No 5 Percent Cut for Schools – Yet
School Committee, Superintendent quash rumors of impending cuts.
Marblehead School budgets are not being cut by 5 percent across the board – at least not right now.
That was the message the School Committee members wanted the principals, other staff and especially the parents of Marblehead students to hear Thursday night.
Superintendent Dr. Paul Dulac, responding to criticism that some school staff members believe their budgets are being cut by 5 percent, said: "It is just an exercise. The principals are aware it is just an exercise."
Dulac has asked the principals to present their priorities in the event that the state cuts funding to schools across the state. He asked for the information by Jan. 15.
That request caused rumors to circulate through the school community, creating concern and even alarm that programs and staff may be cut, several board members told the superintendent.
The School Committee has not determined any cuts, member Dick Nohety said. And the committee has not even considered a straight 5 percent cut. "We need a more strategic approach," he said.
Dulac agreed. "We are just gathering information" in the event that state funding is cut. "The process is evolutionary," he said. "Everything I thought was movable has been moved."
If the state cuts funding, "it will entail some significant programmatic changes," Dulac said.
He is scheduled to present his budget recommendations in early January before he even gets the priorities from the principals, he said. That information might be used later if the overall budget is reduced.
A 5 percent cut would cost the district about $1.4 million. About 85 percent of the schools' budgets are staff salaries, which limits the ability of the principals to make significant cost reductions, board members said.
The Search for the Next Superintendent
In other business, the firm of consultants hired to help identify candidates to be the next school superintendent outlined the results of the community's comments on the characteristics desired in the next school leader.
John Connolly and Dr. Albert Argenziano with Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates told the committee that it had interviewed about 90 Marbleheaders, including parents, school administrators and community leaders. It also received comments from 263 people who responded to an online survey. Connolly called 90 people who showed up for in-person interviews to be fewer than what the firm had expected.
Based on those comments, the most important character traits of the next superintendent should be a person who has a strong vision for the schools, good communication skills and high moral standards.
"The community is looking for a strong, well-rounded leader," Connolly said.
Specifically the surveys expressed a desire for a superintendent who would make upgrading the schools' technology a high priority. They also want the next superintendent to emphasize math and science more.
The results of the surveys are now posted on the school district's web site.
In January, the firm will interview about 15 candidates for the superintendent position and narrow the field to five candidates. Those five candidates will be interviewed by a screening committee in January and February and cull the number to three candidates, who will be presented to the School Committee for consdieration.
Dulac is leaving as superintendent after this year.
Adding Honors Course to History and Social Studies Department
High School Principal Ken Weinstein and Bob Colfer, the lead history teacher, outlined for the committee a plan to add an honors curriculum for the history and social studies department. The honors program for 10th, 11th and 12th graders will be more difficult than regular courses, but not as difficult as the Advanced Placement program, Colfer said.
The School Committee approved a 10-day trip next summer to Japan. Twenty-one students have signed up for the trip, which will cost $3,859.
It also reviewed the proposed policy banning bullying in schools and at school events. That policy is also on the district's web site.