School Committee To Vote On Budget
By: Elise R. Hugus
Falmouth School Committee is expected to approve a bottom line of $40.89 million for its Fiscal Year 2011 budget tonight, and work out more precise details of how to keep the school department within that budget over the next few weeks.
At a budget subcommittee meeting Monday, Superintendent Marc P. Dupuis said the budget was in a process of being refined, as more information about state funding and costs become available. Mr. Dupuis presented a preliminary budget at a public hearing January 26, calling for cuts to extracurricular activities across all grade levels and the loss of more than 36 staff positions.
Although the budget subcommittee—made up of school administrators, several members of the school committee, and two members of the Falmouth Finance Committee—agreed with the need to meet the budget’s bottom line, it continued to debate its finer points.
“I have no problem with voting for a number. The reality is we have to live with the funds available to us,” said Samuel H. Patterson, Jr., a member of the school committee. However, he said that the cuts should not affect direct services to children or unduly increase class sizes. “Should we be looking at [cutting] a supervisory position? Having been one myself...I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that we don’t have any choice,” he said.
Jamie E. MacDonald IV, chairman of the school committee, warned that the word “administrator” may be perceived as someone who pushes paper behind a desk, but, in fact, they are department heads, volleyball coaches, and assistant principals.
Wendy K. Haskell, director of library and technology, said that she has noticed the important role the assistant principals play at Morse Pond School and Lawrence School, keeping an eye out for students in the hallways and sitting in on special education meetings.
“They’re the safety net for these kids. It’s going to have a huge impact,” she said, referring to the proposed reduction of those “administrators” at the two middle schools. In addition, the administration is poised to lose a systemwide instructional specialist and a part-time secretary. One custodian is expected to lose their position as well next year.
By contrast, more than 31 instructional positions are expected to be eliminated next year. Mr. Dupuis emphasized that these reductions are largely enrollment-driven, due to the declining numbers of students, especially in the upper grades. He also said that a number of these cuts would come through attrition—the voluntary retirement or resignation by a staff member.
Among the proposed FY11 budget cuts are five teachers and one teaching assistant at Falmouth High School. Another five teachers and two teaching assistants would be reduced from the Lawrence School staff. One special education teacher and three teaching assistants are expected to be cut from the Morse Pond School staff. A part-time classroom teacher and a special education instructor from East Falmouth Elementary School would also be cut. Both North Falmouth Elementary School and Mullen-Hall School would each lose one teacher and one teaching assistant. Teaticket Elementary School would lose two teachers and two teaching assistants, and five specialists who work across the district would also lose their jobs.
Mr. Dupuis said these cuts to staff, even among the administration, “are basically enrollment-driven.” He noted that four administrators have not been replaced from last year’s budget cuts. “I don’t think we’re top-heavy at this point,” he said.
He added that coming up with the budget was “a team effort,” with principals recommending positions that could be cut, while remaining within a “very favorable” class size range.
The school committee will officially vote on the budget at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday at 7 o’clock in the School Administration Building. State Representatives Matthew C. Patrick (D-Falmouth) and Timothy R. Madden (D-Nantucket) will be in attendance to answer the committee’s questions about state funding to local schools.