Citizens weigh in on school budget
Posted: December 5, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Melissa Wilkerson asked officials at a Frederick County School Board meeting Tuesday to be mindful of class sizes and the number of aides, especially for special education.
At Middletown Elementary School this year, she said, her son had one aide in his special education class — which has nearly doubled in size during the past year.
Though the class now has three aides, Wilkerson encouraged the board to be vigilant. “Trying to keep [the students] contained and pushed toward learning was difficult.”
Wilkerson, 37, was one of a handful of county residents who spoke during the citizen comment period of the meeting. They were asked to list budget and planning priorities for the school system in fiscal year 2014.
In November, the board offered priorities that included: addressing salary scales for employees; restoring replacement cycles for technology, transportation and operations; beginning full-day kindergarten by fall 2014; seeking to improve student-teacher ratios in all grades; renovating buildings to be energy- efficient and secure; and expanding alternative-education program offerings.
Jennifer Myers, treasurer of the parent-teacher organization for the Northwestern Regional Education Program, said the sluggish economy and high student turnover have slowed money-raising and that teachers’ wish lists often go unfulfilled.
At the beginning of the year, Myers said, the group had $8 in its bank account. “Our PTO is struggling to support our school. It definitely needs extra help.”
Kimberly Salata, vice-chairman of the division’s Gifted Advisory Committee, said additional staffing for gifted education was “desperately needed.”
One gifted staff member is available for the division’s three high schools, two for the four middle schools and 21⁄2 for the 11 elementary schools.
Salata said additional funding is needed for technology upgrades in hardware and infrastructure for all students and asked that the division establish a consistent “Bring Your Own Device” policy so students can learn on their personal electronic devices.
Joy Kirk, president of the Frederick County Education Association, said the board should consider increasing salaries to retain good teachers and staff members.
“We’re also concerned with an increase in class sizes across the grade levels,” she said.
Also on Kirk’s list was a need for technology upgrades and new buses. “Getting our students safely to school is a priority.”
Jay Mart of Gainesboro asked the board members to consider fiscal responsibility, no matter what their priorities may be.
He said he hoped the board would make increased employee pay scales its top priority, and expressed concern over “accelerated” construction projects throughout the division.
“How much debt should we ask the county to take on and pay?” he asked.
The board will adopt its official budget priorities this month.
Present at the meeting were Chairman Stuart Wolk, Vice-Chairman Benjamin Waterman and members Jim Harmon, Peggy Clark, Michael Lake, Jody Wall and John Lamanna.
— Contact Rebecca Layne at email@example.com