Sherri VandenAkker was appointed to fill the vacancy on the School Committee by a vote of 9-0 at a joint meeting between the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen on Monday, December 18. The vacancy was created when School Committee member Gary Nihan resigned from the committee last month citing medical reasons.
VandenAkker has a Bachelor’s degree from Mt. Holyoke College and an M.A. and Ph.D in English Literature from the University of Massachusetts. She has twenty-five years of experience in classroom teaching and educational administration, and teaches at the collegiate level at Springfield College’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies, Boston Campus.
Around Reading, VandenAkker has served on the Joshua Eaton Task Force, is a member of the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse Board, hosts a RCTV show on education, and was elected to the Library Board of Trustees last April. VandenAkker was the only applicant for the position and will take her seat at the next School Committee meeting on January 8. She indicated that she plans to run for election to a full term on the School Committee in the April 3, 2018 town election.
The School Committee also had a fiscal year 2019 budget overview presentation by school department Director of Finance Gail Dowd. The presentation was described by Superintendent John Doherty as a “global overview.” The overview was shared in this meeting to help expedite the budget process in January. Dowd started by explaining the five cost centers that the budget is divided into: administration, regular day, special education, district-wide programs, and facilities. Down pointed out that activities such as field trips, food service, and extended day are not included in the budget and are paid for by fees charged for the activities.
Doherty then explained that costs are rising faster than the two and a half percent increase allowed by Proposition 2 ½. “A level service budget needs to grow at about three and half to four and a half percent each year,” Doherty stated. He also shared that state Chapter Seventy aid is only growing at about one percent. Reading has slipped in its per pupil spending ranking over the last ten years.
Dowd expressed that the driving factors in cost increases are health insurance and out-of district tuition for special education students. In preparation for the January budget meetings, the School Department will prepare two budgets, one will be a baseline balanced budget and the other will be a “restoration” budget if a Proposition 2 ½ override passes in April.
The meeting adjourned at 8:40pm.