Superintendent proposes 2011 budget for Newton Schools

By Hye-Jung Yang
Published: March 2010

The Newton School Committee is working with superintendent David Fleishman to establish a proposed budget for the 2011 school year. The budget of Newton Public Schools, which comes from a combination of state aid, revenue from property taxes, and private funds and grants, is down four percent from last year.

Due to limited resources, it has been a challenge for the superintendent and school committee to come up with a plan that maintains all of the priorities of the school.

“It’s been difficult for them because we don’t have all the resources to do all the things we want to do, School Committee chairperson Claire Sokoloff said. “We really want to invest in professional development; we really want to invest in technology; we really want to also maintain our buildings better. It’s extremely difficult with these limited resources to accomplish all of our goals.

The superintendent and his staff first presented the proposed budget plan to the school committee on March 4.

They have since been deliberating the pros and cons of the budget plans, raising concerns and questions about the proposals. The finalized budget plan will come to a vote on April 5.

The current budget plan proposes the maintenance many of the programs that are already in place–for example, class sizes will generally stay the same and literacy and math specialists will remain in the classrooms.

“I think the kids’ experience in the classroom should be pretty similar, Sokoloff said.

What will happen to the services provided to students at South and North, however, remains unknown. If the proposed budget passes, the assistant principal positions, secretarial time, and library department chair positions at both high schools will be removed.

Librarians Ethel Downey and Marnie Bolstad believe that by losing the department chair position and time on the job, the services the library can provide for teachers and students will be compromised.

“The department head is our professional connection to the rest of the school. Our interface with other department heads¦ we’ll lose that connection to the rest of the school, Downey said.

Bolstad, who will lose one full day of library service at South to work at one of the elementary schools, agrees.

“If I’m gone an additional full day, it might make a difference in how much we can manage in terms of classes and students¦ we see approximately 1500 kids a day.

The secretaries at South are also anticipating a change in the type of service they can provide for the students.

“There are those kinds of small services that secretaries provide for people and people that call up that you can spend a little bit of time with¦ on the phone and help them solve their problems, executive secretary Bette Lupo said.

“There’s a certain level of service that Newton students and parents have come to expect. A standard. And those standards are going to be compromised.

Lupo, who has been president of the secretaries’ association for ten out of the last 12 years, has been able to develop a close connection with the students and teachers in Newton, which she thinks will be lost as more and more secretarial positions are removed.

Come September, Lupo’s position is one of the cuts that will be made.

“I think that the superintendent and his staff did a superb job of making the right trade-offs in this budget, Sokoloff said. “However, I also think that it’s naïve to believe that all of our priorities and needs are going to be met perfectly.

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