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Superintendent: 6 Teacher and 30 Staff Layoffs Expected

The school department is expected to make up most of the $3 million deficit by layoffs and not replacing retired teachers.

At a budget hearing last night, the School Committee heard Superintendent Joseph Sawyer's presentation to close the $3 million gap in the proposed school budget.

Due to state and federal funding reductions, Sawyer proposed 38.35 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions throughout the district.

"Some class sizes in the upper grades will be affected with students in grades 4 to 8 totaling an average of 29 students," Sawyer said. "At Floral Street in grades 1 and 2 and Spring Street grade 1 class sizes will be an average of 23 students."

The personnel reductions at the preschool and elementary levels total $810,594 and include:

  • The hiatus of 1 FTE principal position at due to the retirement of Alice Brennan, current principal at Beal and the position will be shared by Jayne Wilkin at . Wilkin is the current principal, but she will be retiring at the end of next year when the two positions will hopefully be filled, Sawyer said.
  • 1.55 FTE of instruction coach positions offset by eligible grants and tuition accounts at Beal and elementary schools.
  • 3 FTE grade 1 teachers at Beal School.
  • 1 FTE grade 2 teacher at .
  • 1 FTE grade 4 teacher at Coolidge School.
  • 1 FTE grade 4 teacher at Paton School.
  • 1 FTE grade 1 teacher at .
  • 1 FTE grade 4 teacher at Spring Street School.
  • 4 paraprofessionals at the elementary and early childhood schools.

At the middle school the following reductions would equate to $659,160:

  • 2 FTE curriculum coordinators.
  • .2 FTE foreign language director (November retirement).
  • 1 FTE technology teacher at .
  • 2 FTE grade 6 teachers at Sherwood Middle School.
  • 2 FTE grade 7 team teachers at .
  • 2 FTE grade 7 team teachers at Oak Middle School.
  • 1 FTE special education teacher at Oak Middle School.
  • 4 FTE paraprofessionals.

At the high school, the following staff reductions total $591,858:

  • .6 FTE foreign language director (retirement in November).
  • .4 FTE foreign language teacher.
  • 1 FTE English teacher.
  • 1 FTE mathematics teacher.
  • .6 science teacher.
  • 1 FTE social science teacher.
  • 1 FTE visual arts teacher
  • 4 paraprofessionals

The silver lining in the budget cuts is that incoming kindergartners will now be offered full-day kindergarten and full-time classes will be offered at Spring Street School and Coolidge as well as Beal.

"This will off-set some of the staff reductions and parents were excited when we announced this at a forum last night," Sawyer said. "This is definitely one way we are making lemonade out of lemons."

School Committee members agreed that they are concerned with the upcoming year's budget.

"This is very sobering," said School Committee member Steve Levine. "I’m still recovering from it." He asked about reductions in the transportation budget, which Sawyer said they would look into, but Sawyer believed that the contract would have to go out to bid in 2014.

"I’ve heard that Shrewsbury is considered a lean and mean district—we've done very well with amount of money we spend on education," said Erin Canzano, School Committee member. "I’m a little bit worried—we’re taking a hard blow and my head’s spinning. I think we’re standing and we’re still fighting. But we're moving in a more grim direction with four teachers, but 27 other positions—making a huge impact of the lives of children. Educators are going to have to work harder, but students will feel the impact. I want us to be standing on our feet at the end of this."

A public hearing on the proposed cuts to the school budget is scheduled for Wednesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. at , 45 Oak St. in the auditorium.

SameOld March 15, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Don't panic, the town manager is dusting off is white cowboy hat, and as in years past, he will ride in at the last moment and save the day. Year after year the same tale unfolds and the ending is the same. So don't worry parents, the money will appear and the teachers will not be laid off. A few aides may be lost but Dandy Dan will save most of them.
Jennifer Lucarelli March 15, 2012 at 02:15 PM
SameOld - I hope you're right. This week does look grim, but hopefully it will all work out.
Steve Cohen March 16, 2012 at 12:25 AM
I think SameOld comment is dead on and is probably the reason why these proposed cuts are not taken too seriously. For the last 3 years We have heard about drastic cuts to the schools and in some magical way they never happen. Even if we have to cut teachers and increase class size to 25-27 kids per class, its not the end of the world as some are making out to be. Some people have mentioned that maybe they should move out of town, if they feel that way, then don't let the door hit you on the way out. If you think you'll get the quality and service levels in another town, good luck, you'll regret it.
Jennifer Lucarelli March 16, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Steve - you are so right. I just wonder if the down economy is finally catching up to us in town. And we do get the best bang for our buck when it comes to education. I wouldn't move out of town, because the grass isn't greener somewhere else. But I hope you're right about the town finding the money to avoid cuts.
Steve March 16, 2012 at 11:41 AM
SameOld & Steve - This may or may not work out better than is outlined in the first budget. But I just want to say, that it isn't a cowboy hat or magic that has helped the budget each year. It's the poor timing of the states aid which is always finally approved after the town budget is approved. This constant cycle of getting state money after the town budget sets everyone's expectation that money will magically appear. This also sets up town officials to look like they are promoting scare tactics when they are just working with their best guess of the final numbers. You can't budget for numbers that you don't have. More money may or may not be coming in from the state. You'll just have to wait for sometime past May when state gives a final amount for the town. If you want to blame someone for this issue then blame the state for not getting a budget in time for all the towns budget planning. I won't be hoping for a cowboy hat or some magic, I'll be hoping the state will be sending us more aid. But then again, maybe that is like hoping for some magic.
Jennifer Lucarelli March 16, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Well put Steve - one Finance Committee member brought this very topic up at the joint meeting last week, but town officials are working with the hand they are dealt. I think it's a good time to start calling the state and federal legislators. And I still believe in magic, but then again, I still write a letter to Santa every year:)!
SameOld March 16, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Jennifer, The town manager has stated that he purposely underestimates revenues because it is easier to add to the budget later in the process than it is to subtract. I do have a followup question for you. In the telegram story, Mr. Kennedy stated that 8 teachers are taking early retirement but only 2 of those positions need to be replaced. Why were those 6 positions so important this year if they are not important next year. Are there that many fewer students? Are the dropping a program? I await your reply to the question. I do believe that everyone involved is acting correctly, the school admin must advocate for the children but they also must look at the economic climate. Jobs are coming back but they are service jobs which pay about 20K a year, not high tech jobs that paid many times that amount
Jennifer Lucarelli March 16, 2012 at 04:05 PM
SameOld - thanks for the question. I'll find out for sure, but my understanding is that the six positions are necessary throughout the district and now that they know who took the early retirement, they can shift other people around, but six of the positions were eliminated, which is resulting in some larger class sizes. Superintendent Joseph Sawyer also said that he's not just going to stick high school students in study halls to eliminate positions - he wants to keep the level of science and other necessary subjects available to all and is willing to have larger class sizes to accommodate that. And the full-day kindergarten option being a paid option for all incoming kindergartners is being considered a revenue source now, but it won't make up the gap. Does that help? I will ask Dr. Sawyer to clarify, but I know over the next few weeks, things will change and the number of layoffs may go up or down.
SameOld March 17, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Jennifer, one more followup. With the early retirements, I understand how that saves money now, but will that require to town to make up the money that those teachers would have put into the fund if they had stayed teaching? In other words, are we just pushing the cost into the future and adding to the town's pension debt?

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