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Mascenic proposes additional kindergarten teacher to reduce class sizes



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, January 21, 2019 7:50PM

This year, Mascenic Regional School District voters will decide whether to add an additional session of kindergarten classes, to bring down class sizes.

One of the proposed warrant articles this year would raise $115,000 to cover the costs of adding a teacher and a para-professional to the kindergarten program. Currently, the program has two teachers and two paraprofessionals, which covers two morning kindergarten sessions, and two in the afternoon.

The additional teacher would add a third session in both the morning and afternoon, district Superintendent Stephen Russell said in an interview Wednesday. 

With two classes, Russell said, the average class size is between 19 and 20 students, which is in line with the higher grades at the elementary school. Adding an additional session would reduce the numbers to 12-13 students.

“We’ve been engaged in discussions around early interventions with kindergartners and pre-schoolers, or both,” Russell said. “And how we can make the biggest impact on the earliest part of a student’s education. It’s an early intervention effort.”

A look at the budget

This year’s budget is proposed at $18.98 million, a .4 percent increase over last year. The default budget is set at $18.72 million.

Russell said the School Board has not had any definitive discussions about what would be cut to accommodate the default budget if the proposed budget does not pass. 

In the changes from last year’s budget to this year, the high school will not be filling two teacher positions after retirements this year, cutting an English and a science teacher.

Russell said declining enrollments will allow enough flexibility in the schedule that the cut staff positions won’t have an impact on class offerings.

Under the proposed budget, four Highbridge Hill Elementary School teachers who teach art, music, computer and physical education, will be upgraded to full-time.

Currently, Russell said, those four subjects were taught four days a week. The increase would allow them to be taught all five days of the week. All the teachers who would be upgraded to full-time are already offered benefits, he said.

The budget would also allow a half-time guidance counselor position at Boynton Middle School to increase to a full-time position. 

The budget includes a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for non-collective bargaining agreement staff. 

Collective bargaining and other articles

District voters will consider a one-year collective bargaining agreement with the Mascenid Education Association. The agreement would include a salary increase of $182,000 for the teaching staff, or about $750 per teacher.

Another article would set up a new capital reserve fund, which would be used to maintain food service kitchen equipment. In the past, the School Board has included a contingency within the budget for that purpose. The article would also put aside $1,000 from the district’s fund balance to start the fund.

The two remaining warrant articles would also use unreserved fund balance to add to capital reserve funds – one for $50,000 to the school repair and maintenance fund and $25,000 to the healthcare reserve fund.

This year, voters will also be voting in one new School Board member for each town. Candidates for school offices must file their declaration of candidacy, and pay a $1 filing fee or petition of nomination with five signatures, at the office of the Superintendent between the dates of Jan. 23 and Feb. 1.

Mascenic will hold its deliberative session, where residents can offer amendments to the budget or warrant articles on Feb. 2 at 9 a.m. at Mascenic Regional High School.

Voting for both district officers and on the warrant will be held on March 12. Greenville residents will vote at the SAU offices, located in the former Greenville Elementary School, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. New Ipswich voters will vote at Mascenic Regional High School from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.