MWDN: Algonquin to cut two classes to stay within budget

by susan on June 22, 2012

Post image for MWDN: Algonquin to cut two classes to stay within budget

From today’s Metrowest Daily News comes word that Algonquin will need to cut two classes in order to close a budget gap next year.

Calling the cuts unwanted but necessary, Superintendent Charles Gobron on Wednesday detailed nearly $200,000 in cuts for Algonquin Regional High School’s fiscal 2013 school year, including the loss of two classes.

“We wish we had the funds (to retain the classes),” but the budget simply doesn’t provide for them, Gobron told the Regional School Committee

The school will eliminate one world language class as well as one English class, Gobron said, to save about $40,000.

You can read more in this article by the MWDN.

{ 7 comments }

1 Al Hamilton June 22, 2012 at 11:53 AM

Let us be crystal clear about the ultimate source of these “cuts”. It has nothing to do with the generosity of either community which has been dedicating an increasing portion of its budgets to our schools and has been bearing ever increasing taxes.

The root cause of these negative impacts on education is our school labor contracts.

From 2009 to 2010 the average pay for a teacher at Algonquin rose from $74,475 to $80,156 (7.6%). State wide the average was a raise from $67,542 to $68,781 (1.8%).

http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/teacher.aspx?orgcode=07300000&orgtypecode=5&leftNavId=815&&fycode=2010

Our labor contracts are fundamentally unchanged. The public discussion by school officials focuses only one of the 4 raise components in the contract and ignore the real drivers which are the Steps and Lanes.

So, if you want to ask who is responsible for these “cuts” you have to look at the people that negotiated and approved our labor contracts. The Superintendent and School Committees. Unlike other labor agreements Town Meeting gets no say in these matters.

Please note I am not bashing teachers. We have a lot of very fine professionals who do a great job. Teaching is hard work, particularly when done well.

I am bashing a completely unsustainable and unfair system that is putting quality education at jeopardy.

2 Just Curious June 22, 2012 at 11:43 PM

I am not sure I agree with Mr Hamilton’s overall premise in his posting but I do believe he is effectively incorrect, at least to to some extent, when he wrote “Unlike other labor agreements Town Meeting gets no say in these matters.” Although that is factually correct, it implies that Town Meeting can have a say in BOS proposed budgets that include raises. As a practical matter, that is not correct.

Just go back to Town Meeting in 2011 when both the BOS and the School Committee did not disclose the proposed contracts for teachers, fire and police. Both the School Committee AND the BOS could have arranged to make this information available to the voters either before or at Town Meeting. All it would have taken is a public vote by the School Committee to ratify what they had already agreed to in closed/executive session.

As for the BOS, they could have done essentially the same thing but neither board wants to get this information to the public and risk creating a controversy at Town Meeting.

So, in general, I agree with Mr. Hamilton, but as a practical matter, since the contracts are intentionally not publicized prior to Town meeting, the voters have information with which to make a decision to reject any budget.

Here’s a great example and it has particular significance today since, as Mr. Hamilton pointed out in another post today, the Police Chief has asked the Advisory Committee for additional funds to pay for this item.

At the 2010 Town Meeting, voters agreed to reduce the budget for the Police Department so that the town did not have to pay the State’s share of the Quinn Bill educational benefit. The Quinn bill allows towns to share the cost of paying Police Officers an incentive for advanced education. This incentive is an annual 10% raise for an associates degree, 20% for a bachelor’s degree, and 25% for a master’s degree. For ANY degree, not just criminal justice. The contract between the town and the Police union specifically called for half of the total to be paid by the town and half to paid by the state AND it stated specifically that the town was not responsible for any amount not paid by the state. When the state had decided not to continue paying its 50% share, the Police Chief submitted a budget which called on the town to pay for the non-reimbursed state payment. At Town Meeting, the voters approved an amendment to reduce the Police Budget by the unfunded state reimbursement amount. At that Town Meeting, there was a lot of talk of dire consequences to befall Southborough due to a pending law suit against the towns who were not paying for the state’s share. Well Golly Gee! What do you know but the State Supreme Court subsequently unanimously stated that towns do not have to pay the states’ unpaid share.

At the next year’s Town Meeting (2011), the BOS did not share with the voters that the contract they had just signed with the Police union included the town paying a lump sum amount to the Police Officers, which is substantially more than what they would have received from the town alone for the Quinn Bill. This effectively called upon the town to pay for at least part of the state share. The BOS did not tell the voters this when they were voting on the budget. Now, according to another post by Mr. Hamilton, the Police Chief is coming to the Advisory Committee to ask for additional funds, in part, to pay for this “unexpected” expense re the educational payment.

The point is, the BOS knew this was counter to the wishes of the voters in 2010, knew it was part of their agreed/proposed contract at the time of the 2011 Town Meeting, and did not share that information with the voters. I guess that is their right. On the one hand, we elect the BOS to make decisions on our behalf. On the other hand, this is something that probably should have been shared with the voters.

If someone wants to questions whether this education incentive is really necessary, you could go back and research the Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s expose on the Quinn Bill.

I’m not sure it really adds any value today. There are so many young people who chose to go to college to study criminal justice to become police officers. From all that I have read, there are many applicants for every opening as a police officer. If there are so many applicants for these positions, why should we pay a bonus for something as basic, by today’s standards, as a bachelor’s degree? We shouldn’t even consider someone with only an associate’s degree. Just from a supply and demand perspective, why pay a bonus for something that is expected?

3 Al Hamilton June 26, 2012 at 4:34 PM

Curious

As a practical matter I think you and I are in agreement. The formal difference between a School Labor Contract and any other labor contract is that Town Meeting votes on the other labor contracts but does not vote on the school labor contract it is approved by the School Committee only.

The truth is that Town Meeting has been buying a pig in a poke in both cases and there is very little openness or transparency in the entire process.

4 resident June 22, 2012 at 10:55 PM

I understand the cafe at the hs went through a major overhaul. Why are we spending money on things like this? The old way was working. We hired a new food service director who is now making many changes and seems to be spending money like it is water. There were balloons at Valentines day, necklaces at mardi gras time….for what???? Is this making the meals better for our children? I have heard from other parents that some of the cafe staff is up there very late in the day. If this is true then WHY? This must also be at an added cost. Are we paying out overtime? We cut classes and bring in cafeteria staff for longer hours when the kids are gone? Perhaps to man the facebook page they put up? Whomever is in charge of this person needs to see the light and reign in the spending. These might be little expenses but they all add up and in these times we should be spending less and spending smart. Now they want to raise the lunch prices and lets not forget the activity fee for all students. This mismanagement is what makes the parents so angry and the superintendent and his staff apparently could care less. Wake up people.

5 concerned citizen June 26, 2012 at 8:57 AM

I guess I want to ask were teachers cut? Or just classes? So it hurts the kids but not the teachers? Where is the concern form the teachers and their union bosses?Honestly, I am really tired fo my childrens complaints about teachers ineptness at ARHS (not all, many are very good, but many are very bad). Poor attendance, poor planning of cirriculum, and poor execution of testing, and just should not be teachers. I am told, and I am not sure, so please forgive me if this is wrong infomration, but my friends tell me: 1. teachers work form 7am-1:45pm and the vast majority are seen (and have been monitored) leaving school (please dont play the I have to correct papers at night thing again, I was up until midnight last night and 11pm the night before folllowing up from my day/weeks work). 2. The teachers actually only teach four classes a day on average. So again, these teachers work literally 3/4 of a year and they now make $80,000 a year, have a retirement system I and most do not have, and medical that no one has now? And I pay theirr salary. Please help me out folks. I believe I am balanced in saying enough is enough. But are we too concerned as reisdents and (parents) not to “rock the boat” and hence becomse a target which has happened to some concerned citizens. Thank you.

6 Frank Crowell June 26, 2012 at 9:39 AM

To your point, there is a WSJ opinion page article today titled McGurn: Son of Scott Walker. This outlines the battle going on in Idaho which is close to what went on in Wisconsin. One of the comments had this quote from Albert Shanker, former President of the Teachers Union (United Federation of Teachers) from 1964 to 1984: “When school children start paying union dues, that ‘s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”


7 John Boiardi June 27, 2012 at 7:32 AM

Great post! That is why I have no qualms about scrutinizing the school budget. A little heavier work load (teach more classes, less staff such as a person to make copies for teachers etc.). The school budget drives the tax rate yet it does not get the scrutiny that other town budgets receive. Watch a school committee meeting and you will understand why.
I admit it is my biased opinion.

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