Mashpee School Enrollment Shrinking But Superintendent Says Budget Drives Staffing Cuts
By: Brian Kehrl
The Mashpee School District saw its trend of diminishing enrollment continue this year and is facing further losses for the foreseeable future.
All public school districts are required to report to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education their total student enrollment by October 1 of each year, and that figure is used in state calculations that use student populations.
Mashpee’s official enrollment for the 2010 - 2011 school year came in at 1,795, a decrease of 22 students as compared to the 2009 - 2010 school year. Over the past eight years the district has seen its total enrollment drop by 480 students; the district hit its peak population of 2,275 in 2002.
The district saw a 21-student decrease last year, while the previous two years the schools lost 77 students (2008 - 2009 school year) and 71 students (2007 - 2008).
Town birth records, which the schools use to project future enrollment, suggest that the reductions will continue for the next few years.
According to the Town of Mashpee 2006 Annual Report, the town recorded 108 births, which means—assuming that number holds steady—next year’s kindergarten enrollment will decrease by 39 students. There would be a slight spike the following year as there were 130 births recorded in 2007, followed by two more drops: 107 births in 2008, and 94 last year.
In addition to these decreasing numbers of incoming students, the district will experience further enrollment drops due to the number of high school students leaving after graduation.
When both incoming kindergartners and outgoing seniors are factored in, Mashpee is on track to experience a net loss of 21 students in the 2011 - 2012 school year, an 11-student increase in 2012 - 2013, a 14-student dip the next year, and then a 26-student net loss.
A review of birth rates and kindergarten enrollment over the past five years indicated that there has been a variance of no more than a dozen children between birth rates in one year and kindergarten enrollment five years later (children in Mashpee must be at least 5 years old to enroll in kindergarten).
These projections do not consider mitigating factors such as students entering Mashpee from other districts via “school choice”; the number of students who leave the district each fall to attend private or charter schools, or Cape Cod Regional Technical High School; families moving to or out of Mashpee; or large new affordable housing developments, which tend to attract new families.
As the number of students has shrunk, so has the number of school staff members, although school officials say that is being driven more by budgetary constraints than enrollment.
Ann M. Bradshaw, superintendent of schools, presented at this week’s Mashpee School Committee meeting an overview of staff cuts from Fiscal Years 2009, 2010, and 2011, and over those three years the schools have eliminated a total of 49.6 full-time equivalent positions.
In FY09 the department cut one assistant principal, one school librarian, and 13 special education van drivers. The school budget that year was $20.5 million.
The assistant principal position covering grades 9 and 10 at Mashpee High School was eliminated and the person who held that position, Sheila A. Arnold, was appointed to the vacant assistant principal’s position. MHS Principal Jane M. Day—at the time assistant principal of grades 11 and 12—became assistant principal for the entire high school.
The special education van drivers were cut when the schools opted to contract out its SPED transportation services to the Cape Cod Collaborative—which hired many of those drivers.
In FY10, which had an $18.6 million budget, the district made its largest round of cuts in that three-year period, eliminating the equivalent of 9.6 full-time teaching positions, 12.4 full-time paraprofessional positions, and 1.4 full-time administrative assistants. Four of those teaching positions were eliminated through attrition as the people holding those jobs retired.
This year the equivalent of 10.2 teaching positions and one paraprofessional were cut. The school committee originally expected to cut 18 jobs in FY11, which passed a budget of $18.26 million.
The detailed list of cuts was requested last month when the school committee was asked to consider adding two new district-wide support positions: a full-time technical support person to assist network administrator Sean Moroney and a part-time copy machine clerk.
Ms. Bradshaw said the assistant network administrator would take some of the pressure off Mr. Moroney, who currently tends to approximately 600 computers throughout the district, as well as its servers. DESE standards recommend one technical support person for every 200 computers in the district. The state average is one person for every 477 computers.
The committee voted four-to-one, with Jose L. Franco objecting, to add the assistant network administrator position. That person will earn an annual salary of $48,750, about $13,000 of which would be covered by grant funding, the rest coming from the general budget thanks to unanticipated changes in staffing over the summer.
Ms. Bradshaw said the issue of benefits would be addressed when the district learns whether the person they hire wants benefits. Theresa M. Cook, chairman of the Mashpee Board of Selectmen, informed the committee last month that the town would be unable to foot the bill for benefits for a new hire, and that the burden would be entirely on the schools.
The Enterprise requested data detailing how many teachers and teaching support staff are currently employed by the schools, and listing new positions that have been added to the schools mid-year during FY09 and FY10, but did not receive the information by deadline.