(The following is a statement on the city’s education budget for fiscal year 2025 from Jen McAndrew, chair of the School Committee’s Finance & Facilities Subcommittee.)

When we started this FY25 budget process, Superintendent (John) Macero and his team made a bold decision: to lay out for us, and for this community, a full, needs-based assessment of the Melrose Public Schools, with a budget request to meet those needs. We have spent months discussing this budget request, and in April we passed a budget that we knew, based on currently available resources, would not meet those needs. 

However, we did so with some hope. Because the Mayor and Superintendent also requested additional funding to fully support our schools–and our city – via a proposition 2 ½ override.

That request failed with the voters on Tuesday, June 18.

And so, we transition to the reality of that inadequate budget that we passed back in April. Given where we are, I think it is worth spending a few minutes revisiting what the budget for the coming school year now looks like without the override funding.

The ramifications of this FY25 budget, without the override, include:

  • Layoffs and transfers of teachers and paraprofessionals. As a result of the override vote failing, we will start the coming school year with 13 fewer teachers and paras than we had when school got out earlier this month. These educators have already been given so-called “pink slips” and told that they do not have a job with us in the fall. We know this is devastating and heartbreaking to them, their students and their families. I think I speak for the entire Committee when I say, we wish it was different, and we thank you for your service to the children of Melrose. In addition, the District will involuntarily transfer 25 educators and paras between schools and grades, especially to the middle school given that is our building of greatest need currently. Again, we know this is not news that educators want to hear, though we also know that our educators do what it takes for kids, and we see and appreciate that dedication.
  • Not adding key positions. While layoffs and transfers are perhaps more visible, there are additional and “less visible” ramifications, including the inability to fill key positions across the District, proposed and supported by the Superintendent and his team, that would have helped kids at all grades and kept class sizes level.
  • Bigger class sizes. All of these layoffs and transfers, coupled with our inability to add new positions, means that class sizes will increase. Buildings most impacted will be Melrose High School, and the Lincoln, Winthrop and the Hoover elementary schools. 
  • Layoffs of Administrators. The School Committee, this spring, negotiated a new, 3-year contract with the Administrators unit, which includes our Assistant Principals, Special Education Coordinators and Curriculum Directors. As a result of that contract, the Directors will now teach for a portion of their time. This is needed and important and a good step forward for us. However, due to the override, we are forced to reduce that unit, overall, by 6 positions: from 23 positions to 17 positions. This will be accomplished by eliminating positions and transferring some individuals to other roles. Make no mistake, Administrators are needed and valued. Less Administrator support means less curriculum support, and fewer adults in the buildings to support kids, fill in for meetings and other needs, and evaluate educators. The burden of that increased work will fall to other building leaders.
  • Increased fees to preserve a small number of positions. The increased fees that the School Committee voted in April will, unfortunately, now go into effect. As such, families will now see increased fees for Athletics for the first time in six years. We will also see increased fees for Education Stations and after-school music and performing arts activities. As each Member of this Committee expressed at the time, increasing fees is never our preferred option. In fact, many of us expressed interest in reducing them. However, we voted forward those increases as a back-stop to preserve a few positions. With those fees and the final adjustments that the Superintendent was able to make before April 25, we were, in this budget, able to fund an additional Development Learning Center teacher at the Lincoln School, a world language position at the high school, and maintain the Visual and Performing Arts Director Position, who will also teach at the high school or middle school.
  • Decreased professional development, materials and supplies. Funds for professional development, digital resources, curriculum materials and supplies will be cut in all areas. This is another increase in burden on families–for supplies and subscriptions–and on teachers, who may now need to pay for some of the professional development opportunities that were previously provided by the District.

Just as I believe that it was our duty to ask the community to support an override to fund our school system – and the vital city services that support us all, I think it is equally now our duty to ask: is this the kind of school district you want? Are these the kinds of cuts that you think educators, families – and especially, students – can endure? And for how long?

I know that the Superintendent, principals, and educators who supported the full, needs-based budget request do not believe that where we ended up is where we ever should be. 

But I also know this: because of those who put kids at the center, we will move forward. We will welcome on board a new Superintendent, Adam Deleidi. We will serve students with high needs this summer through grant-funded programming. We will open our schools in late August. And we will welcome in all who come, with the joy of a new school year, because that is what public schools do. And when we do, the situation will not be ideal, or even adequate in some cases. There will be some hardships, and systemic challenges persisting. It will be the best we can do with what we have. We will work hard, and we will hope, and pray if we do, that it will be enough.