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.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Impact of an Override on the High School: Just the Facts

OK, here is my final posting describing the impact of the override on the schools. Again, I'm using the most recent data presented (February 9th SC meeting), and the only update since then is that our estimate of 5% local aid cut was too high -- legislature is now saying we will have a 4% cut at worst (so we have another $80,000ish to play with regardless of whether the override passes).

Here is what the HS will look like next year IF an override passes and IF it doesn't pass:

Administration - next year, the high school is projected to have 1 principal, 1 assistant principal, a school year only assistant principal, a school year only athletic director, 1 librarian, 2 library paraprofessionals, 2 nurses, 8.7 clerical, and 7.8 custodian. The only impact of the override is that the librarian will go to 80% time if the override doesn't pass.

Department Heads - next year, the projections is to have 3.6 department head equivalent positions. If the override fails, this will be cut to 2.3 department head positions, meaning less of a teaching relief for department heads, and some consolidation of DH positions (e.g., English and ELL under one DH, combining some electives under one DH).

Guidance - next year, the high school is estimated to have 3.9 caseload counselors, 1 Academic Achievement Counselor, a .8 Student Achievement Counselor, a .9 outreach worker, 1.8 deans, 2.0 campus monitors, and 1 college counselor. The only impact of an override is that one of the deans will go to 80% time.

Regular Education Teachers - next year, the HS is projected to have 65.3 teachers. If the override fails, 9.7 teaching positions would be cut (this includes 4.3 in regular academic departments, .2 by combining advanced Chinese sections, .5 by referring students who struggle in English to the Academic Achievement Center, .8 in PE, 1 in performing arts, 1.3 in tech/business/computers, and 2.8 in family/consumer science -- meaning the family/consumer science program would end). The specific classes this would impact have yet to be determined (this would be decided by Mark Jackson), but estimates are that 4.3 cuts to academic departments would increase class sizes as follows: 24 in English from 22 now, 22 in science from 21 now, 24 in math from 21 now, 25 in social studies from 22 now; no change in world language. NOTE: in 2003-2004, class sizes were 21.8 in English, 23.7 in social studies, 24.3 in science, and 23.2 in math - so even without an override, class sizes will be smaller next year in science than they were in 2003, and less than 1 student more per class in math compared to 2003.

Intervention Teachers - next year, the HS is projected to have 1.6 English language education teachers, .1 Project Challenge teacher, .2 Prep Academy teacher, 1 Math Academic Achievement Center Paraprofessional, and 1.4 ELL paraprofessionals. If the override fails, the .2 Prep Academy teacher would be cut and support would be provided instead in the Academic Achievement Center.

Special Education teachers/paraprofessionals - next year, the high school is projected to have 3 academic skills positions, 5.6 specialized programs positions, 1.6 psychologists, 1.2 education team leaders, 1.1 therapists (occupational, speech), and 33.6 paraprofessionals. If the override doesn't pass, 2.4 of these 48.5 positions would be cut (which ones would depend on student needs).

Non-Special Education Paraprofessionals - next year, the high school is projected to have 2.6 paraprofessionals (1 for copy service, 1 for computer lab, .6 for science lab). If the override fails, the copy service paraprofessional position would be cut.

Preschool - the high school preschool is projected to have 2 positions for next year (1 teacher, 1 paraprofessional). This staffing is not impacted by the override.

Note: Students will still take 13 classes a year and have two study halls in a trimester system (typically 10 academic classes a year and three electives of some type) regardless of whether an override passes.


ARHS Parent said...

These proposed cuts are all things my high school students and I can live with. Our family will be voting NO tomorrow. If we were going to see a substantive increase in educational time (i.e. elimination of the study halls) or quality/quantity (i.e. more academic electives), I might have been persuaded to vote yes, but I cannot justify the extra money for a few non-essential positions here and there and to save Family/Consumer Science courses. Especially when my kids focus on sports and we have to pay/fundraise to continue those programs. The kids these cuts will effect can always start woodworking and cooking clubs and have their parents pay for it the same way I pay for my kids to participate in sports.

A.N.W. said...

I'm voting yes for the override. As an earlier poster said... I want to "make sure that our entire school system K-12 benefits. As I understand it, the override provides enhanced resources for the elementary schools and maintains programs at the middle and high school levels. I am voting yes."

I am also proud that with tomorrow's vote, our town will be able to say it chooses to support the youngest and the oldest student in the system.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clear information!

Rick said...

I will be voting yes. As a potential School Committee member, I want as much money as possible to work with as we work to improve our schools.
Please vote yes:

Anonymous said...

I, too, will be voting YES!

Please vote yes:

Anonymous said...

"I want as much money as possible to work with as we work to improve our schools."

Just so you have enough money to gold plate the building you will vote yes. You have to be kidding.
I guess you know who I'm not voting for School Committee

Anonymous said...

My wife and I (plus 6 resident relatives) will be voting NO. These 8 NO votes will be cast by people who work for the Town and know first hand how much financial waste exists. Candidly, some of us are beneficiaries of this money.

Anonymous said...

I'm voting yes as well. To support this school, at this time, for $11.00 per month. Yes indeed!

E.L. said...

I am really shocked that people are basing their opposition to the override because "I want this and it's not included" or "I don't care about that so I'm not interested." or even "My kids are into sports, so I don't care about..."

This is about community.

I've lived here for 20 years and never called the fire department. But I want to support the fire department. I very rarely go to the libraries, but I believe we should have libraries for all of our citizens, not only when I want them to be open but when the community can best use them. I heard someone say a very smart thing recently: my override support is not predicated on whether or not the library has a particular magazine subscription.

I'm voting yes. I will continue to fight to improve our schools and our town. Voting yes won't stop me.

$11 a month is how much the override will cost the average Amherst property owner. It's a half a cup of coffee a day to sustain programs and still work together to make change and improve the services in the coming year. To me, that's a bargain.

Anonymous said...

Hi Catherine,

Just curious about the comparison to 2003-2004 in your analysis of HS class sizes. Anything special about that year that makes you highlight 03-04 versus, say, this year or average class sizes over the past several years?

Thanks, and keep up the good work

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 4:33 - I'm just responding to you, since I don't think there were questions in the other posts! I have used 2003-2004 because it is the earliest data I have been able to get related to high school class size -- so, that is my "historical perspective." That data was given to the SC last year as part of a "five year" picture, comparing 2008-2009 to 2003-2004. I believe this is definitely the type of information we should track over time, and have available to the public.

Ed said...

I want as much money as possible to work

THIS is the problem with education in this country, from PreK through the Doctorate.

Imagine an engineer saying this -- if I have an unlimited supply of steel, I can build a bridge. Yes, you can -- you need no engineering skills whatsoever if you just pile enough steel across the valley.

The principle is to use steel (which is expensive) sparingly. To use as little as you need to have a safe and sound bridge, but not to waste tons and tons of it.

So too here with money. The principle is not to spend as much as you possibly can but to be a good manager. And not spend it...

Anonymous said...

Vote yes, and save the job of a photocopying paraprofessional? But still have two mandatory study halls?

Why am I not convinced that this is good stewardship of scarce funds?

Rick said...

Uh, we are not talking about adding money with an override; we are talking about subtracting less. We’re not adding “tons of steel”.

Marcy said...

I'm voting yes so that next year's town budget is ONLY $2.5 Million LESS than this year's. We're not adding to the budget folks, just reversing the worst of the cuts that are slated to occur. I'm voting for pot holes getting filled and street lights remaining lit and snow and ice getting cleared and emergency dispatchers being on call and the senior center getting staffed and LSSE subsidies being available for kids who wouldn't otherwise be able to participate in the offerings my kid has been able to. I'm voting to keep the town library certified and our school libraries staffed. I'm voting for maintaining performing arts as well as consumer arts and elective offerings that distinguish our schools in unique and enriching ways. I'm voting for PE and music and intervention support and guidance counselors and yes, even a person to stand by the copy machine. I'm voting to put enough additional revenue into the budget to keep a $2.5 million reduction in funding from becoming a $4 million one and, in the process, protect programs and services that really matter. And all for less than a few bucks a week. It's a bargain I can't refuse.

Anonymous said...

Three from this household are voting no.

Lynn L. said...

Thank you for all of your hard work.