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Budget pleas from middle schools, AHS, union point to modest hopes

December brings new requests for next year's school budget, and the School Committee heard pleas for staff increases at two meetings.

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On Dec. 12, middle and high school principals as well as a union representative made their cases. None had dollar amounts attached. A week later, pleas for the elementary schools were presented.

To read the Dec. 12 presentations, click each link: Gibbs,  OttosonArlington High School and the teachers' union

Gibbs

Kristin DiFrancisco, the Gibbs principal, requested additional staff to meet needs caused by the increased enrollment. For the next year, she estimated the Gibbs needs additional teaching staff in math intervention, Spanish and physical education. Professional development is also a top priority for the principal.

The Gibbs teaching staff "asks" and their FTEs (full-time equivalents) are as follows:

0.2 math interventionist;

0.3 Spanish teacher; and

0.2 physical education teacher.

In addition, DeFrancisco also asked for funds to support training for nonteaching staff in the following programs:

  • Wilson Training (reading) to support students entering the sixth-grade needing intervention;
  • The Responsive Classroom (social and emotional learning) for both new staff members and current staff members;
  • The coteaching initiative in supporting current projects and allowing for growth;
  • Project Block (presentations of project-based learning); and
  • Advisory services.

DeFrancisco does not specify the amount of funding she requires for each training program, but she said her requests are relatively more modest for this year. In two years, she said,, with the large enrollment in the current third grade, she forecasts a greater need for teachers and teacher training.

For the full report, click here >>

Ottoson Middle school

Brian Meringer, Ottoson principal, said he “based most of the requests on the projected increase in enrollment.”
 
The Ottoson now enrolls 900 students, and Meringer expects 40 more students next year. Because of this growth, he asked for an increase in teaching staff for physical education, Spanish, math, computer science and for supporting the learning communities (grouping of students formerly known as clusters). With some of this additional teaching staff, Meringer will create a new half-sized learning community that would be taught by two teachers instead of four.

Meringer argued that special education has a particularly acute need for more staff. He pointed out that the increase in anxiety and depression among middle school students, not only at the Ottoson but nationwide, demands additional experts in this field. Accordingly, Meringer requested two new staff positions, one to support students in the learning communities and the other for a program that assists students with long-term absences, many of whom suffer from anxiety and depression.

Because of the increase in enrollment, Meringer cited the need for a one-tenth full-time equivalent administrative assistant and the promotion of three teaching assistants to behavioral-support professionals. Even with the current enrollment, he explained that he had a difficult time retaining teaching assistants at the current pay rate.

The requests for Ottoson are:

0.2 physical education teachers to reduce class size;

0.2 Spanish teacher to reduce class size;

2.0 Learning community teachers (formerly called clusters) which would allow an increase in Learning Communities by one-half;

1.0 Special-education teacher to support growing enrollment;

1.0 Bridge teacher to help students transition back into school from long absences;

0.1 Administrative assistant;

3 Teaching assistants promoted to behavioral support personnel;

0.4 math teacher; and

0.4 computer science teacher.

For the full report, click here >> 

Arlington High School

Matthew Janger, Arlington High School principal, made similar requests for increasing the teaching force in response to enrollment increases. He said he expects high school enrollment of 1,415 students to raise to more than 1,500 by next year. He said the areas of greatest importance remain the same 1.) equality and diversity, 2.) social and emotional learning and 3.) rigorous education.

As in past years, the core subject areas were given priority for new teaching positions. Janger asked for five new positions to offer enough classes in the required subject areas. “What we are looking for is to stay the same,” he said. In addition, special education will require another teacher in view of the projected additional 20 students.

He reminded the committee the high school was not able “to stay the same” in previous years because priority for staff had to be given to the elementary schools which had experienced tremendous growth.  This year he hoped to fully staff the core subjects and add some additional staff to the arts and electives.

As for nonstaffing requests, he was concerned that the students have to use the existing buildings, at least in part, for the five years. In the next year, the high school will require seven new classrooms created out of vacated space after the Menotomy Preschool moves offsite. [[Why? If the preschool is moving, won't that automatically provide space?]] The cost of transforming this space into seven classrooms he estimated would be $80,000.

The high school requests are:

6 classroom teachers;

0.6 special education;

0.5 Dean;

0.01 House secretary;

0.4 Physical therapy and speech;

1 team chair; and

1 person for construction security.

Janger calculated that the total request for additional teaching staff is 7.1 full-time-equivalent positions.

For the full report, click here >> 

Concluding the “asks” portion of the meeting, Juliana Keyes, the second vice president of the Arlington Educational Association, the teachers' union, presented the members' requests. At the district level, the staff asked for more online subscriptions, small-group curricula and science materials. Specialist requests include a district psychologist, a physical therapist and training for a behavioral support personnel. Also she made requests for additional teachers and support staff at all the schools.

Of particular concern to the union was the funding for professional development. While the pool reimbursement funds has remained the same, the cost per course had risen so much that the funds for professional development had run out before all teachers were reimbursed. The union asked for an increase in funding for professional development.

Citing enrollment pressures, union requests are substantially more than the principals’ and are:

Curriculum: Renew and expand online subscriptions, materials for small-group classes and increase in funding for science materials and consumables.

Increase funds for professional development as well as art supplies. Staffing requests are:

1.0  District psychologist;

1.0  Full-time-equivalent physical therapist;

Specific, targeted training for behavioral support personnel; and

Update staff devices for laptops and provide reliable printers.

High School

0.8 Full-time-equivalent English language teacher;

0.4 Math teacher;

0.4 Physical education teacher;

0.8 Science teacher;

1.0 Social studies teacher;

1.0 English language arts teacher;

1.0 World language teacher;

0.2 Family and consumer science teacher; and

0.2 Preforming arts teacher.

Ottoson

1.0 7th-grade teacher;

1.0 8th-grade teacher;

1.0 English language teacher;

0.4 Math (small group);

0.2 Physical education teacher;

0.2 Spanish teacher; and

0.2 Administrative assistant.

Gibbs

0.2 math support teacher

0.5 Spanish teacher

For full report, click here >> 

Requests termed reasonable, but still cuts needed

Committee member Paul Schlichtman spoke first, saying “your requests are relatively modest.”

Member Jennifer Susse suggested that the increase in the high school enrollment might not be so large since there may be a drop-off from the eighth grade to the high school. Janger replied: “When a school opens, there is a bump up; when there is construction, there is a bump down.” He was referring to the possibility of a temporary small increase followed by a larger increase in enrollment when the rebuilt high school approaches completion.

As for the additional costs for repairs for the seven new high school classrooms, member Kirsi Allson-Ampe suggested that might be covered by the construction allocation. Member Bill Hayner said the rebuild project should also pay for a construction security guard.

Overall, even if these adjustments in costs could be made, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie and committee members agreed that not all the requests could be filled. They asked that the principals come back with prioritized lists to begin consideration of which of these requests could be funded. 


Schools' website: All school budget information

Dec. 28, 2018: Elementary principals' staffing pleas draw committee questions


This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019.

NOTE: The Dec. 19 School Committee meeting will be reported later.

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