At the January 7, 2020 School Committee meeting, discussion items revolved largely around the Committee’s FY21 budget consultation with Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick and the enrollment projections for FY2021 through 2035. Superintendent Dan Gutekanst also shared his thoughts on the proposed budget.
School Committee Comments
The Committee met with Finance Committee liasons to answer their questions about the proposed school budget for FY21. It will meet with the Finance Committee as a whole on Wednesday, January 22nd to review the entire FY21 budget. On January 28th, the Finance Committee will vote on whether to recommend passage of the proposed budget at the May Town Meeting.
Superintendent Gutekanst noted that there will be a School Committee Budget Hearing at Broadmeadow Elementary on Tuesday, January 21st. Town Meeting members have been invited to attend.
Dr. Gutekanst recently attended a meeting of the Kindergarten Task Force, which was devised to guide grade-level faculty in planning and administering the newly adopted kindergarten curriculum. In April, the Task Force will report to the School Committee on the success of the first year of full-day kindergarten in Needham.
FY21 Budget Consultation with Town Manager
Historically, Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick prepares a recommendation to Town Meeting on whether to approve the proposed school budget. Ms. Fitzpatrick appeared before the Committee to find out what its FY21 budget priorities were. In response to her inquiry, Dr. Gutekanst said that most of the requests for new funding in the proposed FY21 budget are to meet existing staff needs and contractual obligations. These account for a greater percentage of the requested funding than in school budgets of the recent past. The proposed budget also requests additional funding to build capacity and ensure equity within the Special Education program.
Teresa Duggan, Assistant Superintendent and Director of Program Development and Implementation, commented that, as the School Department has added programming, the faculty has implemented it, but the teachers and curriculum coordinators have not received support in their efforts. Committee Chair Michael Greis remarked that although Needham does compare well to surrounding communities on many levels, it is falling behind with regard to student-teacher ratios.
Assistant Town Manager and Director of Finance David Davison discussed the two major revenue streams that affect school funding (current tax revenues from Trip Advisor and future tax revenues from NBC/Universal), noting that these sources are supporting our full-day kindergarten program as well as increases to personnel in the Police and Fire Departments.
FY2021 - 2035 Enrollment Projection
Demographer Jeremy McKibbon has developed projections for K-12 enrollment over the next fifteen years and will present his findings to the Future School Needs Committee on January 28, 2020 at 5pm.
Anne Gulati, Assistant Superintendent and Director of Financial Operations, noted that although the long term trend is fairly level over the course of the next fifteen years, McKibbon’s short term projection evidences a rapid increase in school population (due to the larger rising High Rock and Pollard class sizes) followed by a marked decrease.
Superintendent’s FY21 Budget Discussion
Due to the size of the rising High Rock and Pollard classes, the FY21 budget request is enrollment-driven at the secondary level (and to a lesser extent at the elementary level). Unfortunately, if reductions need to be made, they will likely come from necessary services and staffing — not from “extra” or “supplemental” programming.
Proposed FTE increases highlighted:
Classroom teachers: - Pollard: 2.4 - High School: 1.5
Assistant Principals: - Eliot: .3 - Mitchell: .1 - Williams: .2 - High Rock: .2
The School Committee unanimously approved both the establishment of the NHS Dave DiCicco Golden Heart Scholarship and the NHS Zack Kalish Memorial Scholarship.