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What Arlington High needs in next year's budget

The principal's assessment of Arlington High was succinct: a high-performing school in an aging facility with a staff paid below average -- a combination that is "not sustainable."

School budget logoHigh-performing school, staff paid below average "not sustainable."-- Principal Janger

That said Dr. Matthew Janger, principal at Arlington High School, presented his budget hopes for the next fiscal year to the School Committee on Thursday, Dec. 4. Accompanying him were Rob DiLoreto, Fusco House dean, and Melissa Dlugolecki, director of athletics.

In discussion following the remarks, committee member Kirsi Allison-Ampe asked for the bottom line on the number of full-time equivalent employees requested. "Three or four," Janger said:

Here is the full text of his statement:

Arlington High School currently enrolls 1,294 students in a 400,000-square-foot facility. The school is ranked among the top 25 high schools in Massachusetts according to MCAS scores. We are recognized as a U.S. News & World Report gold medal school, a U.S. News & World Report STEM school, and among the nation’s most challenging schools according to the Washington Post. This year, we received a level 1 designation from the state for overall achievement and progress on the MCAS.

Over the last year, we have made progress in terms of achievement, programming, technology, infrastructure, and security. Nonetheless, major budget impacts in the next few years will continue come from a combination of rising enrollment, past funding issues, and infrastructure costs. The school continues to be on warning by NEASC for the condition of its building and infrastructure.

The quality of the school in spite of the facility, equipment, and resources available to teachers is a testament to our excellent teachers. To continue to keep and attract these teachers over the next years will require us to provide them with adequate classroom spaces and technology.

Curriculum and Staffing

The high school has been able to expand offerings and reduce class sizes in math and English due to staffing increases from last year. These have brought the average FTE per pupil at the high school (11.95 FTE/pupil) closer to the district ratio (11.78 FTE/pupil).

School Committee logo

We foresee the following trends putting pressure on staffing in the future:

- Chapter 222 requires schools to educate students who were previously excluded due to felony charges or expelled. [Janger called it costly, in time and money.]

- Evaluation requirement for building administrators to observe every faculty member and for buildings to evaluate all faculty every year.

- Race to the top calls for ever rising levels of student achievement and graduation rates.

- Rising enrollment. We would like to plan for staffing trends over the next 3-4 years, rather than one year at a time (see table)

- We continue to have high numbers of students in directed studies, which is out of compliance with state standards. This includes all freshmen and sophomores and juniors and seniors. (not addressed in this request)

- We do not currently offer four years of physical education, which is not in compliance with state standards.

Estimated need – to adjust for student enrollments: 3.6 FTE (asking for 3.0) Over the next four years, we foresee the need for additional FTE to adjust for rising enrollment and expectations. We have tried to plan long term in order to bring these roles in according to priorities.

See table >> 

Current Request - 3.0 FTE

New Dean to cover rising expectations, evaluation, and enrollment

- New Dean - 1.0 Necessary for curriculum requirements and safety issues (0.4 FTE)

- Science - .4 (connected to .6 in existence) - currently 11 classes over 25

Dependent on enrollment trends (1.0 FTE)

- Math - 0.2 Computer Science

- World Languages - 0.2-0.6 (0.2 Italian, 0.2 Mandarin, 0.2-0.4 Spanish)

- Family and Consumer Science - 0.2-0.4 (increase to FACS and woodworking program)

- Visual Art - 0.2-0.4 increase to accommodate enrollment

Technology

With support from the capital committee, grants, and teacher innovations, we have achieved some remarkable improvements in instructional technology this year. These improvements will need to be supported and sustained over the coming years. Digital technology is changing the potential for engaging and supporting all learners, preparing students for a computer rich economy, and allowing students to engage directly with creating knowledge and influencing their world. Our short-term goal is to develop an educational environment that combines special-use labs with an environment where every student has access to either their own device, or supplementary devices supplied by the school. This is called “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD.

All instructional staffers at AHS now have an Apple laptop, nearly every classroom is equipped with a projector, wireless is working pretty well, and everyone has Google accounts.

Interesting experiments are happening with in-class technology, for example:

- We have a mix of older and newer computer labs for computer science, CADD, world languages, digital music, and humanities.

- English and Social Studies are bringing 5 to 25 Chromebooks to their classrooms.

- Math and Science are sharing an iPad cart.

- The Media Center has an iPad cart and mobile 10-set available for classrooms.

- Some are trying BYOD or Bring Your Own Device where students use their phones with response systems like Socrative and back channels like TodaysMeet.

- Maker Space - A group of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics teachers are working with Mr. Tassone in the old wood shop to turn it into an interdisciplinary lab for experimentation.

We are planning to implement next year, based on grant funding:

- A laptop cart with instruments for science

- A digital media studio for art and video production

- Classroom pilots of 1:1 and BYOD models in 4-6 sites

- Linux stations with recycled computers to support student access

To provide a 21st-century education (not currently supported through the capital committee request):

- Additional Wireless and Network for bring-your-own device platform

- Computer drops for the Linux and other student computers

- Upgrades to older computer labs

- Development of the woodshop into a high tech “maker space” to allow students to prototype and experiment beyond the virtual.

- Time and funding for ongoing professional development for teachers

Building

Over the past year, we have worked closely with the town maintenance and custodial departments to improve the management and staffing of the facilities. Our assistant principal William McCarthy has attended closely to maintenance, custodial, and security issues. [Janger noted that McCarthy had to deal with switching classes because of heating issues that consumed five days.] As a result, we have seen improved cleanliness and repairs. We have improved stop gap measures to badly aging facilities, but need to make a plan to address issues around basic repairs. These building maintenance issues have major impacts on morale, education, safety, and security. In spite of discussions about future high school renovation, it is imperative that we keep the current learning environment clean and in good repair for the current students and our staff.

- Continue to fully staff custodial crews (at least 10 FTE)

- Support allocations to routine maintenance (e.g., heat, paint, leaks, doors, parking lots, security equipment, locker rooms, restrooms, track, and turf field).

- Allocate funding to convert more spaces into instructional, science labs, office, storage, and computer lab, spaces.


Oct. 15, 2014: Public schools' enrollment continues to rise


 This story was published Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.

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