Shrewsbury – Parents, teachers and residents in Shrewsbury voiced their concerns of the growing class sizes and program cuts in the public school system during a School Committee budget hearing on Feb. 13.
Hosted at the Oak Middle School Auditorium, the hearing gave residents such as Michelle Duke, a mother of 3 children currently in the Shrewsbury public school system, an opportunity to be heard by the School Committee.
“Shrewsbury public schools have continued to be on a downward slope for years now,” Duke said. “We have lost programs and services, and class size has crept upward. Teachers are stretched to the max. ”
Town resident Gary Albertson, father of two children also in the public schools, echoed similar concerns.
“We need to provide class sizes that allow teachers to engage individually with all students at their levels,” he said.
Last month, Superintendent Joseph Sawyer presented his school budget recommendation for fiscal year (FY) 2014 at $54.28 million, or an 8.85 percent increase over this year's budget. Town Manager Daniel Morgado recommended in his initial budget proposal for FY 2014 a 0.71 percent increase, or $50.22 million for the School Department. This leaves a gap of over $4 million.
Sawyer reminded audience members during the budget hearing of the guiding principles he used to frame his budget proposal.
“We'se trying to address rising costs maintain our current personnel and begin recovery from past years,” he said.
Although addressing class sizes seemed to be the main theme of the night, teachers also raised other budget concerns. Colleen Kalagher, a third-grade teacher at Paton Elementary, touched on the importance of standardized test results, and how they will no longer be sustainable without increased funding for the schools.
“We'sl dance on our heads to make them achieve,” she said. “But when you'se feeling defeated before the school year begins, how do you feel in February?”
Former Shrewsbury High School Principal Dan Gutekanst urged parents to “wake up” and get involved in light of the budget gap.
“We no longer can support the high quality school system that we'se known for, in fact it does not exist as it did 10 years ago,” he said. “It's time for the community to wake up, it's time for parents to get involved so that we can get back the kind of education that many of our children were fortunate enough to have.”
Selectman James Kane asked the School Committee members to produce a budget as soon as possible.
“It's critically important that we get a final budget as soon as we can, and that difficult work can get down to brass tacks to see how we can close this gap,” he said.