HARVARD - The Harvard School Committee approved its $11,894,488 budget draft Fiscal Year 2014 budget on Monday night. The budget now goes to the Harvard Finance Committee for its recommendation to Annual Town Meeting.
The bottom line reflects a 3.56 percent, or $409,158 increase, over the current budget. The lingering loose end of locating a school superintendent was discussed in relation to the budget.
All three finalists identified before Christmas by the school committee's superintendent search committee have withdrawn their candidacy for consideration for the superintendency. The ultimate hire was to start July 1.
Interim School Supt. Joseph Connelly said the advertised annual salary range was $155,000 to $175,000. Connelly and Finance Director Lorraine Leonard suggested a $165,000 placeholder, which Connelly said could also cover the cost of hiring a firm to conduct the next search process.
In the interim, Harvard will seek a third consecutive "critical need" waiver from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for blessing to hire an interim superintendent. Connelly has served in Harvard via two consecutive DESE waivers. Connelly has not publically announced whether he'd be interested in a third year in Harvard.
Connelly suggested the salary place marker is "more than enough to cover whatever costs you'll have" including the hiring of a search firm or consultant.
School Committee member Kirsten Wright said she's been fielding "a lot" of questions "understandably about the superintendent search and where we are going" with the process and timetable, which remain publically undefined.
"I didn't know quite how to answer those questions," admitted Wright. "The public is just wondering what's going down."
Chair SusanMary Redinger and committee member Keith Cheveralls were to meet Friday, Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. in the Bromfield School conference room to discuss the critical need waiver process and need.
At the end of its regular business, the committee entered executive session to deliberate potential contract terms for both an interim Supt. and for a Director of Pupil Services (formerly known as the Special Education, or SPED, Director). Connelly reported that he'd provide the committee with a chart of salaries for both posts in comparative communities.
Michael Debrule is the Interim SPED Dir. following the Dec. retirement of Pam DeGregorio. Connelly is in the midst of his second year as Interim School Supt.
Another unknown is the number of pre-school students to be enrolled next school year. Connelly suggested maintaining funding one pre-K teacher next year. If enrollment were to escalate, Connelly suggested another approach may be needed, such has a split morning/afternoon session to accommodate the students with one teacher, if desired.
State provided 72 percent special education "Circuit Breaker" reimbursement funding. In the coming year, Connelly said that amount is to drop to "no higher than 60 percent." Still, Connelly suggested the same $331,000 SPED budget for the coming year.
The school's proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget includes $54,000 worth of wish-list "add ons" above the schools' level-service budget, as requested of all departments. Those extras include: an added day per week for district-wide school nurse coverage ($5,600), funding for an adjustment counselor ($55,671), extending to 12 months the work calendar for one Hildreth Elementary School secretary ($7,000), and the creation of two district-wide coordinators for a total of $10,000 to tie-together the synch the two schools on: (1) art/music/technology/physical education, and (2) K-12 guidance.
School Committee member Keith Cheveralls asked that the Finance Committee advise Town Meeting why the budget was increasing above a level-service budget since the $409,000 uptick was sure to "receive some scrutiny" by voters.
Connelly called the budget "defendable," noting the Finance Committee requested and received extensive documentation to better understand each add-on request. Connelly added "there was never an expectation that all add-ons town-wide would be accepted."
The school committee will conducts a public hearing on its proposed budget at its regularly-scheduled March 25 meeting. Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for April 6.
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