School Committee Sets Override Priorities

Reading, MA — The School Committee voted 6-0 to approve Superintendent John Doherty’s updates to its “reconstruction” budget on Monday, February 5. The updates were needed due to the Board of Selectmen decision to reduce the Proposition 2 ½ override amount allocated to the schools by $299,000. The new plan, referred to as the “priority” plan, has no new additions from the “restoration” plan and according to Doherty is focused on classroom teachers, technology support, strengthening core instruction, and has built-in sustainability.

The new plan retains seven middle school and three elementary school teachers, restores five high school teachers, and retains the elementary tutor. Committee member Jeanne Borawski approved of the plan stating, “Restoring teachers reflects community priorities.”

The “priority” plan also creates two curriculum coordinator positions and restructures the special education leadership model, allowing for three and a half full-time equivalent (FTE) team chairs at the elementary schools and a one-half FTE for the RISE preschool. In the plan, the RISE preschool director position would become an assistant special education director. The total addition to the special education staff would be one FTE. The plan also calls for one computer technician to be restored, and there is money for classroom technology replacement. The “priority” plan funds the third year of the new science curriculum installation, more teacher training, and new literacy materials as well. The plan will also provide money to help attract and retain teachers and restores the athletics schedule and elementary chorus program.

Items not funded from the “restoration “ budget include one high school teacher, the five elementary school assistant principals, one clerical position and two vacation cleanings of the high school.

Much of the committee discussion focused on the curriculum coordinators. The plan would propose to hire two persons, one to oversee K-6 science and math, and the other to oversee K-6 English language arts and social studies. These new roles would coordinate curriculum both horizontally across the district and vertically in each school. They would be involved in curriculum pacing and mapping and would ensure that new curriculum frameworks were being adhered to in classrooms. In addition, they would aid in transitioning students to the middle school level. Committee member Sherri VandenAkker approved, adding, “(The coordinators) will help build our strengths as well as help with areas of need.” Assistant Superintendent Craig Martin inferred that most of Reading’s peer districts have curriculum coordinator positions.

Committee member Elaine Webb showed support for the plan, reminding the public that the override would cost the average house in Reading only $2 each working day. Committee member Nicholas Boivin added, “If this is not what the taxpayers want to provide, the effects on the school system will be devastating.”

The committee will present its “balanced” budget to the Finance Committee on Wednesday, February 7.

The School Committee, by a vote of 6-0, approved an update to the district bullying policies and prevention plan. It also voted 6-0 to approve a statement of interest to be sent to the Massachusetts School Building Administration seeking aid in the replacement of a 20-year-old boiler at Reading Memorial High School. If approved, reimbursement could be as much as half of the $585,000 price tag for the project. The statement of interest must also be endorsed by the Board of Selectmen and will be discussed at their February 13 meeting.

The School Committee adjourned at 8:38pm.

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