School district budgets in hard freeze for 2013-2014
Superintendent of Schools Eileen King told administrators and committee members the schools were in a budget freeze, except for essentials. The school district faces the possibility of losing $50,000-$85,000 due to Gov. Paul LePage's curtailment order to cut $12.5 million from education budgets statewide, and another $30,000-$35,000 in March due to sequestration (the postponement of over $1 trillion in spending cuts by Congress).
Both the Boothbay Region High School (BRHS), Boothbay Region Elementary School (BRES) and student body activities budgets reflect a projected 10 percent increase in health insurance (which typically lowers in the spring when the actual figures are known); teacher salary increases, and fixed costs for MediCare, Workman's Compensation and Social Security.
The proposed BRES budget is up $24,000 largely due to teacher salaries and the aforementioned fixed costs. However, because some teachers higher up on the pay scale left, their replacements were hired at a lower rate of pay.
At BRHS, the proposed budget has increased by $45,000, which reflects the hire of a math teacher, math/science teacher and a technology education/STEM part-time position. These costs associated with these additional teaching positions alone should cost more than the total budget increase. But due to two retirements last year and the hiring of new teachers not yet at the former teacher's salaries, costs were kept down.
Additionally, BRHS is proposing having a swim team again due to student interest. There are costs associated with the swim team as well as new boys basketball uniforms, new football uniform pants and equipment repair.
As King emphasized, these are only the proposed budgets; all are subject to change and will change before the final budgets are produced.
Current budget update
Out of the current school year budget of $8,682,782, 55.07 percent remains ($4,781,816), putting the schools “ … on the right side of the half year mark.” King reported the CSD has begun receiving tuition payments.
As of January 9 there are 12 students from China at Boothbay Region High School. BRHS Principal Dan Welch said three more students from Xiamen #1 high school in Fujian would be arriving the week of January 14.
Wellness Day will be on Friday, Feb. 2. Some of the associated activities include a performance by the Penobscot Theater of Bangor entitled, “We Are the Brother of the Dragons.” The piece centers on substance abuse in adolescents. Community health care members will take part in break out sessions with the students on various health-related subjects will also take place.
Welch said Lauren Graham, teacher of chemistry, biology and oceanography ecology, attended a summer education program at Bigelow Laboratories. Graham went on to work closely with Bigelow in relation to her oceanography class which led to the Lab donating some equipment to her BRHS oceanography program.
Due to this association, Graham was encouraged to apply for participation in The USAUS-H20-Virtual Environmental Partnership. It will be a collaborative study between eight U.S. Schools, eight Australian schools, Bigelow, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and Charles Darwin University in Darwin, Australia. Students at the 16 schools will be taking water samples in their regions for a study on the sustainability of our water cycles. The study is aimed at data collection and promoting collaboration – kids will be talking to kids in Australia via Skype. In late February the State Department will fly Graham to Washington D.C. for training. More information on this project appears in a separate article in this week's paper.
Welch would like to expand the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes as the existing ones are “packed.” He noted that nationwide 26 percent of all freshmen plan to major in one of the STEM fields.
“It's hands on and appeals to everyone,” Welch said. “I would like to have a STEM Academy here at some point and extend STEM curriculum into the middle school. I'm very interested in adding composites and marine technology, as well as others, to our curriculum choices.”
Increasing STEM and AP (Advanced Placement) courses for students is viewed by the committee and superintendent as important.
Director of Technology Shawn Carlson proposed iPads for the teachers of grades three through eight, as part of a pilot project, to the school committee. Carlson said some teachers had purchased their own, but providing iPads for the remaining teachers should be considered.
The educators would learn how to use the iPad and how to build a Personal Learning Network (PLN) for professional development through the app iTunes University. There teachers connect with other professionals and share ideas, learn how to integrate technology into their classrooms, create lesson plans, locate supporting educational tools like video and audio lectures, access iBooks text books, communicate with students, etc.
Carlson said three teachers at BRHS would be utilizing iTunes U fully in their classrooms.
The director reported that Cynthia Curry will be introducing AOS 98 special ed teachers to some of the digital tools available to them for reading and writing in a three-hour presentation.
Carlson said more time should be invested in teaching students as many digital skills as possible. He approached Barbara Greenstone, K-12 Technology Integrator, to draw up a proposal for a one semester blogging experience. Students would complete research on their iPad to create content and then publish.
The proposal calls for embedding tools/skills into a semester-long experience through blogs. Students would write about a topic of interest after researching on the iPads.
The school committee's next meeting will be on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. During budget season the committee meets twice per month.