Hopkinton, MA
Hopkinton, US
1:28 pm, Saturday, December 2, 2023
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School Committee reacts to vote, continues budget talks

by | Nov 17, 2023 | Education, Featured: Education

Reflecting on a positive Town Meeting vote to approve a proposed new Elmwood School, School Committee chair Nancy Cavanaugh described herself as “very thrilled” by the results. But she reminded residents that a majority vote will be needed at the Nov. 28 election to approve funding.

She expressed gratitude to members of the Elementary School Building Committee who have worked on the project for three years and to Vertex and Perkins Eastman as well as the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

Town Meeting had the advantage of seeing the presentation about the project and having questions and concerns addressed, she said.

Filling of vacancy discussed

The chair discussed the vacancy on the committee following Holly Morand’s resignation to take a job with the town.

The committee agreed to pursue a joint meeting with the Select Board to appoint a successor on Dec. 14. The idea is to have a full committee when the school budget is reviewed on Dec. 21 in another joint session.

Interested applicants can apply through the town website.

In a related matter, member Susan Stephenson agreed to be the liaison with a committee working on the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan.

Morand was the previous liaison.

Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh explained that every two years, the document is reviewed and compiled. Currently, five subgroups have been formed to each concentrate on a piece of the plan.

The next full committee meeting is Jan. 17, with a completion date expected in May, Carol Cavanaugh said.

The committee is going to wait until the new committee member is appointed to see if that individual will serve as liaison to the Planning Board, replacing Morand.

For the bulk of the meeting, the School Committee continued to hear budget presentations from representatives of the Athletic Department, middle school and high school as well as on curriculum.

Athletic Director Ricky Andrade noted the proposed Athletic Department’s budget increased by $73,486, or 6.5%, inclusive of new personnel requests.

Among the personnel requests for fiscal year 2025 are stipends for the addition of three boys volleyball coaches (varsity, assistant varsity and junior varsity), a junior varsity wrestling coach and a 0.5 FTE (full time equivalent) assistant athletic trainer position.

The stipends total around $25,000, while the trainer salary would be $28,000, he said.

The budget also reflects a decrease in the administrative assistant position by 0.5 FTE ($31,000) and an increase to the half-time assistant athletic director position by 0.5 FTE ($31,000), making that role full-time.

Andrade said the rise of $19,694 (or 4.09%) in the contracted services account is because of an increase in transportation services, automated external defibrillator (AED) and AED maintenance, portable toilets, ice rink cost increases and other inflation.

The supplies and equipment account will not need a dramatic increase (0.89%), he said, because the department does not have to buy as many football helmets in FY25.

Vice chair Amanda Fargiano said that “an enormous number” of families come out for events and games. “It’s a real point of social connection for a lot of kids and an investment in our school community,” she said.

HMS asks for increase in Mandarin teaching

Representing Hopkinton Middle School was Principal Matt Lefebvre, who reviewed enrollment projections for FY25 at 1,001 students.

He said the budget reflects 341 students in Grade 6, 320 students in Grade 7 and 340 students in Grade 8. Class sizes average 23, 22 and 23, respectively.

Without new personnel requests, he said, the proposed budget increase is 2.9%. Included in the budget is a 0.2 FTE increase to the current Mandarin teaching position, with a cost of $14,806.

Based on current numbers, Lefebvre wants to add another section of Mandarin for a total of two in Grade 8. In addition, he anticipates the need to increase from three to four sections of Mandarin-2 for each grade.

Lefebvre said 25 of 31 HMS expense accounts are at or below the FY24 budget. The seven with increases are the addition of $1,599.99 for more therapeutic materials, fidgets and manipulatives in the guidance supply budget; $4,711.63 more for VEX Robotics registration and supplies in engineering; an addition of $2,500 for music transportation to competitions; $1,000 more to buy percussion ensemble music and music literacy texts; and an increase of $1.500 for repair costs in music maintenance.

Committee member Adam Munroe said he is thrilled to support the music program, which he feels is sometimes undervalued.

He said music programs are examples of the “types of things that help shape and help students evolve in life.”

“It’s a vibrant part of the school experience,” Lefebvre agreed.

Other increases are $1,069.88 for project supplies in social studies and a 39,474.51 hike for copier leases and replacement of student and teacher furniture that is beyond repair.

HHS seeks funds to address class sizes

Hopkinton High School Principal Evan Bishop summarized the increases requested in personnel and non-payroll expense accounts. He said the goal is to have a fiscally responsible budget that focuses on what is really needed.

He said an increase of 1.0 FTE ($74,034) would be needed for the projected increased enrollment at HHS in FY25. The funds would be distributed across different departments to address large class sizes. He will know based on course enrollments where it will be necessary.

Bishop said an additional 1.0 FTE ($74,034) was requested for an intensive special education teacher position. (This position is reflected in the Student Services FY25 budget.)

The principal noted an overall increase of 3.1% in equipment, supply, textbook and/ other accounts. Of the 35 non-payroll accounts, 18 have been level funded. Five of the remaining accounts show increases of $2,500 for English books and novels for a new Grade 12 English class; World Language texts for Advanced Placement French and Advanced Placement workbooks as well as access to the AP supersite.

In the Music Department, hikes were for an intermediate tenor trombone and a concert cello.

Other increases were $3,900 more for the substitute account and an additional $15,866 for new photocopy machines added this year.

Curriculum, instruction needs reviewed

Jeff LaBroad, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development, presented a preliminary FY25 budget of $1,895,645, an increase of $147,739, or 8.5%, over FY24.

LaBroad highlighted the total salary budget of $1,702,645, which is $206,538 (13.8%) over last year.

He said the funds are for projected contractual increases, change of the director of English language acquisition, equity and access from 10 months to 12 months, and the addition of the director of Middle School ELA, which previously was grant-funded and costs $215,941.

On the expense side, the total proposed budget of $193,000 represents a decrease of $8,174, or 4.0%, he said.

Translation and interpretation services show an increase, LaBroad said, that is “not a pie-in-the-sky money-grab,” but rather something that is a source of pride for the district.

“We’re doing a better job than ever before of making sure families can access information about the schools, community and students they entrust to us every day,” he said.

The services help families “fully engage” in the learning process, LaBroad added.

Examples would be newsletters, announcements about conferences and individualized education programs (IEPs).

In other business, the board approved the following requests for travel:

— Belize from April 19-26, 2025, for all interested high school students for a STEM-related tour. Some of the activities would be water quality assessments, a coastal restoration project, visiting sustainable farms, etc.

“It’s a great example of how students are doing science, and when you throw in the cultural pieces, it adds another fantastic layer to the whole project,” Munroe said.

— Martha’s Vineyard from Feb. 17-18, 2024, for a varsity hockey tournament.

— Boston University from Feb. 2-4, 2024, for the Model United Nations Conference.


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