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SC Meeting: January 2, 2024

At the January 2 School Committee meeting there was an FY25 Budget Consultation with the Town Manager, an Emery Grover Project Update, and an FY25 Budget Discussion: Instruction & Innovation.

Public Comments

  • An unidentified man spoke at length, questioning the legality of the Superintendent's attendance at the School Committee meeting, along with other complaints. Chairperson, Andrea Longo Carter suggested that the man could share his statement with the committee via email for their review.

  • Craig Idlebrook, father of a Newman third grade student, spoke in support of a district wide racial literacy and hate speech curriculum. Chairperson, Andrea Longo Carter responded that district does have a racial literacy curriculum at the elementary school level and offered to supply more information.

Superintendent’s Comments

  • Dr Gutekanst wished the entire school community a Happy New Year.

  • Reminded everyone of the upcoming budget hearing on January 16 at 6:30 at the Broadmeadow School.

FY25 Budget Consultation with the Town Manager

Kate Fitzpatrick, Town Manager, and Dave Davidson, Assistant Town Manager presented on the FY25 Budget, as it stands now.

  • Overview of Capital Plan, balancing Health & Safety first and quality of life

  • Regular and recurring capital (ie. Furniture and copiers) funded

  • Shade structure and playground updates at the Newman recommended to be funded by a number of different sources; Eliot boiler; NHS tennis courts funded in a “creative way”; electric vehicle charging stations; one fleet expansion, tier 2 capital; code requirements in auditorium lighting and sound article, waiting to see if the Pollard portion could be associated with larger project; feasibility study for the MSBA Pollard; looking to fund help for Hank Haff as these large construction projects will require additional staffing

  • Looking to FY25 & FY26 Federal funding from pandemic drying up, increasing uncertainty for the future

  • Possible consolidation of IT teams from Town and Schools; wrapping up proposed funding plan in next two weeks and will report back

  • Discussion of Newman auditorium renovation not being funded; possibly creating a further delay in project execution

  • Discussion of rate of growth being less than previous years; expect 4%

  • Discussion of NHS auditorium lighting and audio needs

  • School Committee members expressed their appreciation for all the work that the town does to balance all the competing budgetary needs of the town. They also expressed concern about delaying the school auditorium renovations even further as clear deficiencies were found in the Sound & Lighting Study.

Emery Grover Project Update

Hank Haff, Director of Construction and Design, joined by committee member Michael Greis gave an update on the Emery Grover Renovation.

  • Progress includes: all rectangular windows replaced, arched windows on order, exterior brick work complete; clockface restoration complete; electrical and data conduit installed underground

  • Completion date will most likely be delayed and not fully ready for move-in before September; Superintendent and staff will likely start the year at Hillside and discuss the best time to move into the renovated Emery Grover.

  • Major budget surprises included: brick work under each window rebuilt, structural engineer found voids (lack of grouting) in every brick wall, causing ~$900K change order to fill wall voids, funds came from contingency fund; durability of floors, needed additional support. There are contingency funds remaining, as they were under budget on Hillside work. Will not ask for additional funds.

  • No major changes to layout and design, 95% layout as originally designed

  • More photos of the renovation in progress can be found in the packet.

FY25 Budget Discussion: Instruction & Innovation

Dr. Carmen Williams, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and Innovation, Dr. Elizabeth Zajac, Director of World Languages, and Chris Gosselin, Interim Director of Media and Digital Learning presented on the budget requests for Instruction and Innovation.

  • Dr. Zajac requested the following for World Languages: STAMP Assessment, Grade 11, an additional 63 students at $1442.70; American Sign Language, Grade 8, in order to continue to offer this program that for the two previous years was funded by an NEF grant, $16,065, inclusive of laptop cost.

  • Mr. Gosselin requested 2 items: an upgrade to web content filtering software that would allow real time monitoring and reporting, enabling appropriate intervention with students in the moment, pilot for K-5 would be $20,000; Instructional Software license fee increase in order to maintain current service level for $4804, great savings by renegotiating current contracts. The cost could have been $15,000.

  • Dr. Williams requested additional funding for Responsive Classroom training for teachers, one time cost to upskill current teachers and create a “Train the Trainer” pipeline to skill incoming teachers, $22,214

  • Dr. Williams also requested additional funds for state mandated reading screening, software would bring K-3 online (currently G3 is paper & pencil) and allows for better tracking and fully fund 6-8, $16,900

  • Dr. Williams requested funding for administrative support for Summer Programming in order to better coordinate planning and administration of the program across 5 departments and better liaise with parents, $10,000.

The next School Committee Meeting will be Tuesday, January 16th at 6:30pm.


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