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School Committee passes budget that would cut 20 positions

Posted by Sarah Favot  April 7, 2011 12:15 PM

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The School Committee passed a fiscal 2012 budget at its meeting Wednesday night that would eliminate about 20 fulltime positions, raise fees, and make cuts to the school system’s music department. 

The School Committee voted 4-3 to accept the 2012 budget at $34,345,233, which will lay off 20.8 fulltime employees. There are ongoing negotiations with unions, according to School Committee chairman Mark Joseph. 

The School Committee has asked the teachers unions to accept a pay freeze. If the union accepts, 6.3 fulltime positions would be eliminated instead of 20.8, said Joseph in an interview. 

Before the School Committee took its vote, a public hearing was held at which parents and taxpayers voiced concerns about the budget, which includes cuts to the music department and Dr. Philip O. Coakley Middle School. 

The middle school will lose 6.8 fulltime employees, which is more than any other single school. The elementary school instrumental music program will be cut by $63,000, the biggest hit to a single program. 

Carmel Kerrigan, who spoke on behalf of the Norwood Parents Music Association, said she was concerned about cutting this program and the effect it would have on successful music programs in the high school.

“I want to know why the fine arts is the only program that’s been that hit hard, as a parent of kids who do music, I’m not seeing any other program hit that hard, and I’d like to know why,” said Kerrigan. 

Parents wanted to know whether other programs have been considered for cuts, aside from the music program. Superintendent James Hayden said that all department heads through their principals were asked to make budget cuts. 

Committee member Eleanor Travers, who is part of the School Committee’s budget subcommittee, said committee members weren’t happy with the cuts to the music program and would be looking deeper at the athletic department at their meeting on Thursday. 

“We went back to the athletic and music departments for extracurricular activities and said what could you do without and Mrs. Moen [director of fine arts] was wonderful in giving us those things,” said Travers. “Athletics was a different story. They had to take a different approach -- we had to go deeper into fees.”

The schools have implemented increases in the lunch, athletic, music, and preschool fees, and imposed a new one, for high school parking. 

Parents said they were also concerned about morale at the middle school because of the administrative changes the school has experienced in recent years. 

“I hate it to say that the morale of the staff at the Coakley Middle School is in the toilet right now,” said Sarah Sullivan, a parent and Town Meeting member. “It’s been a tough place to work.” 

Parents, some of whom are Town Meeting members, said that they would like more details like costs per pupil in the kindergarten program, or costs of a specific team or extracurricular activity in order to support the School Committee’s budget on Town Meeting floor. 

Hayden said that the budget is balanced, but that it can still change pending union negotiations and other modifications. 

“Before Town Meeting we’re still trying to come up with a whole variety of ways to mitigate what we’ve done,” said Hayden. 

Sarah Favot can be reached at sarah.yourtown@gmail.com.

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