Thursday, February 11, 2010

Some Tough Choices for our Schools

The Longmeadow School Department and School Committee face some difficult staffing and program decisions in order to meet the expected budget reductions requested by the Town Manager. I attended the Public Forum on the School Department budget that was held this past Monday (2/08/10) to gain a better understanding of the upcoming school budget and its consequences.

Jahn Hart, Longmeadow Superintendent of Schools presented the public forum with a detailed overview of the proposed FY11 school department budget.

Here is a link to the proposed FY11 school dept. budget.

Some of the highlights from this budget presentation included:
  • The proposed FY11 total school budget is $30.09 million which is a decrease of $1.55 million dollars from FY10. Because of reduced special revenues and mandated increases, total reductions to the school dept general fund were $1.86 million.
  • A total of 35.35 positions would be eliminated which is a reduction is ~ 8% of the total staff.

One of the areas for reduction was the elimination of the “pull out” instrumental and choral music program at the elementary school level and elimination of the orchestra music instruction at the middle school level. There was also a reduction of music related staff at the high school which would decrease the number of course offerings. District-wide there would be a total reduction of 2.2 music related positions (out of a total music staff of 10.3).

Most of the public comments during this forum including impressive presentations by numerous middle and high school students as well as parents of music students centered upon the reduction in the music program and related staff. Suggestions by students and parents of a “fee based” music to allow its continuation were rejected by the School Dept since this portion of the music program (different from general music classes) is not allowed because it is a core offering. Obviously, eliminating instrumental and choral music programs elicits a strong emotional reaction.

Below is a video excerpt of the one of these comments that was representative of the objections voiced:

Perhaps, offering of such programs through the Longmeadow Parks and Rec dept as an after-school fee based programs could replace the “pull out” music and choral offerings. In this week’s Reminder, there was an advertisement for the following after school program. Perhaps, we could hold onto these important music related programs through “non-school dept” offerings.

I raised a question about prioritization of cuts and was told that the School Dept and School Committee had developed a priority list of cuts but was not going to make it public. Given that state aid to cities and towns is in flux and subject to change, I think that this information should be publicized so that the public could provide some input to the decision making process. Below is the related Q/A on this subject.

This is only the beginning of a long final budget formation process for FY11. Stay tuned to Longmeadow Buzz for the latest developments and insights.

[video clips provided courtesy of LCTV]

No comments: