The Board of Education presented the 2017-2018 budget to the public at its latest meeting. The budget was shaped around their strategic planning, involving the four essential goals and student achievement, technology, climate and culture, and finance and facilities.
To reach their goal of student achievement, the Board of Education approved many new courses at the high school level. These range from the Holocaust and Human Rights course to AP Economics.
Core instructional initiatives, particularly at the elementary school grade levels, include improvements to balanced literacy, science, and mathematics. The revised curricula provides for classroom libraries, leveled readers, and additional classroom resources for improving literacy, new textbooks and classroom supplies for science, and additional textbooks, techbooks, and supplemental materials for mathematics.
Other instructional initiatives include an expansion to the Environmental Sciences Academy at the high school, more resources to close the achievement gap for at risk and students with disabilities, and an expansion of transitional education programs that focus on life skills.
To improve student performance, the budget focuses on professional development as well. Teachers will continue to network on the best practices and teaching methods and a consultant will train staff on balanced literacy. In addition to this, the calendar for the next school year includes ten early dismissal days where the teachers will stay until the regular time to learn instructional strategies and develop PARCC-like common assessments.
The second primary goal covered in the budget is improvements to technology. In the 2017-2018 budget, $500,000 is being dedicated to technology purchases. This money will be spent to expand the 1:1 laptop to student ratio at the middle and high school level, replace outdated hardware and devices, and continue to maintain infrastructure and network security. Digital learning initiatives will be expanded as well with additional techbooks and an increased usage of Google Apps For Education as a learning platform.
The budget will put money towards maintaining and improving facilities as well. This year Stanlick, Milton, JTHS, and JTMS all underwent security and fire alarm upgrades, JTHS went through electrical upgrades, and a new intercom and clock and bell system were installed at Cozy Lake. A roof restoration and a new sidewalk were added to JTMS and JTHS faced many improvements to its auditorium (lighting system upgrade, new sound system, and new curtains) and gyms (seat repairs, floor resurfacing in the Freedom Gym, bleacher replacement in the old gym, and the track resurfacing).
Going forward, the Board of Education distributed their money in the budget for next year to restore the roof at Cozy Lake, install a new intercom and clock and bell system at White Rock, upgrade the fire alarm system at Briggs, upgrade security at JTMS and JTHS, renovate the bathrooms at JTMS, and upgrade the HVAC in the JTHS auditorium along with new seating and carpeting.
The transportation system will be maintained by replacing two school buses, installing additional security cameras on stop-arms, and upgrading radio communication systems.
The board addressed concerns about staff adjustments being made in the budget presentation as well. They explained that these adjustments were made in response to a decrease in district enrollment. The average class sizes, however, will remain in their target range at each grade level.
Superintendent Patrick Tierney explained that he is trying to curb enrollment decreases by establishing the foreign exchange program and finding a new and unique program to entice students to stay in the district.
This budget is within the two percent increase cap, but it will still impact property taxes. It is estimated that for an average household being assessed at $289,300, the annual property tax increase will be about $168.08. This is a result of the state budget to the school district remaining stagnant for the past five years, forcing the local government to compensate for any budget increases.