SC Cliff Notes 3/8/17

This blog post is my personal interpretation and summary of discussions from meetings that I attend and are not official minutes.

In attendance was Interim Supt. – Bill Ryan, Business & Finance Director – Frank Antonelli, Business Manager – Michael Knight and all of our SC members.

  • FY18 Needs Assessment Update – Our Needs Assessment is being reviewed annually as it is a living document in a sense that student’s needs change, enrollment changes and new mandates are rolled out. Our School Community should know that they can expect new needs to be added and needs to be deleted as they are filled and or if they are identified as being no longer needed. Some years we will require additional funding and other years we may be able to accommodate funding for these needs through reorganization and reallocation of funding. The “Needs Assessment 2.0” was the work of our entire administration and staff, just as the original 2015 Needs Assessment. It is a testament to the fact that our district is being run by individuals that are being methodical and strategic when identifying what our district needs and where we need to put our resources to obtain results in a financially responsible manner.  You can see in on our website –
  • Needs Assessment Budget Priorities for FY18 – The SC is committed to spreading out the Needs Assessment over the course of five years and in doing so had requested through budget guidance a list of needs by priority for approximately $500,000.  These needs are expected to be funded through reorganization, reallocation of funds and additional funding when necessary.  This year the following six items were identified as priorities for FY18.
    • As requested in the budget guidance the Supt. Provided approximately $500k in budget priorities of the current needs in our district beyond the level service budget.
      1. 0.2 FTE increase to Reading Tutor position at SU $13,193 – Currently, the reading tutor is an hourly position which means that that person does not attend staff meetings, professional development days, or before or after school meetings. By making this position a reading specialist position, the person would be expected to attend meetings and training. They would be able to consult more with the classroom teachers. This will help with carrying over the reading intervention instruction into the classrooms.
      2. 1.5 FTE Library Media Specialists at Elementary Level $38,370 – This will allow us to offer enhanced schedules and two periods library/media each week. We will cut 1.0 computer para at each school for savings land to minimize net cost of the district.
      3. 1.0 Adjustment Counselor $65,970/Note this position was not included in the 2015 Needs Assesment – Last year we added an elementary adjustment counselor to provide direct instruction to elementary level students to address the increasing amounts of students who have social and emotional needs. We also have an adjustment counselor at the MS and HS. Due to the increasing number of student who needs more specialized social-emotional support, we are in need of an additional position.
      4. 1 FTE Busines Clerk $62,870 – This would allow the assistant business manager position to support HR functions and increase efficiency and function in the central office. This would also allow the assistant superintendent to devote more time to curriculum, assessment and professional development.
      5. 1.0 FTE Learning Support Specialist $65,970 – We added this position halfway through the year with grant funds to support general education students who fo varied reasons need additional support (e.g. returning from an extended medical absence).
      6. 1.0 Math Specialist FR/SU $65,970 – This position would provide direct services to students who have enrichment or acceleration support needs (Tier II needs). The intent is to help close the achievement gap and support those students who are accelerated far beyond grade level. Our math curriculum and expectations are very difficult for some students, and they need the support. Also, students are qualifying for special education for math. We don’t’ have the early intervention for them that we have for reading.
  • District Capital Plan Update – The individuals that worked on the Capital Budget Plan will be meeting and providing an updated Capital Plan the first week of April, and the SC has scheduled a Workshop to review the plan and is expected to approve the plan before Spring Town Meetings.
    • Both the BOS Member and Marlena Gilbert made reference that the Flo Ro renovations/rebuild should be separated from the plan as it needs to be captured as an expense but should be identified as a larger project that will require a debt exclusion. There was a reference as to making it an appendix to the capital plan.
  • FY18 District Budget – The SC approved the District Budget tonight.
    • Total budget approved $39,515,831
    • Total Assessment to Dunstable – $5,970,238 – Notably this is $134,698 above revenue capacity and funding this amount would require the use of Free Cash or reallocation.  The SC welcomes discussions with Dunstable elected officials and the Advisory Board to discuss the assessment and to work with them as one community.  I feel that it is my job to put forth a budget that best serves our students and to let taxpayers chose to fund the budget. I was advised by the Dunstable Advisory Chair to establish a budget that meets the needs of the students as that is my job and they will do their best to figure out how to fund it. I believe in collaboration, and I welcome all dialogue with Dunstable Taxpayers and elected officials to discuss the assessment to Dunstable before Town Meeting as we are one School Community.  
    • Total Assessment to Groton – $20,245,272 – Notably this is $5,187 below the amount that was earmarked by the Groton Town Manager.  A BOS member expressed that he was happy with the Supt. Budget (which didn’t include priority 1-3 of the Needs Assessment 2.0). He disagrees with the boards decision to utilize available funds in Groton towards the Needs Assessment and for including capital items in the budget. He     said our decision to include one time costs was “….going to be remembered by fin com and groton and the board of selectmen and i’ve already had this discussion with the town manager so we may want to pull out the money that you are spending on capital and technology from what we set aside next year. He expressed that the SC should have removed the Capital items from our school budget and funded them through warrant articles Marlena Gilbert responded by explaining, “there should not be any carry-over budgets. Budgets should be set from zero each year. I expect that the municipal and the school budget work from that same premise.  No one should expect any amount of funds to be available from year to year. Budgets should be based on what we need each year; there will be years some are a bit higher than others. However, the budgets should fit the needs, and the needs should be justified and kept within projections.  If our taxpayers want to fund the one-time capital funds through a warrant article, I welcome that, I prefer it that way provided they understand they are not being removed from our budget because they are optional… because they are NOT. Capital items were included in our budget through collaboration with Interim Supt. Bill Ryan, Town Manager, Town Advisor, Fin Com, Advisory board and town leadership. Interesting enough, many SC members expressed their preference to take them out of the budget. I appreciate feedback and constructive criticism but I do not understand nor appreciate being threatened when not conforming to a budgeting strategy ideal and or for tapping into additional funds that have been earmarked for our schools by the Town Manager to work towards fulfilling our commitment to funding the Needs Assessment over five years. To insinuate that our SC would be penalized in future budget cycles for our choices is not acceptable to me. Since the very first day I was elected I have continually reached out to various Groton Fin Com Members, Groton BOS, and the Groton Town Manager; the dialogue has always been constructive and supportive overall. This is unexpected and disappointing to me. 


I ask taxpayers to email your elected officials, and once again please tell us how you want your money spent so we can better serve you.

Groton BOS:

Dunstable BOS & Advisory (Finance Committee):

SC Members: