Seven school positions could fall victim to budget cuts

Westborough – The Westborough School Committee learned at its March 18 meeting that seven elementary and intermediate school teaching positions may be eliminated in order to meet the level-funded budget Town Manager Henry Danis has requested from the School Department.

    The Westborough School District’s total fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget, following both the May and October Town Meetings, is $38.10 million. The working FY 2010 budget the School Committee forwarded to Danis in December 2008 is about $1.5 million higher than that.

    While School Superintendent Anne Towle and the School Committee are hoping that money from President Barack Obama’s federal stimulus package will be able to be used to help fund the budget – and if so, will arrive in time – the School Department and the committee are moving forward with the mind-set that there will be no help from Washington.

    The Hastings and Fales elementary schools and the Mill Pond School are all currently projected to lose two teaching positions each, while the Armstrong Elementary School will lose one. In addition reading and Special Education support in each school will be reduced.

    At Hastings one first- and one third-grade teacher are scheduled to be eliminated. That would bring the average class size for the four first-grade classes from 18.6 to 22 students and the average class size of the four third-grade classes from 18 to 22.5 students.

    At Fales, a second-grade and a third-grade teaching position would be cut. The second-grade average class size would increase from 18.7 students to 20.7 as a result, while the average class size in third grade would increase from 18 students to 24.6 students.

    At Armstrong, one third-grade teacher would be cut and the class size of the four third-grade classes would go from 21.2 students to 23.5 students.

    At Mill Pond, there are currently 11 fourth-grade classes and 12 fifth- and sixth-grade classes. Next year, if the projected budget cuts are realized, there will be 11 classes in each grade.

    Because of the reduction, the class size in the fifth grade will increase from 21.3 to 22.3 students per class. Because the number of students moving from fifth to sixth grade next year is lower than it is this year, class size in the sixth grade next year is expected to be reduced from 24.1 students per class this year to 23.4 next year, despite losing one class.

    While the budget process appears to be taking shape, School Committee Chair Craig Harris said many unknowns in the process remain.

    “There’s still a lot of moving parts and just as many things we don’t know about as that we do know about,” Harris said. “There’s still quite a fog around this budget as we move forward. Hopefully that fog will get lifted as we continue to go through the process, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered.”

    The public hearing regarding the proposed FY 2010 budget will be held Wednesday April 1 in Room 23 of the Forbes Building.

    In other school district news, Towle has announced that John Mendes will be the new principal at Armstrong Elementary School and Maryann Stannard will be the new principal at Fales Elementary School.

    Mendes is currently the principal at the Fall Brook School in Leominster and has been an educator in that district for the past 14 years. He will replace Jeff Slomski at Armstrong and Slomski will become assistant principal at Mill Pond School, the position he held before becoming principal at Armstrong.

    Stannard is currently a second-grade teacher at Hastings Elementary School. She has been a teacher in the district for the last 13 years and has also served as a team leader and summer school coordinator. Stannard will replace Elaine Halford at Fales and Halford will return to teaching in the district. 

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