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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Invitation To Participate in School Budget Process...

Dear friends of the Somerville Public Schools,

I wanted to let you know about the budget process that the School Committee will be going through in the next two months and how you can participate in it.

The public hearing on the budget will be held on Wednesday, May 23rd at 7 PM in the Somerville High School library.  Anyone who wishes to will have two or three minutes to express their views regarding next year's (FY 2013) school budget or related issues. The meeting will begin with a presentation by the Superintendent of his recommended budget.

If you are unable to attend, or do not wish to speak in public, I encourage you to email the School Committee and Superintendent with your thoughts or concerns.

I hope and expect that budget documents with information about the Superintendent's recommended budget be posted on the SPS website next week.  (The School Committee will be discussing and deciding on this on Thursday night.)  These documents will show you the changes in this year's budget as compared to last year's as well as other basic budget information.  I will email the link once the budget docs are posted.

Once the Superintendent has presented his recommended budget, the School Committee may vote changes and is responsible for approving a school budget for consideration by the Board of Aldermen and the Mayor.  The School Committee will have at least one meeting after the public hearing to consider your input and make changes to make the Superintendent's recommended budget. 

The School Committee has reviewed three draft budgets to date and we have had a significant impact in shaping the Superintendent's recommendations.  This has been a collaborative process with a lot of good discussion.  We just received a fourth draft budget which we will discuss at a Finance Committee meeting -- open to the public -- this Thursday, May 10th in Gallery 81 at Somerville High School (turn left when you enter the building, Gallery 81 is a couple of doors down on the right). 

Speaking as one School Committee member, I am enthusiastic about much of what is in this year's Superintendent's recommended budget.  It calls for a 6% increase, which will allow the SPS to undertake some major initiatives that the School Committee has wanted for many years.  Here are some highlights, things that should add a lot of value to the education our children receive in the Somerville Public Schools:
-- Spanish language instruction in 7th and 8th grades
-- A middle-school interscholastic athletic program
-- 10 additional teachers and paraprofessionals for English Language Learner instruction
-- A part-time parent/guardian outreach coordinator at each school and more support for the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative
-- A part-time school-based volunteer coordinator at each school and more support for the volunteer coordinator position
-- Additional funds to increase the number of students who receive after-school tutoring from 500 to 800
-- About $40,000 to continue to support the Healey School unification process and to implement the Healey School Council's plan to incorporate service learning and arts integration into the curriculum
-- Implementation of the "El Sistema" music program (after school) at the East Somerville Community School (for 3rd and 4th grades), with three part-time music instructors.

I look forward to your review of the budget documents and to hearing your feedback, suggestions and desired changes.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Mark Niedergang
Somerville School Committee, Ward 5

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