School officials approve $47 million budget

Apr 5, 2021

The School Committee approved a $47.3 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year — more than $35 million of which will go to instruction — at an April 5 meeting.

The $47,338,665 figure represents a 3.8% increase from the budget for fiscal year 2022.

Three quarters of the proposed budget would go to instruction, including salaries for teachers, principals, and other staff, as well as books, technology and other classroom supplies.

The only new additions to the budget this year include new social worker positions — increasing a part time worker at Cushman to full time, and hiring another social worker for the district — and a special reading program for students with dyslexia.

Before approving the district’s financial plan, officials made an amendment to keep the current administrative structure with a vacancy at the assistant superintendent position

At a Dec. 7 School Committee meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bonny Gifford had proposed promoting Director of Teaching and Learning Tracy Oliveira to the position while eliminating and absorbing her current role.

According to the superintendent, with the elimination of Oliveira’s current position, that money — around $130,000 to $150,000 — would be absorbed back into the school budget.

She added that Oliveira is already taking on “a lot” of which an assistant superintendent would deal with such as union negotiations and unfair labor practice discussions.

“The title has to go with those responsibilities to be able to make decisions,” Gifford said.

But the change was rejected by a 4-1 vote to keep the structure of the district office as it is.

The assistant superintendent position will remain vacant for the time being.

“I’m not convinced at this point in time that this is the time to make this change,” Vice Chair Dr. Shannon Jenkins said. “We still have to have all hands on deck.” 

She added that Gifford’s proposal could be approved in the future, but that she’d like to see an analysis of administrative structures in other school districts.

“Once we move forward, it’s hard to move back,” Jenkins said. 

Committee member John Nunes said he could not support the amendment, noting that with all of the responsibilities that need to be covered, “we need the assistant superintendent’s position.” 

“To take that position out of the budget, I think is wrong,” he said. “I think we need to leave it there as a failsafe.”