As you all may imagine, the last 4 weeks have been difficult to navigate. Failing to pass our referendum on the first attempt has led to unexpected consequences for which I take full responsibility as the District leader. I am grateful for the efforts of so many people to inform voters about our budget and rally the town’s support that ultimately led to a resounding approval of our second referendum.
This week, the Board of Education continued its deliberations and arrived at some decisions regarding the necessary cuts to fulfill the reductions incurred after the Board of Selectmen reduced the budget after the first town vote.
Reducing our budget in any capacity is challenging. However, I am pleased to report that the reductions that were made last night kept whole every existing full time position in our district. The only positions that were eliminated are a level one technician, an assistant wrestling coach, and a middle school girls softball coach. Given the task of reducing the budget by more than $250,000, Board members were committed to finding those budget areas that have the least impact on our instructional programs.
In addition to the staffing cuts listed above, the Board of Education approved the following cuts:
- A reduction in new Chromebook purchases
- A decision not to change the existing security position at PHS
- A general 10% reduction of textbooks and supplies from each department district wide
- Shifting AP testing costs to students and parents
- A reduction in summer curriculum writing funds
- Extracurricular stipends positions that were unfilled during the 2018-19 school year
- A reduction in legal expenses
During ongoing deliberations about class size, the Board recognized the need for an additional kindergarten teacher. The Board also recognized that the class sizes associated with students transitioning from 4th grade to 5th grade created an opportunity to reallocate teaching positions. This reallocation allows the district to add a kindergarten teacher without increasing overall teaching positions in the district. By re-assigning the responsibilities of math and language arts interventionists at Brownstone Intermediate school, the district will ensure that class sizes in fifth grade math and English Language Arts do not increase, while concurrently ensuring that students continue to receive math and language arts support service and intervention programming.
The district leadership team will closely monitor all sources of revenue, including grant funding, potential insurance savings, technology reimbursements from a program called E-Rate, and a potential collaboration with an agency that may rent space in the district. As these revenues become available, and as the district monitors the effect of staffing adjustments and cuts, the Board may reallocate resources to best serve the learning needs of all students.
I want to take this opportunity to assure you that The Portland Public Schools will continue to serve our students with distinction and commitment. As we conclude another successful school year, I assure you of my renewed commitment to provide the highest quality academic, co-curricular, extra-curricular, and athletic programming for all Portland students.