We had an extra one hour meeting to discuss budget cuts and legal services -- so, this was a short one. I arrived late due to another meeting I had to attend, so apologies if I miss something that happened early on (will try to watch the broadcast and update this post later).
The first topic addressed was budget, and the big new info presented was on the cost comparisons of the trimester versus the semester. I assume this info. will be posted on the ARPS website soon, but briefly, a chart was presented by Assistant Principal Miki Gromacki showing the impact of trimester versus semester on instructional time for kids and teachers.
Here is the quick summary:
In the trimester, with two study halls (our current system) kids spend 86.6% of time in class (2 study halls, 13 classes), whereas on the semester, with two study halls, kids spend 85.7% of their time in class (2 study halls, 12 classes). It was noted that for the same staffing that we currently have (in which kids spend 86.6% of their time in class), on a semester system kids would have 92.8% of their time in class. Each study hall added to the schedule reduces the number of electives we offer (since electives are what are taken out of students' schedules), at a cost of between $279,305 to 323,993. Thus, it is clear that the semester system lets kids spend more time in class for the same money (or spend the same time in class for LESS money).
In the trimester, teachers have more prep time -- 20% of the day (1 of 5 periods), versus 14.2% of the day (1 of 7 periods).
In the trimester, teachers teach the same number of kids per year (250, on average) as they would on a semester, but at a given time in the trimester, teachers would teach fewer kids (though they would have these kids for a shorter period of time).
In the trimester, teachers spend 20% of the day for 2/3rds of the year on "duties" (like supervising study halls or cafeterias or hallways), whereas in the semester, teachers spend 14.2% of the day 100% of the year. This is a cost savings associated with the semester because with the trimester, 2 teachers are available each period for duties, whereas 5 are available on the semester (since fewer kids at a given time in the semester need to be supervised in a study hall). This saves between $14,000 and $20,000 since you don't have to hire monitors or paraprofessionals to make sure there is order in the corridors/cafeteria.
These numbers were very helpful for me to have, and I think illustrate the advantages of the semester system in terms of cost savings (both in terms of time spent in class for students and in terms of teacher availability for other tasks). I hope this model of instruction can be given some serious consideration when the new contract is signed next year, since I think it has real advantages for kids.
There was then a discussion of the budget calendar, and whether the voting on the budget could be moved up from February to January in line with the Select Board's preference. This idea was not supported by the committee, due to concerns about having time for thoughtful review of new budgets in January and a desire to have more time for public comment.
We then discussed legal counsel, and in particular voted in favor of a motion to allow the legal services subcommittee to invite law firms for interviews to assess whether the district might want to make a change in its legal representation.
Finally, there was a brief announcement about the negotations team (will consist of Farshid, Irv, and Steve).
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.