Published Janaury 30, 2019
By JILLIAN STRING
LYNNFIELD — “I love budget time,” Superintendent Jane Tremblay told the School Committee on Jan. 22.
Tremblay and Finance Director Tom Geary presented the $26,182,916 fiscal year 2020 budget proposal to the school board. The superintendent said budget season is a good time to assess everything that is going on in the district.
“It really offers us an opportunity to stop and take a minute and celebrate all of the many accomplishments that have taken place in Lynnfield Public Schools, and then to really plan thoughtfully and intentionally for future success,” Tremblay said.
The $26,182,916 request represents a 5.24 percent increase over the $24,880,140 FY’19 budget.
According to Tremblay, the FY’20 budget priorities include programming and opportunities, meeting the needs of all students, proactive solutions for social-emotional needs, continuing support of growth opportunities for staff, and restoring academic support that was reduced in the FY’19 budget.
“We need to be committed to this notion that all of our decisions come back to ensuring that the (district) vision and the mission are coming to fruition in all our schools, but also for all our students,” Tremblay stated.
In order to support social-emotional learning (SEL) initiatives, the district is requesting the addition of three full-time equivalent (3.0 FTE) school adjustment counselor positions for Huckleberry Hill School, Summer Street School, and Lynnfield Middle School.
“The work that we’re doing with social-emotional learning is like running on a treadmill and trying to catch somebody in comparison to the needs of our students that we’re seeing,” Tremblay said. “Unfortunately, the students who are coming to us are coming with some pretty challenging issues.”
Tremblay noted that the schools are now requiring daily support systems and strategies for students as opposed to the periodic support required in past years.
The School Department is also seeking to hire a 1.0 FTE teacher for English language learners (ELL).
“Our ELL population is growing in leaps and bounds,” Tremblay said. “We have gone from 10 to 48 students in the past five years. We are represented by 19 different languages in our very small town of Lynnfield, and we have one teacher supporting it all.”
According to Tremblay, the standard ratio of students to teachers in similar communities is 20:1, and she would like to see Lynnfield get closer to this ratio.
“The teacher that we have in place is simply amazing, but she is one person, so she just can’t do it all,” Tremblay said. “At the end of the day, we find ourselves really struggling to meet the needs of this population.”
Geary noted that as data reporting has improved in the area of ELL, the state has developed more guidelines and regulations.
“(The state) has really tightened up the regulations and they’ve tried to get their arms around it by pushing down, not so much mandates, but really guidelines on where you’re supposed to be with this stuff,” Geary said. “The reporting has just gotten tighter and that means it’s identifying more kids as ELL.”
School Committee member Phil McQueen stated that he does not see how the current ELL teacher is able to handle the position on her own.
“Having to jump from being in kindergarten up to the high school all in the process of a day, meanwhile trying to kind of train people and put out fires along the way as well strikes me as impossible for just one person to do,” McQueen said.
Tremblay has also requested a 1.0 FTE computer science teacher for the high school.
“If you’re up on current events, you know that there is a greater emphasis on the STEM topics,” Tremblay said. “We really need to meet the increased demand from our students. Adding (the computer science) teacher will allow us to better follow the 2016 Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science Curriculum Frameworks.”
According to Tremblay, over 90 students requested to take computer science courses last year. She said the high school was only able to run one Advanced Placement level course, which included 20 students.
“To me, this is not even a nice to have, this is an absolute need to have, and it’s the first step of really expanding something that is going to allow our kids to compete a little bit more when it comes to college applications,” School Committee Chairman Jamie Hayman said.
Tremblay has also requested two elementary level academic tutors, and two middle school level academic tutors in the FY’20 school budget. Those positions were eliminated in the FY’19 budget.
The School Department’s $250,000 capital budget for FY’20 would be used to purchase Chromebooks for grade nine students in order to continue the one-to-one learning initiative, upgrade teacher laptops and classroom Smart Boards as needed, replace the cabling infrastructure within the district as needed, and replace the outdated phone system.
The School Committee thanked Tremblay and Geary for their thoughtful consideration in creating the proposed FY’20 budget.
“This is a budget that is responsible and moves the district forward, which is all we can ask for as a board and what we can ask for as a community,” Hayman said.
School Committee Vice Chairman Rich Sjoberg noted that he thought the presentation this year made it easier for the committee, as well as the general public, to understand the needs of the district as well as how the administration arrives at the budget request.