Department heads, principals in city make case on funds

Posted: February 11, 2014

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Item by item, the Winchester School Board is learning what division officials say they need for next year that they don’t have now.

At a budget work session Monday night, principals from five schools and officials representing four department heads told board members about their budget requests for fiscal year 2015. The process will continue at a Feb. 24 work session.

It’s the first time at least in recent years that individual principals and department heads have addressed their funding needs directly to School Board members. It’s part of the panel’s process in determining how to close a $2.4 million gap between $50.4 million expected revenues and $52.8 million in funding requests.

“I think this board in particular is interested in hearing from our building leaders what successes they’re having and what struggles they’re having and what their needs are in an unfiltered way,” Chairwoman Erica Truban said following the session. “In a work session, we want to be able to have a dialogue and have everyone hear the information at the same time.

“I thought this was a really productive session tonight for us.”

Though the board members haven’t begun whittling away at the spending plan, a couple of cuts were made for them Monday. They came from requests for additional personnel, which account for $2 million in extra funding sought for FY15.

Stephanie Downey, principal at John Kerr Elementary School, withdrew her request for an additional teacher due to a dip in grade-level enrollment.

Joan Hovatter, Quarles Elementary School’s principal, dropped her request for an assistant principal.

The largest request for additional personnel Monday came from the largest school that presented — Daniel Morgan Middle. Linda Cobb, the acting principal, made her case for six more subject teachers, four English language learners teachers and a librarian.

Two of the additional positions are sought to cover Standards of Quality student ratio requirements. The rest are requested to better serve a student population that’s projected to reach 1,319 in the next school year, 100 more children than were educated at the school a year ago.

Sarah Kish, the school’s former principal and the division’s new director of special education and related services, told the board members that Daniel Morgan’s non-English-speaking students have had greater success on their English Standards of Learning (SOL) tests in recent years with more intense assistance with the language.

She and Cobb said they’d like to extend the help to other SOL subjects — math, science and social studies.

“There’s a lot stacked up against those students,” Cobb said.

Two math specialists are sought on the elementary level to help bolster standardized test scores that declined when more rigorous criteria were applied. Each would split time between two schools and work with teachers to make them more effective instructors.

Truban said she felt more informed about the system’s needs following the session.

“We’ve always had the justification,” she said, “but it’s always been in print. It’s a lot easier to sit there and have someone explain it to you. It provides more context to the data presented in the budget package, and I think we need that context to make good decisions as a School Board.”

Attending the meeting at the Central Administrative Office were Chairwoman Erica Truban, Vice-Chairwoman Allyson Pate and board members Richard Bell, Vincent Di Benedetto, Cynthia Ford, Melvin Thomas and Mary Margaret Wise. Board member Minh Le was absent.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com