April 30, 2015

Budgeting Thoughts

I hope you've had time to imagine what you'd do if you had to make some budget cuts in your district. I find this more interesting than the "If someone gave you an extra $100 to spend in your classroom what would you buy?" questions.

During her introduction, the mayor said:

  • Transportation is not efficient, they zigzag all over the city and bus people within the 1.5 mile 'walking distance' as set by the state. Part of this is related to school choice at the elementary level but it's not an option to change for next year (placement decisions have already been announced)
  • There are four custodian positions currently open, we could also contract out after school cleaning
  • Opening our district to multi-city school choice would provide revenue (other cities would pay Salem if one of their residents attended school in Salem).
  • Class sizes are small. She asked if that was true in reality or just on paper. (You know my classes are absurdly tiny. If you didn't know that - my classes are absurdly tiny.)
Before we even got to dinner, I spoke up and requested that we stop paying outside consultants to run bad PD when we have people in district who could run good PD. The cabinet is about promoting teacher leaders and this would be a great way to do that. In our dinner we thought through that a bit more and I realized that I could teach four blocks and use my fifth block as a PD (and prep for PD) block. If I could get a schedule where my duty period and that block lined up I would have half a day to visit other schools. This sounds so awesome. I would love to visit classes and work with teachers during their common planning time while still teaching four classes. I doubt anyone would approve such a wonderful thing but I can dream!

The rest of the recommendations my dinner group came up with:

  1. The middle and high schools start at the same time and are a couple blocks apart. Why not bus them together? There's an age issue but we hypothesize bus monitors cost less than doubling routes. (Another group suggested centralized bus stops; K-12 can't take the same bus but they can wait at the same stop and can walk a couple blocks to get there.) Future plan: re-evaluate school choice for district elementary schools to cut down on cost of busing kids across the city but this needs to be done equitably.
  2. We think it would be totally cool to let kids from other cities come here and pay for it. We have stuff to offer (the high school has an awesome tech department - we offer certificates in auto, electrical, culinary, child development and maybe one more thing). We have kids who live in Lynn who come to school and try to stay under the radar anyway, why not let them be up front about it?
  3. Don't fill the open custodial positions. We can teach kids to pick up after themselves and take pride in their school.
  4. Cut some para positions (schedule 2 kids who need extra support into the same class). When we made this recommendation to the mayor she shared that para salary is not a huge expense (we hardly pay them anything, much less than neighboring districts) but if they're full time and get health insurance, the insurance can cost the city as much if not more than the salary!
  5. Cut extra programs if they haven't proven effective. Is the thing they run during February vacation just free babysitting?

That's six recommendations (including the one before dinner) for how to change things! Shockingly, we struggled to come up with five non-negotiables and the other groups didn't even get four. 

  1. Teachers. Don't cut teachers. Another group said teacher salaries, our district is already well below surrounding districts so it didn't even occur to me that they would consider that (they weren't) but it is worth saying.
  2. Admin. I learned that one of our elementary schools just got an assistant principal and I didn't want them to lose that position. Another group said to cut admin, specifically at the high school. I didn't consider how many positions we have that are considered admin (athletic director, head of special ed...) and paid on a very different scale than teachers. Each school needs a minimum of principal and assistant principal; I'm willing to sacrifice anyone beyond that if needed (and hand some duties over to teachers to reduce class size by having us teach less courses?)
  3. Curriculum coaches and lab classrooms. If we're going to take on our own PD we need to keep these resources available. How cool is it we have lab classrooms? I love learning about new exciting things happening in my district!
  4. Whole programs like music and arts. The mayor specifically said they wanted to do distributed cuts rather than chopping an entire program. That's essential.
  5. Social/emotional supports like counselors. High poverty rates means a real need for supports. Kids have to come first and they desperately need those resources. 
What would be on your list? Anything make your list of non-negotiables that's on my chopping block? Or vice versa? Most of the time I feel like math is math, but other times I wonder exactly how different my situation is than yours. Do share!


  1. In our district (suburban-rural), the high schools and middle schools were built next to each other on purpose to have them ride the same buses. As far as I know, we don't have additional behavior monitors, and I haven't heard of major issues caused by the 6-12 shared busing. So, once the kids get used to that routine, I doubt you'd even need the additional bus monitors. :)

    1. That's great to know! I didn't know if the same age range restrictions that exist for classrooms applied to buses as well.