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Bodie contract, raise get 6-1 School Committee OK

Kathleen BodieBodie

Committee urges state to shore up local foundation

UPDATED, Feb. 19: Another top Arlington leader is getting a raise, as schools' Superintendent Kathleen Bodie has received a new three-year contract.

The School Committee voted, 6-1, with Bill Hayner dissenting, Thursday, Feb. 11, to approve the pact through June 2019. The first year, starting July 1, provides a raise to $187,578, from $181,500.

School Committee Chair Paul Schlichtman noted the raises amount to 2 percent annually. He explained in a post to the Arlington List Feb. 18 that $2,400 in additional compensation was removed from the contract. "The base we used to calculate the 2% increase was $181,500+ plus 2,400 or 183,900. Add 2%, and you reach the $187,578 for FY 17."

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Before voting, member Judson Pierce said he was "pleased to take this vote," adding that the district is "well served" by Dr. Bodie.

In a roll call, Hayner voted no, without comment. He made his views clear in December following his lone negative review of the superintendent in her annual evaluation by committee members. Read those opinions here >> 

After the vote, Bodie told the committee a whole: "I want you to know how appreciative I am of your confidence .... I look forward to our collaborative relationship."

In the second year of the contract, Bodie's pay rises to $191,330 and in the third $195,156.

Bodie, named an assistant superintendent in 2007, was elevated to superintendent in 2008 following the departure of Nate Levenson. That year, she was named interim superintendent and continued in that role until 2010, when she was named superintendent.

The decision to maintain in place the top school leader came amid the annual school-budget number crunch. As December's hopes are trimmed away by February's realities, the public begins to get a clearer picture of what the district can afford for next year.

See that picture in the superintendent's latest budget here >> 

Overall, it shows a town appropriation of $57,001,333 for fiscal 2017, an increase of $3,427,219, or 6.4 percent.

Grants are expected to fall to $2,130,379, a drop of $322,153, or 13.1 percent.

Revolving fees and reimbursements are to increase by $115,295 to $3,505,412, or 3.4 percent.

The total proposed budget of $62,637,124 is $3,220,361 higher than the current year, or 5.4 percent.

To drill down into the numbers, color-coded lists show what is expected to be funded, fully and partially, and what will not.

Could town schools use $3.6m more?

As each proposed cut reflects some impact on a child's education, the School Committee unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at seeking fuller funding of Chapter 70 funds from the state.
Member Kirsi Allison-Ampe noted that the resolution from a statewide group that advocates for state funding targeted the conclusions of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, which last fall recommended to Gov. Baker fully funding foundation budgets, shortchanged since education reform began in 1993.

Allison-Ampe and Linda Hanson, teachers' union president, were among those offering testimony, last March. Read it here >> 

The School Committee resolution directs Schlichtman to asked the selectmen and the Finance Committee to discuss the matter.

Pierce called it "untenable" to face subpar funding every year. "We're fighting with our hands tied behind our backs," he said.

Instead of catching up on foundation funding, Schlichtman said, Baker's budget had a negative number, "a deflation rate."

Following the necessary complaining, Bodie provided a range of numbers showing the local impact: If the foundation budget were fully funded, that could mean $3.4 million to $3.6 million annually for Arlington.

A public hearing for the fiscal 2017 budget is planned for Feb. 25. A vote is expected in March, when the committee takes ownership of the budget, About a week after that, the Finance Committee hears the budget presentation.

Tuesday task force eyed

Committee discussion looked ahead to the enrollment task force meeting set for Tuesday, Feb. 23, in the School Committee Room, sixth floor, Arlington High.

Part of what will be discussed that night will come from presentations to the Facilities Committee on Feb. 9.

During public participation, Moriah Tyrrell, a Thompson School parent and a member of the Arlington School Enrollment Community Group, asked the School Committee to pursue a feasibility study that looks at all enrollment options. Read those comments here >>

Hayner said he thought an independent of analysis should be done and that he he would like a School Committee proposal for the Feb. 23 meeting. He was not more specific.

"If Gibbs is on the table," he said, then he would prefer the possibility of phasing it in over a number of years. He was referring to taking back the space for classrooms, which has been in play since August, and has roiled the four current tenants, including the center for the arts and Lesley Ellis.

Behind 'soft' costs

Facilities subcommittee Chair Cindy Starks said she wanted to lay out all options Feb. 23, including costs. A number of members hoped projected costs could be pinned down. Diane Johnson, chief financial officer, called many numbers "soft" in the light of how high bids for Stratton modular classrooms had come in.

Of costs that have more certainty, Bodie pointed to the estimate to renovate the former Gibbs, put earlier at $14 million to $20 million. If that route is pursued, "it will take a while," she said.

She touched briefly on a proposal for another Ottoson building, detailed Feb. 9, looking at three stories, with parking on the ground floor.

Among those seeking firmer numbers, because parents want them, is member Jeff Thielman. The need for those numbers?

"We'll be going for a debt exclusion in the next several months," he said, for projects that would include Ottoson.

Hayner raised the former Gibbs again. He said he expects to "cost us a lot. I couldn't support that."

Revamped website live Feb. 19

In other business, the committee learned that a revamped district website, in the works about six months, is expected to be unveiled Thursday, Feb. 18. The public may experience some site downtime at as the transition takes place.

Bodie thanked Julie Dunn and Claudia Bertoli, the longtime webmaster, as well as Karen Tassone, her assistant.

Dunn said the site is not a not new one but a reworking of the existing site, updated to improve the look and how it's navigated.

Changes that the public is most likely to see are a moving box photos showing schools, most of them taken by students, as well as menus reorganized to be more user-friendly.

The committee discussed a survey aiming to improve school calendar, but some members did not seem to want to review religious holidays.

Schlichtman said the calendar changed after religious holidays were discussed in 2000-2001, and he did not want to review that ground.

He said he favors starting the school year earlier to avoid the June snow-day crunch. Of course, in Lowell, where he works, the school year begins before Labor Day. In Arlington, under the union contract, the start is after.

Feb. 16, 2016: Feasibility study urged that looks at all enrollment options

Dec. 16, 2015: Hayner's statement expresses doubt about Bodie

Parents' ongoing discussion of enrollment issues

Full text of School Committee's superintendent evaluation, Nov. 12, 2015 >>

May 1, 2013: School superintendent's contract boosts pay to $181,500 in 2016

This report was published Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, and updated Feb. 19, to add explanation.

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