MWDN: Superintendent recommends five new teachers at Algonquin

by susan on January 17, 2013

Superintendent Charles Gobron presented a preliminary budget for Algonquin at the Regional School Committee meeting last night. The $19.4M budget, which is $893K above the current year’s budget, includes a request for five new teachers and an additional assistant principal.

Reports the Metrowest Daily News:

To deal with the rising enrollment at Algonquin Regional High School, Superintendent Charles Gobron is proposing hiring five new teachers and restoring a third assistant principal at the high school next year.

While presenting his preliminary fiscal 2014 high school budget Tuesday night, Gobron said the five new teachers are needed to help combat large class sizes due to rising enrollment. The Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee’s class size policy is to have no class with more than 24 students.

“We have more and more classes above,” said Gobron.

Gobron is proposing adding math, science and physical education teachers, as well as a guidance counselor and a part-time business teacher. Gobron estimated it will cost about $295,000 to hire the five new teachers.

You can read more about the preliminary budget for Algonquin in this article by the MWDN.

1 Neil Rossen January 18, 2013 at 12:30 PM

5 new teachers probably means entrenching 5 more union members forever. I thought enrolment was likely to decline. Al Hamilton provided a detailed presentation at Town Meeting to illustrate that and Gobron “appeared” to buy into it. Now we expand again. And who agreed this class size policy? Simply rule, essentially by fiat, by the largely unaccountable Regional School Committee.
No doubt I have my facts wrong. Please help my understanding. Oh, and I guess another monstrous hike in property taxes.No end.

2 Frank Crowell January 18, 2013 at 1:09 PM

And a lame duck governor looking to add a billion dollars in new revenue – this would be the same governor who promised to reduce property taxes. In the words of our new elected senator “the middle class is getting hammered.”

3 Resident1 January 18, 2013 at 2:36 PM

Mr. Rossen, I think the major issue is with the Regional School Committee who we elect. They drive the budget bus, not Gobron. They say we need x and he gives them a budget with x. They say class sizes are to be x and he gives them a budget that gives them everything they want. They don’t really care about our taxes going up and up and up. The fact is our school population is going down unlike any other population anywhere. The Regional School Committee voted in favor of giving teachers 7% raises every year and they vote to hire more and more teachers. Don’t be critical of Gobron, he is doing what he is told to do. Meanwhile our fire fighters training is cut out of the budget and their equipment is outdated. The advisory committee cuts and cuts town budgets but runs away and hides on school budgets. Why doesnt advisory ask about adding more teachers like they ask about adding more fire fighters or police officers?

4 Frank Crowell January 19, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Is this the same Dr Gobron that told us the K-8 teacher’s contract was to be a very modest 2% increase………………….then we see average teacher’s salaries go from $70K a year to $80K in one year? I am pretty sure it’s the same guy. And no, I will never forgot that little TM gem. We need the school committees, Dr Gobron and the staff that supports Dr Gobron thinking and proposing more in school savings. There are some hard choices they could make beyond laying off teachers.

All for firemen, equipment and training, but I do seem to remember a new ladder truck being purchased. Could the money have been used elsewhere in the fire department? Sounds like the answer may now be yes.

5 John Butler January 21, 2013 at 9:23 PM

Your use of the term “cuts” is misleading Many readers might suppose from your words that the Town has spent less on fire and police in some recent year than was spent in the year before. In fact, spending has only increased, year after year, in these departments. There have been no such “cuts.” If you want to know about real cuts ask some local businesses. If you read about those departments saying here that their budget has been “cut,” it just means that at some point in the budgeting process they asked for more than they received, not that their spending went down.

I am on record here as saying the the budget process for schools has been flawed, so I cannot now defend it. I can say however that if you don’t like the outcomes that you have seen, the most potent thing you can do is to vote to change the elected school committees, the next is to show up to Town Meeting and vote your preferences. Speaking only for myself in all of this, I am less convinced that the outcomes are bad than that the process has been flawed.

6 Neil Rossen January 22, 2013 at 1:11 PM

If I’m not mistaken, the Obama administration and doubtless prior administrations use this terminology all the time. “We cannot have any more “cuts” ” is their refrain.Maybe you can fool a majority of people all the time. So we slowly go broke. Any outcomes that end up perpetually hitting taxpayers are not good. The process AND the outcomes are both flawed.

7 Resident2 January 22, 2013 at 3:43 PM

Yes, however, as our town grows, as fuel prices increase, as the cost of many types of supplies and services increase from year to year, it takes more money in the new year to provide the same level of service as the year before. Therefore, while the police and fire departments may not have technically experienced “budget cuts,” they have year-after-year-after-year-after-year been denied funding that would provide our community with a level standard of service and thus a level standard of SAFETY. In my opinion, for the intents and purposes of a conversation about public safety funding, this equates to budget cuts and, consequently, our community is less safe then it has been and then it should be.

8 John Butler January 22, 2013 at 4:40 PM

It is worth noting here that “Resident” neatly omits the major driver of cost increases that have caused budget increases, namely the terms of the union settlements. I am not one to complain about unions, but readers should note that first Resident uses the term “cuts” rather than saying with greater forthrightness “I think that the increases funded by the taxpayers should have been higher increases”. Then anonymous Resident says that there have been increases in “many types of supplies” omitting the dominant one, union wages and salaries. Lastly Resident shouts “safety” in all caps.

We can discuss the budgets without these rhetorical ploys. Maybe we do want to fund a budget for a greater increase than we have in recent years because negotiated union increases have eaten up most of the increases we have provided. Maybe there are good reasons to do so, not needing capitalized emotional language, maybe there aren’t. But, if we want to debate this, lets do so frankly, describing things as they are, facing the issues squarely.

9 Resident2 January 22, 2013 at 6:23 PM

Mr Butler, I have not “neatly omitted” anything. Of course one of the costs is rising compensation to which we are committed due to contractual obligations. I don’t care what the details of the rising costs are. I am not grinding a political ax of any kind, for or against unions. I am concerned about the level of service being provided to our community. If the departments are forced to keep costs level, then it follows that we are experiencing declining service if cost are rising. It’s as simple as that. I have sat in on many of the hearings on departmental budgets over the past 5-7 years and this concerns me. When the school budgets continue to rise every year and public safety budgets do not, despite rising costs, it should concern residents.

When you state in your posts that these are not “cuts,” but department heads not getting what they request, it implies that department heads are asking for more than they need. I feel that this “take” might be misleading to the typical resident of our Town and an alternate view was offered, but please note that I did not call you dishonest (not forthright, not frank) or belittle you in any way. I simply dared to express an alternative view of the topic being discussed.

I am “Resident” because I choose to remain anonymous. It is my right and does not lessen the validity of my opinion or the point I am trying to make. This petty issue always arises it seems when some on this blog come up against disagreement.

As for “rhetorical ploys” your post is full of insulting rhetoric directed toward me in an attempt to marginalize my opinion. I am neither dishonest, nor emotional. I capitalized one word for emphasis. I believe it is you who clearly could not debate this issue without resorting to innuendo and an accusatory tone. I thought we were suposed to remain “neighborly” on this blog. I certainly did. You did not.

I have decided to post what I have written above, but something just occurred to me. There are two “Residents” in this conversation. I am Resident in post 7, not post 3. Not sure if that changes anything. Regardless, I don’t think there was any cause for Mr. Butler’s belligerent and insulting reply.

10 John Butler January 22, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Two different anonymous posters originally used the same name, inducing considerable confusion here, and maybe an unnecessarily strong response from the second one reacting to my post replying to the two “Resident”s as one and the same. (See Susan’s after the fact correction note below.)

Let me be clear that if someone wants to argue for higher increases for police and fire budgets than the increases that we have had, I think that a plausible (but maybe not compelling) case can be made. I just don’t like to see the public debate skewed by misleading talk of “cuts” or charged claims that the community is less safe than formerly due to budgets. I do not believe that it is less safe nor I have I seen any convincing evidence for that assertion. Last I would note that with the sole exception of a disagreement a few years ago about interpretation of a union contract clause in the police budget, which had no effect on eventual spending, I believe that for the last 5 years, or more, there has been no difference between the budget requested by Selectmen, recommended by Advisory or approved by Town Meeting for any public safety function. Such a consensus does not mean it is always right. The questions are difficult. But, it is not as if a narrow majority has prevailed on a hotly contested subject.
Please note that within the Advisory Committee there is often heated disagreement on many topics so I speak only for myself at all times here.

11 Resident2 January 23, 2013 at 12:22 AM

Mr. Butler you make me laugh. I suppose that is the closest to an apology we can expect. Regardless of the mix up in names, neither of we “Residents” took a demeaning tone in our comments or attacked you personally. Perhaps you were discomfited by Resident1’s comments about the Advisory Committee?

Anyway, let’s just say “apology accepted” and move on.

BTW, I agree with the second paragraph of your comment 5. Change must come in the form of changes to the School Committee, if, in fact, residents feel that those serving are not acting in the best interests of our Town. It is too bad that more residents are not willing to serve or even to stay informed and attend Town Meeting. Something in the school budget process really needs to change. It is like there are two sets of rules where the budget process is concerned and that is simply untenable.

I am afraid that I do, however, disagree with your take on the services provided by public safety. I believe that we are seeing the effects of under-funding on the rise. I also believe that it is probably worse than it looks, since you would be hard pressed to find individuals in town shouting such problems from the rooftops. This summer there were a very large numbers of car and home break-ins. There are many documented instances of understaffed shifts by the police department, requested training and equipment for both departments have been denied, and the facilities for both fire and police are grossly inadequate which is clearly evident to anyone who walks into either of those buildings. When will we focus our resources on these departments? I am not trying to cause panic, but I think that healthy concern is in order and that is what I am trying to respectfully express.

12 Al Hamilton January 23, 2013 at 8:06 AM

Compensation is not just “one of the costs” it is the principle cost driver that is causing our tax rates to steadily rise.

Labor costs (wages, benefits and retirement) account for the vast majority of our budget (my guess is that it is on the order of 3/4 or more). Labor costs are also the factor driving our taxes ever upwards. Nothing else really matters, even debt which probably comes in at a distant second. School labor costs alone consume nearly 1/2 of our budget.

I do have to challenge the assertion that we have seen a reduction in service from either Fire or the Police Dept’s over the last 10 years. I believe that in both cases our community has added staff to these departments. If we added staff and are getting less service then we have a real problem.

You will certainly not find me defending the school budgets which I believe are not effectively scrutinized and are presented based on representations that could easily be described as “factually challenged”. But, John Butler is right. We elect the BOS to oversee much our our municipal operations and there has been very little daylight between what the BOS recommends for the Fire and Police Depts and what Advisory has recommended.

If you believe that the taxpayers should reach a little deeper to more generously fund the Police and Fire Dept’s your first stop should be the Selectmen. I am certain they will listen.

13 Al Hamilton January 19, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Enrollment has been pretty stable at Algonquin for the past 5 years:

2007-2008 1414
2008-2009 1411
2009-2010 1409
2010-2011 1438
2011-2012 1446

Northborough’s school population looks like they are following a pattern similar to Southborough’s but not as pronounced. Falling from about 220 in Grades 5-8 to about 197 in K-2

I think it will take about 5-6 years for the “baby bust” to work its way up to Algonquin. That is when today’s 2nd and 3rd graders will be in 9th grade.

In the past, a significant portion 8th graders in Southborough opted for private school. I believe that this phenomena ended with the completion of the Algonquin rennovations and the recession.

My conclusion is that we can expect Algonquin enrollments to be fairly stable for the next few years and unless there is substantial residential construction in either town we will experience enrollment declines towards the end of the decade.

14 susan January 22, 2013 at 9:05 PM

Thanks for pointing out that there are two different people commenting under the name “Resident” in this thread – I missed that. For clarity’s sake, I’ve renamed one Resident1 and the other Resident2.

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