Mascenic advisory committee recommends cuts to teachers, administrators

Jesus Cantu Trevino, Dan Heath and Selena Shaw discuss proposed cuts to the Mascenic budget during a meeting of the Advisory Budget Committee on Wednesday.

Jesus Cantu Trevino, Dan Heath and Selena Shaw discuss proposed cuts to the Mascenic budget during a meeting of the Advisory Budget Committee on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 11-30-2023 12:53 PM

Modified: 12-01-2023 11:06 AM


The Mascenic Advisory Budget Committee held a series of mostly split votes Wednesday on a slate of suggested cuts to the school budget – including eliminating administrative, teaching and mental health service professionals.

The committee voted on 24 suggested items, with most passing, though most with at least one member opposed. The committee is scheduled to meet with the Mascenic School Board on Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. in the SAU offices to discuss the recommendations. The committee works in an advisory capacity, and the School Board will make any final decisions on the budget that will be presented to the public in March.

The School Board, after finalizing the proposed budget, is scheduled to hold a hearing on the budget Jan. 2 at Mascenic High School at 6 p.m. The district’s deliberative session is scheduled for Feb. 7 at 6 p.m., also at Mascenic High School.

A last-minute additional vote taken by the committee was to recommend a cut of more than 10% to the previous year’s approved budget – about $2 million – put forth by committee member Shawn Talbot. Talbot noted that he had qualms about many of the suggested cuts discussed that evening, mostly because he didn’t have a good grasp of how vital any of them might be. He suggested a more-general approach with a bottom-line goal, while giving the district discretion on where those cuts should come from.

“That’s why I wasn’t in favor of so many line adjustments – because it’s not my area of expertise,” Talbot said.

The committee unanimously agreed to the recommendation, but noted that even if the School Board adopted all of its current recommendations, it would not reach that funding goal.

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Among the items voted on during Wednesday’s meeting were the elimination of two psychologist positions, a social worker, a physical therapist, the district superintendent and the superintendent’s secretary, technology positions and four high school teachers. In several cases, duties would be shifted to other existing positions to accommodate the eliminations.

Cutting two psychologist positions would save $89,250 and $73,878, and their duties would be moved to the district’s behavior specialist, or contracted out-of-district as needed. The committee approved that recommendation 3-2. Removing the social worker would save the district $64,260, but the committee voted 3-2 against recommending the measure. The removal of a physical therapist, a $43,021 savings, was recommended in a 4-1 vote.

Several parents in the audience who have children with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) spoke against removing services, particularly the psychologist positions. Kristen Orosz, who has three children in the district, said her child’s educations plans include guidance and counseling services, and that outsourcing those services would be more expensive for the district.

“Because of these services, they are succeeding,” Orosz said of her children. “You take them away, they will fail.”

Amanda Mackinnon has a middle school child who uses the district’s psychology services, and echoed the sentiment.

“I think it’s very important to keep therapists in school,” she said.

The committee also recommended the elimination of multiple teacher positions at the high school level, including a vacant math position, and combining classes in the history, math and English departments to increase class sizes to a minimum of 18 and eliminate three positions. Eliminating all four positions would save the district approximately $51,500 each. The committee unanimously agreed to recommend eliminating the vacant math position, and 4-1 to recommend the elimination of the other positions, with Chair Selena Shaw voting against.

“I do recognize we want to be cost-efficient, but I want to mitigate the impact directly on students,” Shaw said.

The board also agreed 3-2 to recommend the district eliminate one or two technology positions, with Shaw and Talbot opposed.

The proposed removal of the position of the district superintendent and superintendent’s secretary, with salary savings of $133,555 and $56,334 respectively, and having the high school principal absorb the role of providing superintendent services, was recommended by a 3-2 vote, with Shaw and Talbot opposed to both measures. Committee member Jesus Cantu Trevino said in a district the size of Mascenic, with a student population of around 880, a combined principal and superintendent role was feasible.

“This is a tough one,” Shaw said. “I do believe there are a lot of things going on with the superintendent position.”

The board tabled discussion on recommending the removal of accounts payable and payroll positions, and rolling their duties into the business administrator’s duties, due to not having sufficient information about the job duties.

The committee was able to universally agree to recommend several items. Among them were some clerical items, such as separating the principal and vice principal salaries in the budget for transparency, advising the district to consider purchasing equipment instead of renting it and have the technology department maintain equipment, looking into combining the SAU building with one of the district’s schools, looking at an objective measure to determine usage of software programs and posting job descriptions on the district’s website.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.