School Committee Adopts Motion to Accept Needs Budget

After reviewing the Winthrop School District needs going forward, the school committee agreed on a budget request for the upcoming year. Taking both salaries and expenses into consideration, the committee will request $23,060,008, an increase of $2,772,476 over the current budget. The jump is in line with the growth of the district and need to continue forward movement toward achieving the goals of both academics and social emotional needs of today’s students.

In previous years, the district has operated on a level service budget, which hasn’t allowed for additional staffing needs, updated technology, new initiatives, athletics, and extracurricular programming. Unlike the needs budget, the level service budget simply allows the district to continue as it has in the past. For 2019, a level service budget, including the addition of a kindergarten class, was granted in the amount of $20,287,532.  A level service budget for 2020, is $21,688,382, an increase of $1,400,850 over the current budget

“We have data to support every position, material, supply or project that we are asking for,” said Superintendent Lisa Howard. “We are committed to fulfill our mission while striving to maintain a good partnership with the community even during troubling budgetary times.”

The budget request will be sent to the Town Council, which has the final say.

The school needs budget is broken down into two categories: staff salaries ($18,625,240) and needs pertaining to curriculum, contracts, technology, athletics, facilities, and transportation ($4,434,768). In order to keep students on track with those in other districts across the Commonwealth, it is critical to add staff at all schools and enhance the curriculum and technology. The high school is projected to need one special education co-teacher, one special education ESP, and one math teacher. The middle school is in need of a certified social studies teacher for the seventh and eighth grades, one physical education teacher, three Education Support Professionals (ESPs), a part-time adjustment counselor for the therapeutic classroom, four math coaches, four ELA coaches, and a part-time secretary. Along with new copiers, the Arthur T. Cummings school (ATC) needs one special education teacher, an ESP for the special education classroom, a part-time adjustment counselor, three Response to Intervention (RTI) staff members, and one third grade teacher. The Gorman Fort Banks school (GFB) is in need of one special education teacher, one special education ESP, one reading teacher, one ELL teacher, one math coordinator, two RTI staff members, one technology specialist, and one custodian.

“We need to position ourselves on a level playing field with other districts if we want to progress,” said Howard. “For several years we have been operating on a level service budget, and we are constantly having to fill the gap, which isn’t getting us closer to where we want to be. The mandates…what students have to learn to take MCAS and be productive, have changed and it’s hard to keep up with that when we have non-certified teachers teaching social studies.”

Another concern is the expanding science curriculum that will be taught at the elementary level, and the new need to start educating students on this as early as kindergarten and first grade.

“We can’t wait until students are in third grade to start educating them on this,” said Howard.

Across the Commonwealth, districts are making social-emotional learning a priority, which only makes it more critical for Winthrop to obtain the support system that it will need to help educate the whole student.

Staffing and technology are not the only areas that are in need of additional funds, and the cost to maintain the new field, additional building supplies, and new equipment costs are always rising, making a needs budget necessary to keep the district moving forward. As far as athletics is concerned, fees associated with the replacement and maintenance of equipment and supplies, as well as transportation, are necessary to keep the sports programs thriving.  

Keeping in mind that there are always issues that arrive during the school year, the committee narrowed down some potential capitol requests that include: projectors for elementary schools, a van for athletics, HVAC, elevator and stairs repair at the ATC school, as well as a rooftop seal. A new snow machine is needed at the GFB and one of the cafeteria floors needs replacing along with a back wall in the nurse’s office that needs repairs. Desktops and Chromebooks throughout the district will need updates and replacements, and this is a crucial request considering all assessments are conducted online in today’s educational climate.

“Based on the last few years and what the town has to spend, things are not changing that much,” said School Committee Budget Subcommittee Chairman Gus Martucci. “As far as revenue coming into the town, we are doing better, but it’s not enough to keep up. It’s not just the school departments, it’s the entire town. Hopefully, we can get enough money to sustain where we are now, but going forward, we need to take a hard look at next year and possibly try for some type of override. If not, it’s unlikely we will see much of a change.”

The district hopes to save money by continuing to implement methods that have worked in the past including negotiating contracts for supplies and technology in a way that allows for the best long-term rate and by taking the time to investigate the best prices for transportation. The town is also diligent about doing residency checks, ensuring that all Winthrop students have a seat in a classroom.

“We value the residents in the town and class size and supplying students with what they need is top priority,” said Howard, who also wants to continue a fellowship program with colleges, as it adds another layer to student guidance and provides the district with an opportunity to hire candidates who have proven their qualifications and adaptation to the culture.

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