As Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor Community School District approaches the end of its budget season, questions were raised on gifted and talented March 13.
The school committee’s budget draft, which showed a decrease in the gifted and talented teacher’s salary, was taken by many to indicate the program’s budget was being slashed.
“The decrease in the gifted and talented teacher assignment time to half of the current time will decrease the scope and effectiveness of the gifted and talented programming for the CSD,” said gifted and talented teacher Emily Higgins. “I'm not aware of a reduction in numbers of students in the gifted and talented program.”
Committee members were largely unaware of the change, though they continue to review budget changes and had not come to gifted and talented yet. Thus Committee chair Larry Colcord said even though it appears in the budget, no decisions have been made.
The draft budget shows salaries for teaching staff and related costs have been cut, but everything else has remained the same or gone up slightly.
“Gifted and talented last year was in (the budget) 100 percent. This year, when Dan and I started working on the school budget we thought we could cut that program down to half time and then use (Higgins) as a science teacher in the classroom. There's a reduction, potentially, in the staff. We needed more science teachers. That was months ago, though. We're not there yet.”
In a followup email, Laser clarified that Higgins' salary is funded 100 percent. Laser reiterated the latest budget draft split her responsibilities between the gifted and talented program and regular teaching staff at Boothbay Region High School.
“The principal had split her in two places in the budget in case he needed her to teach a science course. He will most likely not do that and she will be 100 percent dedicated to the gifted and talented program.”
Guidance program staff Janet Sprague and Hannah Johnson gave a presentation on the program’s function over the past year.
“We have one department, one team, but we have two functions,” said Sprague. “We have the academic advising and graduation coaching piece … and then we have the college and career planning. A lot of our career planning does include those who are going on to college who need college degrees to have a wonderful career beyond college.”
However, the program deals with more than just college planning. Johnson said there has been a trend toward community colleges, which she has been working to foster among traditional four-year degree seekers.
“Most of my time is spent face-to-face, one-on-one with students in individual counseling,” said Johnson who estimated around 100 meetings with students this school year.
The program also fosters advanced placement courses and test taking with 21 test takers in nine unique subjects with 31 exams ordered for this year. Other programs Johnson continues to help make available are free SAT preparations, individual advising, annual alumni panel, creating events with local Finance Authority of Maine representatives in both Boothbay Region Elementary School and BRHS, and college campus visits.
“I’m working really hard to continue all the visits our MELMAC grant has enabled us to do. Generally the district has absorbed the cost of transportation for a lot of our trips and now colleges are more and more paying for our lunches in kind, but we are anticipating that we’re not going to be able to apply for another MELMAC grant this year.”
Johnson said the CSD is in its last year of its MELMAC grant cycle has received $36,000 over the last four years.
Adult Education Director Pam Moody updated the board on likely future state subsidies for the program’s successful reintroduction.
“You didn’t qualify for (subsidies) last year. You should be able to this year,” said Moody.
The only stumbling block is a state-approved Career Pathways plan which had been submitted, but could be found by the state. Moody said she will resubmit the plan once the state confirms they do not have it.
“Our current budget this year will earn us in state subsidy money: $23,432 … Out of that, they’re going to prorate it and give us approximately 60 percent. That’s $13,122.”
The first year after being approved for the state money, the program will receive around $8,000 more even if local funds do not exceed the year before.
The committee agreed to meet with the board of trustees to jointly review budgets at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 26 if the trustees can do it then.