Board Takeaways - 3.5.19

The Essex Westford School Board met on March 5th, 2019. Highlights of the meeting included:

  • The Board was presented with the final proposals for the FYE '20 budget. This budget will be voted on by the resdients of Essex Junction, Essex Town and Westford on April 9th, 2019 from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Budget discussions to this point can be found on our website HERE (Link to: https://www.ewsd.org/budget)

  • During this final budget session, the EWSD administration presented two potential additions for the Board to consider. The first is the strengthening of our Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Systems and Supports with the addition of five new leaders. The EWSD currently has three such leaders in this role, providing their services to the eight K-8 schools within the district. Because these individuals need to travel so frequently to address matters that arise within the schools they serve, especially with the comparative distance of Westford, the District finds itself needing to address problems with on-site staff who get pulled from their existing roles. By bringing our total number of SEL leaders to eight, one individual can then be assigned full time to each K-8 school throughout the EWSD. These leaders will be able to conduct behavioral assessments, develop intervention plans, participate in crisis intervention and fulfill many other roles with a group of learners they can foster relationships with because of their assignment to the specific schools. The Board approved this addition to the FYE '20 budget.

  • The second addition is the proposal from administration highlighting the difficulty we have in the population sizes of EES and FMS. Where the legacy Essex Junction district has three schools to educate its K-5 learners, the legacy Town district has only two. This has, over time, resulted in significantly higher student populations within these two schools and by extension, our principals at Essex Elementary and at Founders are being pulled from their proper oversight roles to address specific student needs. While the addition of the SEL leaders into these schools will help, the comparative population remains a challenging outlier. The proposal submitted would create a leadership model of three co-principals to oversee these two schools, consisting of current principals Peter Farrell, Wendy Cobb, and a third principal to be hired. This proposal was submitted as a more cost effective model than hiring two separate assistant principals across the two schools and would also allow the principals to become more familiar with the larger student populations and staff that they oversee as they transition through K - 5. The proposed leadership model roles and responsibilities can be found HERE (Link to: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pI-JdHW_EP_Z1Nvge9TaGUFmp0v56rgE/view) Multiple concerns were addressed with administration throughout this meeting's discussions.   These can be reviewed via the RETN video. The Board ultimately approved this addition to the FYW '20 budget.

  • The last budgetary topic to be addressed at this meeting was a fund balance decision. The administration proposed the use of fund balance money to address the addition of the two proposals detailed out above. This would keep the budget from a larger increase this year but as this balance is effectively 'one time money', our administrative team has a keen awareness that they will need to reduce further in next year's budget to cover these staffing increases and to prevent a larger increase in the proposed taxes in that year. The third proposal for the use of the fund balance is to pay for a long range facilities planning study.  Voters will be asked to put fund balance monies into the Capital Reserve Fund for this purpose.  The Board approved the use of $1M of our fund balance this year to address these needs.   

  • As discussion finished, the EWSD Board approved of the following proposal to send to the voters. The total FYE 20 budget will be $81,486,555 with educational spending coming in at $61,411,352. This is a total educational spending increase of 1.88% over last year's budget. Of note here, statewide school budget proposals voted on Town Meeting Day had an average increase in education spending of  over 4%. Due to our size and dramatically lower than average proposed increase we are assisting in bringing the statewide average down. The Education Spending per Equalized Pupil comes to $16,104 which is an increase of 1.81% over last year.