Proposed School Budget Shows Increase Nearing $2.5 Million

Though it is subject to change, due to input from the Fiscal Advisory Committee and the Deliberative Session in January, the Derry School District is starting the 2016-17 budget process with a projected increase of $2,466,221.53.

The amount will be deliberated over the next few weeks by the committee and then by the public in a Jan. 12 School Budget Hearing and a Jan. 30 Deliberative Session.

The working amount is $43,391,541.85, approximately $2 million over the last year’s $40,853,320.32. Should it not pass, the default budget is $42,956,349.84.

At the Monday, Nov. 9 meeting of the board and Advisory Committee, Technology Director Ray Larose presented some of his projected needs for 2016-17. Serena Levine, who oversees English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), PACE (the gifted and talented program) and libraries, also spoke.

Larose said the switches for the district computers are “aging” and he plans to replace them in the next budget cycle. He has a five-year plan for switches, he said.

He sketched the tech situation in the seven schools:

• K-5. Each elementary school has one computer lab with 30 modern iMacs and one technology assistant, one cart with 25 modern Chromebooks, iPads for Title I and Title III teachers, shared projectors, “a couple of Smart boards and a couple of Smart projectors.” All teachers have school-issued MacBook laptops, he said.

• Middle school. Each of the district’s two middle schools has four or five labs with 30 modern iMacs, two carts with 25 Chromebooks on each, iPads and Mini iPads, and a handful of Smart boards and Smart projectors. Each teacher also has a MacBook laptop, he said.

The Chromebooks in the elementary schools are “booked solid,” according to Larose. He would like to see a second Chromebook cart added at two of the bigger schools, Derry Village and Barka, at a cost of $12,850.

Larose is looking to add a program called Info Snap, which would allow the school registration system to go paperless. The cost is $18,000, including the set-up fee, and after that it would be $11,610 a year. Larose said it is estimated the schools spend $30,741 on registration and “this would pay for itself the first year.”

Larose said the new middle school math program is interactive and requires a laptop and projector. There are still 62 teachers without projectors, and he estimated the cost for these at $41,230.

Committee member Bruce Kling observed that he would like to see a long-term plan for technology. “We installed the new math last year, and it would have been nice to know this,” he said.

Superintendent Laura Nelson responded that most of the middle school math teachers have projectors and the request is for the elementary schools. “If the district adopts a new math curriculum for K-5, they will need projectors,” she pointed out.

MaryAnn Connors-Krikorian, assistant superintendent, said that only six of the middle-school math teachers were without projectors and the other 56 requested are for K-5.

Fiscal Advisory member Craig Bulkley said, “I agree with Bruce. It would be helpful to understand, long term, how if we don’t do something this year, how it will affect us next year.”

Larose said he is working on a three-year plan, but it will not be finished by the end of this year’s budget.

Committee member Carl Accardo asked to see data. “With all this investment in technology, what has it done?” he said. “Are the results showing up in the test scores? I’d feel better approving this if they were.”

Levine described her programs. She has five ESOL staff members district wide – three certified teachers and two paraprofessionals. They travel among the seven schools, she said.

PACE stands for Program For Acceleration and Curriculum Enhancement and has one staff member in each elementary school, plus a math teacher and a Language Arts teacher in each middle school. They provide formal classes for high-achieving students and individual consultations.

The district employs a library assistant for each elementary school, one for each middle school, and a Certified Media Specialist for the middle schools who travels among schools. The assistants teach library skills while the Media Specialist deals with budgets and curriculum.

While students use computers for research, they still prefer paper books for recreational reading, Levine said. “We’ll have several copies of an e-book, and a child will say, ‘No, I’ll wait for the book to come back,’” she said. “They like the screen for other things, but for pleasure reading they prefer the tactile books.”

The next budget meeting is Monday, Nov. 16, in the library at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School. Connors-Krikorian will discuss curriculum needs and Chris Kellan, director of special education, will present his department’s needs for 2016-17.