Nashoba Ponders Unused Money…June 22, 2016

By Ann Needle
At its June 15 meeting, the Nashoba School Committee heard mostly good end-of-year budget news that will carry into next school year.

Among the year-end transfers to balance out the 2015/16 school year, which closes June 30, the SC uanimously approved moving $200,000 from the Special Education Transportation account to SPED Tuition. Assistant Superintendent George King explained that the $200,000 was a surplus, but administration was expecting that extra to be about $100,000 less. He noted that the district anticipated a $100,000 surplus based on past history, but the unpredictability of what the state will actually reimburse any district from its regional transportation budget every fiscal year got partial credit for the bigger number.

As for next school year, given how slowly the state moves on awarding transportation funds, King reported, “We literally won’t know that exact cost [to Nashoba] until the very last day of fiscal year 2017.” Given the frustration most Massachusetts regional districts have expressed to the State House, King said a law was passed last year to allow regional districts to roll any unused transportation funds into a special account that must be tapped for the following fiscal year’s transportation expenses. At King’s recommendation, the SC unanimously voted to set up a Regional Transportation Fund to hold any excess year-end money from the transportation budget.

Some major budget questions will carry into the new school year, especially on district’s revolving accounts. As promised, King presented a report detailing what is known about each of Nashoba’s almost 50 revolving and special purpose accounts, including remaining balances. The general question from several SC representatives was why some of the accounts were holding sizable surpluses that could be spent on needed services. For instance, SC Rep. Jennifer Leone of Lancaster pointed out that the almost $200,000 in the Athletic Revolving account (fed by fees from athletic event ticket sales) does not appear to be earmarked for anything. She also pointed out the more than $100,000 in three middle school revolving accounts that are funded by athletic user fees.

King said the Athletic Revolving funds could be used for athletic-related needs, such as the planned replacement of the Nashoba Regional High School athletic turf field in a few years, along with athletic-related projects at each of the middle schools.  SC Stow Rep. Lynn Colletti maintained that the turf field maintenance was supposed to be self-sustaining, though King countered it is not. The outstanding balances align with district goals, King commented, considering “our intent has been to have good reserves in funds.” Still, some of the donor-oriented accounts are years old, missing the original instructions on how they must be used, so that needs to be researched before some of these money is paid, he said.

King pledged to continue researching the details and background of the funds. Also, the SC agreed with his recommendation that Nashoba Athletic Director Tania Rich speak to the SC Finance Sub Committee at one of its meetings to answer questions.

New Math Adopted
After a year-long trial, Nashoba is adopting a new Math program for its elementary students. Nashoba Interim STEM Coordinator Robin Benoit outlined the process behind selecting the EnVision 2.0 Math curriculum, which the district will begin using when students return in late August.

Nashoba began looking for new Math materials after the state adopted new Math instruction standards in 2011, Benoit explained. After that, it soon became clear that teachers needed to supplement the current curriculum, Everyday Math, with other materials they were finding on their own in order to meet the MA State Curriculum Framework. Nashoba launched a pilot program of EnVision 2.0 vs. Everyday Math 4 in selected classes at the start of this school year.

Looking at factors such as teacher comments and student understanding of the materials, administration selected EnVision, Benoit said.

To train teachers in the new curriculum, Benoit noted the planned instructor training will be moved from June to August to give the district time to bring in the new materials. For parents, all the schools will host “Math nights” in early fall to help explain the changes, she said.

The total cost of implementing EnVision 2.0 should be about $180,000, split evenly over 4 years, plus professional development days, with the first year’s payment coming out of existing funds in Teaching & Learning for this school year, Benoit reported.