The proposed 2012-13 Milford school budget brings a total overhaul of the curriculum department and a 1.92 percent spending increase from the current budget. According to administrators, it’s the lowest percentage increase sought in a decade.
“We knew we needed to be responsible,” Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Feser said during a press conference on Monday morning. “It would be irresponsible to come with a large increase.”
She added that the goal of the budget wasn’t to maintain the status quo, but to improve the schools as a whole. Her budget totals $87.1 million, a $1.6 million increase from the current year.
The other big changes proposed by Feser include expanding afterschool and summer offerings. There is a planned reduction of 12 teaching positions, attributed to the curriculum department’s overhaul and a projected decline in student enrollment.
Changes to the Curriculum Department
There are 14 curriculum coordinators in the school district who spend half their time as teachers. In Feser’s plan, all 14 positions would be dissolved and the coordinators would go back to teaching full-time. To make room for the teachers, 7.08 existing teaching positions would be removed.
Five administrators would be hired to oversee curriculum on a full-time basis. The salary for each is approximately $120,000.
Feser said the current coordinators do a “yeoman’s" work but that the position itself is flawed. This is her first budget as Milford's superintendent. She started in the spring last year.
“They don’t have the time, they don’t have the resources and they don’t have the authority to bring about change,” she said.
According to Feser, the proposed administrators will lead the development of curriculum, administer student assessments, help develop teachers and work closely with principals.
Fewer Teachers, Fewer Students
In addition to the seven teaching positions being removed because of the curriculum department restructuring, five elementary teacher positions would be eliminated. Feser and assistant superintendent Michael Cummings said this was done due to a projected decline in enrollment.
According to figures used in determining the budget, the school population is expected to decline with 1,000 fewer students in the next decade. Reducing elementary schools by five teachers would save $200,000.
“That’s the hardest piece [of the budget] because that’s the human part of it," said Feser.
Still, Feser said that she doesn’t expect for all 12 teaching positions to be layoffs due to retirements and teachers leaving for other reasons.
Students lagging behind can get extra help after school in the proposed budget. An extended day program at and allows 40 students from each school to attend 90-minute programs to help learning.
“One of the struggles we have,” said Cummings, “[is] the longer you wait to intervene with a student, the higher the hill.”
Five new summer programs, some for gifted students and others to help struggling students, are planned, in addition to the expansion of after school programs in the middle school. The total cost is $236,406, which will be offset by the fewer elementary school teachers and supplies needed.
The Board of Education will weigh in on the budget and must present their version to Mayor Ben Blake by Jan. 31. After that, the Finance Committee will have their say before the Board of Alderman cast the final decision in May.
“It’s just a very responsible budget,” Feser said. “We’re really pleased to bring [the budget in] knowing what the city is facing economically.