Webster board discusses school calendar poll, preliminary 2013 budget and substitute teacher pay
Webster – Jan. 10. The first Webster School Committee meeting of 2012 began with the school superintendent’s report. Superintendent Gregory Ciardi gave an initial briefing regarding the following day’s scheduled school building project meeting, and business manager Ted Avlas indicated that there would be more to report following that meeting,.
Jennifer Lundwell, Middle School Principal, gave her report on concerts and other extracurricular activities held at the middle school, which she deemed a great success. She also detailed continuing work on student body assessment teaching focusing on individual students as well as a literacy program workshop offered by Scholastic Books, the extraordinary success of the bottle/can drive spearheaded by students’ parents, and other upcoming fundraising events.
District-wide reports presented by Dr. Ciardi indicated that all of the 2009 District School Reviews/Audit recommendations had been updated and complied with, including programs for English language learners. He had high praise for all the Webster School personnel who had assisted in the compliance process.
Chairman Michael Makara provided an update on the superintendent search, advising that the search time-frame was on schedule and an advisory committee will soon be appointed to begin candidate interviews.
Dr. Ciardi then spoke about the 2012-2013 school year calendar, which will not be finalized for a few more months. A survey had been taken with staff and parent responses totaling 296. Over 50% of respondents indicated that a single March school break would be preferable to individual February and April breaks. Additionally, teacher professional development days that were ½-days were not viewed as favorably by parents as full-days were. It was noted that school employees preferred the existing schedule.
Under new business, Dr. Ciardi reviewed the preliminary fiscal year 2013 school budget, stressing that many future meetings would be necessary to refine the final numbers. Goals mentioned were the school department’s mission towards staffing and student body needs. The preliminary budget was $17,155,681 a 5.7% increase over 2012. Basic overviews of the increase included restoration of school secretaries (critical), more special education instructors, addition of a mental health counselor, and an increase of high school guidance staff to better prepare students for their post-secondary education due to more rigorous course requirements.
Additional considerations include the need for increasing Advanced Placement courses with more high school pathways to the AP courses, extra attention to be given to students requiring additional assistance, necessitating an increase in para-professional staff, employee healthcare premium adjustments as well as pension funding, and the loss of federal budget funding.
Dr. Ciardi also mentioned that the State Department of Education sets the minimum foundation guidelines on education, thereby noting that since 2007 Webster’s dollars spent on its school system had fallen dramatically over the past four years vs. other state cities/towns. During this same time period, the percent of lower income students had risen from 41% to 57%. However, on a positive note, the number of teachers who had certified teaching licenses had risen from 78% to 100% compliance. Dr. Ciardi cited school administrators who had sought out and hired highly-qualified teaching professionals by attracting, promoting, and growing a very solid and excellent staff of the best instructors in the area.
Mr. Avlas reviewed the Webster substitute teacher daily pay rate of $65, indicating that it was the lowest rate in the area. The School Department was not having success in attracting substitute teachers based on this rate and a request would be made to increase the daily rate to $75. He also stressed the need for the School Department to have its own computer equipment/software director responsible for operation and synchronization of all electronic systems vs. the current 25 hour/weekly outside vendor position.
Discussions were then held regarding requests for staffing of para-professionals and their positive benefits to special needs students. More information would be supplied at a later date but guidelines should be in place by the end of the 2012 school year. Lastly, textbook needs/requirements were reviewed and it was noted that hard-copy textbook costs were rising rapidly as less hardcopies were being printed due to the electronic media alternatives.
- Friday, 13 January 2012
- Posted in Categories: : News