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Board slices, dices school budget.

Byline: Jacqueline Reis

WORCESTER - The School Committee tinkered with its fiscal 2013 budget yesterday and had 4-3 votes over amounts as little as $574, but they managed more unanimity when it came to honoring members of the district.

Yesterday afternoon was the first of two meetings dedicated to a line-by-line review of the $329,875,415 budget proposal, which is a 3.3 percent increase over the current year.

Several pieces of the administration's recommendation had changed even before the meeting. The district's work with the city found $1.7 million for 19 more teachers and six more nurses (to ensure full-time coverage at every elementary school).

One million dollars of that came from moving the cost of PCB management out of the School Department's general budget and funding it through existing school repair loan authorizations. The city found another $350,000 from its budget, and the school district matched that by reallocating money from school choice revenues (while still leaving $500,000 in reserve from that source), electricity savings (through automated computer shutdowns when they are not in use), savings from less widespread use of internal standardized tests in 10th grade, and other areas.

Ten of the 19 additional teachers will be used to reduce elementary class sizes. Two of them will go to Elm Park Community School, and eight other schools will get one additional teacher each: Belmont Street Community, Flagg Street, Goddard School of Science and Technology, Grafton Street School, Francis J. McGrath Elementary, Quinsigamond, Tatnuck Magnet and Union Hill. Another nine teachers will be used to better prepare students for college by implementing MassCore courses the state recommends.

As the budget discussions got under way, committee member Tracy O'Connell Novick took issue with a $574 increase in the central administration's printing budget, noting that there was no equivalent increase for schools. She moved the increase be reallocated to the instructional materials budget and won with a 4-3 vote. Dianna L. Biancheria, Donna M. Colorio and Brian A. O'Connell sided with her, while Jack L. Foley, John F. Monfredo and Mayor Joseph M. Petty voted against the idea.

Mr. O'Connell moved that the district reallocate some of the money in its workers compensation budget but lost in another 4-3 vote. Not content with that, he asked for a roll call, which ended in a 6-1 vote against him. The account is under-funded this year, and the administration is recommending it be funded at the same level next year.

The committee's next budget session is at 4 p.m. June 21 at City Hall.

The committee took a happier turn at its 7 p.m. regular meeting, recognizing the city's teacher of the year, Angela M. Lamoureux, a science teacher at Forest Grove Middle School. Forest Grove Principal Mark Williams described the hands-on activities students find in her room and said, "Teachers like you are the heart and soul of an enlightened society."

The runners-up were Donna Mastrovito of Columbus Park Preparatory Academy and Constance Bunker, a fourth-grade teacher at Jacob Hiatt Magnet School.

The committee also recognized school nurse of the year Denise Khalili of Claremont Academy.

The district is still working to fill three principal openings and the chief academic officer position for next year. Following a collaborative process, Superintendent Melinda J. Boone recently appointed Charles Healey, an elementary school principal in Nashua, N.H., to lead Rice Square School, but the district still needs to find leaders for Francis J. McGrath School, Goddard School of Science and Technology and University Park Campus School. All three of those vacancies are being filled with input from the schools' communities, according to Human Resource Manager Stacey DeBoise Luster.

Ms. Boone said she hopes to have a new chief academic officer named by June 21, when the School Committee will thank outgoing CAO Jeffrey J. Mulqueen for his work. He will become superintendent of the Pentucket Regional School District next month.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 8, 2012
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