Superintendent Kristen Gordon told the board that the fiscal 2015 budget includes cuts to staffing and prevents the hiring of critical positions.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen hesitantly approved Monday night the Adams Cheshire Regional School District's budget that favored financial over educational responsibility.
"The School Committee approved the budget that represents the increase that keeps with the amount that was requested by the towns, but we do have concerns," School Committee Chairman Paul Butler said. "The budget may represent what we call fiscal responsibility, but we are not so sure if it represents educational responsibility."
The school district asked Adams to approve an assessment of $4,601,300 for fiscal 2015. This is a $125,505 increase from this year’s assessment. Two board members had to abstain from voting, but the board approved the budget with a
2-1 unanimous vote. This budget still leaves the district with a $469,000 budget gap to close.
"We may think that we are saving money with this budget, but it is ultimately the children who are paying the price for an education that could be better," Butler said. "We will continue with our mission to educate the students who attend our public schools to the best of our abilities, but this mission is becoming increasingly difficult due to dwindling resources."
Superintendent Kristen Gordon said cuts include a reduction of four paraprofessionals and one staff position.
Along with this, the school district will not be able to hire a curriculum director, additional adjustment councilors, math and literacy coaches, more foreign language instructors, and a much-needed school psychologist to combat the rise in troubled children.
"We have some very serious issues, as do other high schools, with significant eating disorders with kids and kids who talk about suicide," Gordon said. "Teachers certainly try to deal with these issues, but they are not in any way equipped."
Gordon attributes much of the social problems the children are having to the overuse of technology.
"Many children are coming to school with little to no social skills because much of their life experience up to that point have centered on technology," she said. "As a result our youngest children are coming to school without acceptable functioning skills for self-regulation, impulse control and conflict resolution."
In addition to these cuts, many needed maintenance projects have been compromised. These projects include a complete repair of the C.T. Plunkett Elementary School roof.
Town Administrator Jonathan Butler explained that although he understands that financially Adams is stretched thin, he believes solutions need to be found to help create sustainability in the school district.
"To me our job is to provide value and service to our community and to make it sustainable," Butler said. "What I see in this budget over the last five to six years is a lack of sustainability because all there is are cuts, and it's kind of too bad that as a community all we think about is what will keep us under an override and that becomes what frames the conversation."
Butler and Chairman John Duval urged more frequent joint meetings between the School Committee and officials from both Cheshire and Adams to help solve problems in the school district.
"We have to come up with some solutions and fight together for our kids," Duval said. "Let's start getting information to people in our communities sooner so they know we need this money for our kids, and we have to start this process months before this meeting."
Although there was much frustration over the budget, Gordon said she felt secure in it.
"I feel comfortable that we can keep doing what we are doing, and I think we have happy kids," Gordon said. "However, we have staff that is stretched to the ultimate limit, and I think that we are not going to see better MCAS scores at the lower grades when you have 27 kids in a first-grade classroom, but In terms of happy healthy well-rounded educated kids we can live with this budget."
Along with a approving the ACRSD budget, the board approved the Adams assessment of the regional technical district.
The total assessment for Adams was $718,169. The budget increased because of a higher number of Adams students who attend McCann Technical School, increases in health insurance, and a small increase in transportation.