GROTON -- In a vote Tuesday night to recertify the school's fiscal 2013 budget, the Nashoba Valley Technical School Committee included a reaffirmation of its intention to establish a new stabilization fund to help cover unanticipated expenses.
The fund was approved by residents of most of the district's member towns, including Shirley, Littleton, Townsend, Westford, Groton and Pepperell, with only Chelmsford holding out.
The stabilization fund was created in accordance with state guidelines and is intended to be made available for use in emergencies or other one-time projects.
"The primary purpose of a stabilization fund is to give the Nashoba Valley Technical School district a method to have money available for unexpected capital expenses (such as building repairs) and to avoid the need for further borrowing by member municipalities," read a statement issued by the district earlier in the year.
"The Nashoba Valley Technical School District Committee or their designee will when possible inform all member towns of an expenditure from the stabilization fund and the capital purpose for which it is being expended, except in cases of emergency, to seek support for the anticipated project for the purpose of maintaining open communication and the continued good will of our member towns."
With last Tuesday night's recertification, the School Committee confirmed a previously approved transfer of $200,000 from the district's excess-and-deficiencies account
The transfer increases the total in stabilization to $450,000, an amount, said superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz, that will likely be used to help pay for a new track and field at the school, which she estimated could end up costing in the neighborhood of $750,000.
The larger vote to recertify the school's fiscal 2013 budget was needed due to changes in the numbers brought on by higher than expected state contributions to Chapter 70 and transportation funding.
Following last Tuesday night's recertification, the new total budget for fiscal 2013 comes to $10,694,089.
Also Tuesday night, committee members voted to approve changes in the student handbook including those covering graduation requirements and cellphone use.
"Cellphones and their usage is not permitted during the school day in any location including but not limited to classrooms/technical programs, hallways, bathrooms, cafeteria, locker-rooms, etc," reads the new wording in the student handbook.
School officials lamented the fact that a more permissive attitude toward cellphone use by students failed when students used them less as adjuncts to the learning process and more for social expression.
Far from helping, said Klimkiewicz, use of cellphones by students during such times as fire drills only increased confusion and misinformation by spreading rumors and contacting parents who in turn called the school for information or called local media to inform them of what was happening.
As a result, the new policy regarding cellphones on school grounds would severely restrict their use by students with appropriate consequences if violations were identified.
"All students must meet all graduation requirements for receipt of diploma and receipt of a technical certificate in order to participate in the graduation ceremony," reads the new wording regarding graduation policy. "The graduation ceremony and all related activities are a privilege and the right to participate may be revoked by the principal or assistant principal for any student handbook violations."
One of the requirements for graduation, said Klimkiewicz, was passing the MCAS standards, something she told committee members she intended to adhere to even if the state decided to end them.
The reason for doing so, she said, is because the uniform testing is the only reliable data the district has to tell how well their students are performing.
Last Tuesday night, the School Committee also moved to schedule a special meeting in order to discuss hiring a new assistant superintendent for the district, a position that had been left vacant for a number of years.
But a vote on scheduling the meeting was interrupted briefly when Chelmsford representative Ralph Huslander asked why, at a cost of over $100,000 was it necessary to fill a position that the district has been able to get along without.
Arguing in favor of the issue, Klimkiewicz said that besides the assistant superintendent, a number of administrative positions have gone unfilled for years due to budget constraints, including those for curriculum director and dean of students.
Others on the committee added that since the positions went vacant, an overworked Klimkiewicz has been forced to take over many of their functions.
Nevertheless, Huslander remained unconvinced, but his objections were overruled when it was decided that last Tuesday night's meeting was not the place to discuss the issue but rather it should be taken up at the special meeting which was scheduled for July 24.
Finally last Tuesday night, Townsend resident Mikaela Berthiaume was honored as one of the district's students of the month. A junior, Berthiaume is a member of the TV & media production/theater arts program and will serve as president of her class next year. After high school, Berthiaume hopes to attend MIT in its biomedical engineering and video editing programs.