Shrewsbury School Superintendent presents dire budget reduction plan

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Shrewsbury Public School logoOfficials to discuss possibility of Proposition 2-1/2 override

By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – A plan to close a $5 million deficit in the will have a dramatic impact on staffing throughout the district, if implemented, according to Dr. Joseph Sawyer, the district’s superintendent. As such, he, along with other officials, are considering possibly requesting that the town’s voters approve a Proposition 2-12 override to cover the deficit.

In presenting his fiscal year (FY) 2022 plan to the school committee at its Feb. 24 meeting, Sawyer reiterated, as he had in past meetings, that the district is facing an education emergency.

Sawyer noted that the school district is a very lean department and that students already pay fees for bus transportation and co-curricular activities such as athletics, speech and debate and robotics.

Reductions

Sawyer’s recommended reductions include deferring the opening of the Howard W. Beal Elementary School which would save the district $1,692,835 and the equivalent of 32.6 full time equivalents (FTE).

Further, 48.78 FTEs would be cut through eliminating teaching staff across all grade levels with a savings of $2,937,501 and $257,878 in undefined cuts totaling $4,888,214 in savings at a cost of 81.3 staff positions.

He detailed where cuts will be made, e.g., deferring hiring technical staff and renewing Microsoft software. The district would also not fill a principal position at the Parker Road Preschool nor one at the Walter J. Paton Elementary School where the role of principal is currently filled by an assistant superintendent who will continue in FY 2022.

All elementary media aides and the sole elementary media specialist will be eliminated.  Additionally, three and a half special subject and allied arts teachers in K-grade 8 (music, art, drama, foreign language and physical education), will be cut as well.

“This is not a community that should be thinking about having to close its elementary media centers because we don’t have enough money,” Sawyer said.

Other eliminations would include 11 elementary school teachers throughout the district, eight educators at the middle schools, two special education team chairs, a half time occupational therapist and the equivalent of five elementary instructional aides. The high school stands to lose  12 teaching positions.

“We know that the impact is going to be raising class sizes and also reducing the number of courses available to students…which of course has an impact on the kind of profiles students are trying to put together for their college applications,” Sawyer said.

“Right now, we felt that making these $2.9 million of reduction in addition to not opening the new Beal School as planned was painful enough and certainly signals to the community what is at stake if we don’t get the funding that we need,” Sawyer commented.

“Simply put, we need an override this spring and there are no ifs, ands or buts about that,” remarked Dale Magee, committee member. “We should never as a town allow the services that we provide to deteriorate…that’s a failure of town government.”

Next steps

A discussion of whether or not to put a Proposition-2 ½ override before the voters will take place in a joint meeting with the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen virtually, Tuesday, March 2, at 7 p.m.