I am going to do a longer blog post to really summarize the whole meeting sometime on Wednesday ... but it is after midnight and I just got home from a 4 1/2 hour meeting ... so this will be short. Here are the key things we did:
1. Heard a report on the budget cuts at the regional level.
Here's the good news -- Mike Hayes (senior assistant MS principal) has done a fabulous job of making smart cuts. The cuts are, in my opinion as an SC member and a parent of a 6th grader, really minimal ... and in fact, in some ways are even improvements. No change in class size in core classes in 8th, class sizes in 7th go from 20 to 25 (under the worst budget scenarios). Two world languages (Russian, German) are cut -- but these languages are now serving a total of 11 students in 7th grade. He has even managed to find improvements -- music goes to every day (now is every other day) and there is an extra guidance counselor so there is a guidance counselor for each grade. Intervention support for math is reduced, but remains at what he feels is an appropriate level. PE is combined with health, so kids will have somewhat less PE. But overall, he's taken really smart steps to make cuts that I think will have minimal impact, and although I know no cuts are easy, I am very, very impressed with how he has put together this budget.
Here's the bad news -- the high school administration put forth two proposals. Scenario A moves us to 3 study halls, meaning kids have 12 classes and 3 study halls over the year (4 classes and 1 study hall each trimester). Class size would increase some. Scenario B moves us to 2 study halls a year, meaning kids have 13 classes and 2 study halls (like they do now) -- but the class sizes grow quite a lot (over 30 in some cases) and some electives just couldn't be taught at all at that level (e.g., can you do art to 30?). I believe three study halls a year is impossible (as did several other members of the committee), so I think we are facing huge classes at the high school in virtually all areas next year.
Some cuts to central administration were proposed (these were a bit vague still), and the two alternative high schools would be consolidated (at a savings of about $178,000).
2. We discussed a new policy on the evaluation of instructional programs -- I will post the policy on my blog tomorrow sometime (it is already available on the ARPS website). Some changes were suggested, and the policy subcommittee will revise accordingly.
I will do a longer post tomorrow, but here are the highlights!
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.