closing of warrants on March 15 for Town Meetings in May.

More Superintendent Search Choices
The Feb. 25 meeting also featured a lottery for some of the open slots on the superintendent search committee. For the parent representative from each Nashoba town, Claudia Dragun was drawn for Stow, and Herb Cabral for Bolton. As the only parent volunteer from Lancaster, Paula Castner was chosen for the town. The opening for citizen at large was filled by former SC Member Maureen Busch of Stow, who also was the only applicant in that category.

Bolton Town Administrator Don Lowe will represent the town administrators  on the search committee. Laura Friend, the principal of Lancaster’s Luther Burbank Middle School, will represent the district’s principals, while SPED Director Tracy Conte will be the central office’s representative.