School Committee approves FY’20 school budget

Apr 18, 2019 by

Published April 17, 2019

By JILLIAN STRING

LYNNFIELD — The School Committee voted to approve the updated fiscal year 2020 budget presented by Superintendent Jane Tremblay on April 9.

Tremblay stated that after her presentation to the Board of Selectmen, the original recommended budget of $26,182,916, representing a 5.24 percent increase over FY19, had to be reduced to $25,875,345, representing a 4 percent increase.

“We were told by the selectmen that we needed to sharpen our pencils and go back to the drawing board, and come up with other requests for a 4 percent budget increase,” Tremblay said.

According to Tremblay, the original recommended budget requested several staff positions, including a 1.0 full-time equivalent (FTE) English language learners (ELL) teacher, 3.0 FTE school adjustment counselors, a 1.0 FTE computer science teacher, as well as academic tutors at the middle school and elementary school levels.

The reduced budget will include the 1.0 FTE ELL teacher, 1.0 FTE middle school adjustment counselor, 1.0 FTE computer science teacher, two elementary academic tutors, and two middle school academic tutors.

“The adjustment counselors really were a need this year,” School Committee member Phil McQueen said. “I just want to emphasize that we’re being fiscally responsible and sharpening our pencils, tightening our belts, whatever you want to call it. It is a need now, and it’s a need that we need to address next year, and it’s not an option, I don’t think, moving on.”

Tremblay commented that the Administrative Leadership Team shared this concern, and hope to make the elementary adjustment counselor positions a priority for the FY21 budget.

Tremblay also noted that due to increased kindergarten enrollment projections at the Huckleberry Hill School, a kindergarten teacher and paraprofessional will be added to the budget as well.

“We have approximately 100 students coming into kindergarten at Huckleberry next year, and so we need to add a kindergarten teacher and a kindergarten aide,” Tremblay said. “For the first time in probably all my years in Lynnfield, we will be running five kindergarten classrooms out of Huckleberry Hill School.”

In addition to the changes in staffing requests, Tremblay stated that the district realized some savings in the area of special education for FY19, which will be rolled over into the FY20 budget.

Summer Street School parent Betsy Ragalevsky expressed her displeasure with the larger class sizes for the 2019-2020 third grade class.

“I’m disappointed that they’re going to larger class sizes, and I have a whole issue with that, but really what my main issue to talk to you today about is my disappointment in the communication and how that was delivered,” Ragalevsky said. “It was buried in Powerpoint presentations. I didn’t know about it. Most of the parents I’ve talked to in recent days didn’t know that it was happening, that they were going to go to three classes, so I feel like those 68 families should have been aware of that, told either by Dr. Dwyer or Mrs. Tremblay and given that information.”

School Committee Chairman Jamie Hayman apologized for the way the information came across.

“Our goal was to try to be as transparent as possible, and for whatever reason that didn’t come across, and I can only apologize for that,” Hayman said.

Tremblay noted that the change in class sizes was not due to the reduction in budget, but rather due to decreased enrollment at Summer Street.

Just prior to the start of the 2018-2019 school year, six students from the second grade class left SSS. The four second-grade classes operated with 16-18 students, as it was too close to the first day of school to change classes around.

Tremblay stated that in keeping with class size guidelines for FY20, these classes would be combined into three classrooms of 22-23 students.

According to Tremblay, this change was noted in her presentation to the School Committee on Jan. 22, her presentation to the Board of Selectmen on Feb. 11, as well as her February “Stay Informed” email to parents.

“In thinking about the number of teachers in a grade or in a class, it’s not at all uncommon for that to change as the students move from grade to grade depending on the change of class size guidelines, or the change of class size and needs. It’s not an uncommon occurrence at all,” School Committee member Dorothy Presser said.

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