Jenny on Budget Meeting #2
We held a Committee of the Whole dedicated to budget planning for the 2020/2021 academic year on February 24th. In this meeting, we heard from six departments:
English Language Arts
Each department provided a narrative description of the key activities and responsibilities of the departments and the goals. The narrative also discusses key things like aggregated staffing, accomplishments, and critical initiatives for the upcoming year. If you missed my update on the plans for this year's budget and some overall commentary, you can find it here.
You'll recall from my last update that I was pretty excited about my motion passing to add this question to all budget narratives: "Identify 3-5 items, initiatives, personnel, or costs that, if prioritized during the budget process, would positively impact student achievement that are in addition to the requested budget presented. List a brief description and estimated cost for each. Think big or small. Nothing is off the table in this section." This question has been shortened to the phrase "Wish List." I felt like it was a bit of a misnomer to call these wishes, but these items do fit quite well in the definition of wish: feel or express a strong desire or hope for something that is not easily attainable.
Our schools historically see a 2.5% to 4% budget increase yearly, which accounts for contractual salary increases and increases to the cost of services with a VERY small amount of “new” money left over. Last year the new spending was about $400,000. So, the items on this list are not easily attainable when you look at history, that's for sure. With a heightened focus on making budget needs apparent, I am hopeful that we will see a positive change in our annual increase this year. Whether the Student Opportunity Act funding will substantially benefit Medford this year remains to be seen. The Governor's budget only increases aid to Medford by $138K. At the same time, our expected contribution to charter schools will increase by $509K. The House and Senate will begin working on the budget in April. By the end of June, all three will pass a final reconciled budget.
Back to our budget talks. It's worth noting that something as simple as these few bullets is not simple behind the scenes. Our administrators, more than likely, could tell us what else they need at any given time, but quantifying these needs is a different matter. This first group presented us with lots to think about!
6 High School Guidance counselors and two middle school guidance counselors comprise the department. There are no guidance counselors at the elementary level. (Adjustment counselors at that level are part of the Special Education department.)
At the high school, counselors focus on post-graduation readiness. This work includes test registration, developing post-college plans for every student, college fairs, scholarship management. It also includes special events aimed at supporting students and families (e.g., Financial Aid Night, Scholarship night, Financial planning for elementary and middle school families, and workshops for our EL students with a "Life After High School" event.
The middle school counselors, in addition to similar efforts described above, are an essential component of teaching our Michigan Model health curriculum for units focused on social/emotional wellness.
We discussed investigating ways we could better understand and track our students after high school to understand how well we have prepared our students. The guidance department will look into this.
The department would like to expand the Girls Rising event (attended by both girls and boys) to the middle schools and put $5,000 on the 'wish list' to address this. Community donations are always welcome if you would like to see this happen!
English Language Arts
The department supports the instruction of our students K-12 with curricula for each level. It also supports 28 positions for teachers in grades 6-12.
In the last year, the department has worked to replace textbooks at the middle and high school levels. It has also focused on funding materials for Response to Intervention work at the K-2 level.
The department has asked for funding in next year's proposed budget to expand the use of tools used at the middle/high school level to elementary and to support the purchase of material that was previously grant-funded for the middle school. The budget also requests .5 ELA teachers at the high school to support staffing demands at the vocational level and 2 Literacy coaches for the elementary school, which will operate similarly to the Math coaches that exist today.
The 'wish list' includes the purchase of tools to support the early screening and intervention we've begun this year in K-2 through a pilot program. For more on this effort, see my notes about the regular meeting on this same date. (Link to Regular Meeting Summary) It also includes adding two reading specialists at the high school level, where there are none today. Reading specialists work with students who may be struggling but are not on IEPs.
The department supports the instruction of our students in K-12 with curriculum for each level. It also supports teachers in grades 6-12.
In the past year, the department has implemented a new curriculum at the middle school level.
The department is in the early stages of a curriculum change at the elementary level. Work has begun to narrow the options to 2 next year. While this happens, we will need to extend the contract for our current curriculum by one year. We can anticipate a specific budget ask next year, once the pilot is complete.
The department has asked for funding in next year's proposed budget to update statistics textbooks, ensure our math classes have proper supplies, and renew the elementary school curriculum for one year. The department also asked for funds to continue professional development at the middle school level for our new curriculum.
The 'wish list' includes professional development at the middle and high school focused on facilitating meaningful mathematical and logical conversations. It also includes increasing math coaches at the middle school (1 FTE) and the elementary schools (2 FTEs).
The department supports the instruction of our students K-12 with curriculum for each level. It also supports 26.5 teachers in grades 6-12.
The department is working to align the curriculum to the 2018 frameworks and the new Commonwealth Civics challenge beginning in grade 8. This challenge requires students starting in grade 8 to complete a civics action-based project. More information on the law that drove this curriculum change is av here.
The department has asked for funding in next year's proposed budget to include instructional materials to support the Civics Challenge, to continue NewsELA subscription, and to purchase new textbooks for grades 9 and 10. The budget also requests .5 ELA teachers at the high school to support staffing demands within the vocational program.
The 'wish list' includes professional development to support K-5 study of civics and community engagement with the One Community One Nation curriculum, new psychology textbooks (current books are from 2002 and 2006), and map updates for K-12 with the purchase of National Geographic maps and Map-Maker Interactive.
The department supports the instruction of our students K-12 with curriculum for each level. It also supports teachers in grades 6-12.
We are at the beginning of our implementation of FOSS at the elementary level. The program takes a hands-on approach to learning that is engaging for students of all abilities. All our elementary school classrooms, including our special program-based classes, are using FOSS.
The middle schools are piloting new programs at this time. We can anticipate a budget request next year at this time for full implementation.
Next year, the high school science sequence will change to better align and create options for additional science electives for 11th and 12th graders. The change will require the purchase of new textbooks for biology this year.
The department wish list includes professional development for the FOSS curriculum and Tech Lab material updates at the middle schools.
Mr. Cieri also has a 'wish list' item to add a high school engineering course at the high school. The course will take advantage of our new vocational space that is currently under construction. He estimates that this wish will have no added cost to the budget, so this one is an easy yes!
The department supports the instruction of our students K-12 with curriculum for each level. It also supports 19 teachers and paraprofessionals in grades 2-12.
Elementary students take Italian beginning in grade 2. Middle school students choose between Italian and Spanish. High school students choose between Italian, Spanish, and French.
Ms. Ricciardelli indicated a desire to teach French at the middle school level in the future. 5th-grade families choose a language preference for their child in 6th grade via a form sent home in the spring. The committee noted that it could be an excellent opportunity to gauge interest in the expansion of middle school language options.
The department's 'wish list' includes one additional French teacher for the middle school and the creation of a language lab at the high school to support student learning and practice.
The most notable thing happening in our World Language department right now is the loss of grant funding from C.A.S.IT. C.A.S.IT. has supported our Italian program in grades 2-5, various contests, and AP Italian test fees for nearly 20 years. C.A.S.IT. informed us in January that effective immediately, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has defunded the program. Plans for next year are in progress at this time, so stay tuned.
Full Schedule of Budget Meetings
Beginning on February 24th, the School Committee will hold budget meetings with every department. The department heads will present a narrative of their department along with their budget requests for the upcoming year. I've also included the recording links in the full list below Here is the schedule:
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24TH, 2020 – Guidance, English Language Arts, Social Studies, Mathematics, Science, and World Languages The session was recorded and is available here. The budget presentations spilled over into our regularly scheduled School Committee meeting as well which is available here.
MONDAY, MARCH 9TH, 2020 – Elementary Schools
MONDAY, MARCH 23RD, 2020 – Art, Physical Education, Library/Media, Health Services, and Athletics
MONDAY, APRIL 6TH, 2020 – Middle Schools, High School, Vocational Technical Education, and Student Activities/Programs
MONDAY, APRIL 13TH, 2020 – English Learners and Special Education
MONDAY, MAY 4TH, 2020 – School Committee, Finance/Business, Districtwide Expenses, and Districtwide
MONDAY, MAY 18TH, 2020 – Transportation, Security and Building, Grounds and Custodial
MONDAY, JUNE 1ST, 2020 – Reserved if an additional meeting is needed
MONDAY, JUNE 15TH, 2020 – Budget Hearing Presentation at last School Committee Meeting of the school year.
Your call to action: Join me at my next office hours at Salvatore's on 3/8 at 7 pm. I welcome your input in general, and as we get ready for our budget hearing with our elementary schools the following day. Please also share this blog with friends and neighbors who want to be informed about our schools. Subscribing to the newsletter will ensure you receive these updates as I post them.