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Tech preliminary budget OK’d. Cuts instructor, splits administrator

TURNERS FALLS — The Franklin County Technical School’s tentative budget for the coming school year calls for a 2.5 percent total increase in assessments to member towns and includes a cut to the teaching staff of the business technology shop and the creation of a new administrative position.

Actual assessments will vary based on the individual town’s enrollment.

The School Committee approved the preliminary figure of $9,611,958 this week and will vote on a final budget at its next meeting March 13.

The proposed budget represents a 1.26 percent or $119,958 increase over this year’s $9,492,000 budget, itself a 1.1 percent increase over the preceding year.

Total assessments to member towns increased 2 percent last year, the 10-year average, according to figures presented by business manager Russ Kaubris.

Committee member George Day Jr. said the budget presented to his finance sub-committee by the administration called for a 3 percent assessment increase and the sub-committee had tweaked that figure down to 2.5 percent.

Superintendent James Laverty said the tentative budget is the recommendation of the administrative team and will be refined over the coming month.

The School Committee unanimously accepted the preliminary budget before opening the floor to discussion, with all who spoke opposing the proposed elimination of one of two business technology shop instructors.

Laverty said the cut resulted from declining enrollment in the program, which this year drew two freshmen.

Business instructor Jocelyn Croft challenged the concept of a trend, saying the shop has not had the first or second lowest enrollment over the past three years. Croft said this year’s figures were a disappointing anomaly but she expects students to transfer in during the course of the year.

“We did something wrong; I don’t know what that is, but I don’t believe for a minute we will end up with two students,” Croft said.

Fellow business instructor Tammy Hyson said the shop has had 12 such late transfers from other programs over the past three years, often as students realize they are unsuited to or physically incapable of working in their chosen shops.

“Jocelyn Croft and I would like the opportunity to respond to our recent low enrollment. Responding to a one-year low first-choice number with an immediate reduction in staff is premature and foolhardy,” Hyson said.

Laverty said the shop will be moved and the school hopes to open a student store to be run by the program.

Croft said the business program lacks the eye-catching equipment of other shops and predicted this idea will boost interest and numbers.

Sophomore business student Samantha Hayes of Orange told the committee she had collected 173 signatures in support of maintaining a two-teacher shop.

“The shop won’t be the same without two teachers,” Hayes said. “It is utterly impossible that that job can be done by one.”

Hayes said Croft and Hyson have different teaching styles that play differently to students, and a program with one teacher responsible for all grades will leave students less educated and may lead some to leave the school.

The technical school’s schedule has sophomores and juniors in the shop one week and freshmen and seniors the next.

Hyson said under the proposal one instructor will be left to teach two grades simultaneously, and equated this to a math teacher teaching geometry and calculus to two groups of students at the same time.

As the junior instructor, it is Croft’s job that is on the chopping block.

Other changes

Another significant change envisioned in the budget proposal is the elimination of the academic and vocational curriculum director position. The full-year administrative position would be split in two to create two school-year-length coordinator positions separately responsible for the vocational and academic programs, at an added cost of $64,000.

Laverty said the implementation of the new, state-mandated educator evaluation system and preparation for the new multi-state Common Core standards is going to require a lot of work, much of which must be done during the school year, leading to the division of the position and concentration switch from a full-year to academic year work schedule.

Principal Richard Martin said the new, lengthier evaluations, preparation for the Common Core curriculum standards and addressing the school’s new Level 3 status have created a daunting workload for himself and the rest of the administrative team.

Martin said only three other vocational schools in the state have a single curriculum director.

John Carey, the current curriculum director, said later “Realistically, I can’t be supervising 47 people effectively.”

Carey said his job would be disappearing but he has been encouraged to apply for one of the coordinator positions and believes he is well suited to it.

Also in the budget is an additional math teacher, at the cost of $38,316, an addition Kaubris said is intended to address the school’s Level 3 status.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education labeled the school as Level 3 in its five-level “accountability and assistance” system this school year based on scores on the math portion of the MCAS test, and Martin said the school will soon offer continual math instruction for the first time.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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