Tentative School Budget Sees Drop in Insurance

The tentative working budget for the Derry Cooperative School District for 2014-15 saw a drop of $649,890 from last year’s approved budget, due to a reduction in health and dental increases.
School Administrative Unit (SAU 10) Business Administrator Jane Simard presented an updated version of the working budget at the joint meeting of the School Board and Fiscal Advisory Committee on Monday night, Nov. 4.

Simard told the two groups that she had tentatively budgeted for an increase of 10 percent in health and 5 percent in dental. After talking with Human Resources Director Kathy Kennedy, she learned the district can expect a guaranteed maximum of 2.2 percent, health, and zero, dental.
The working budget is already $80,000 less than 2013-14, Simard told the groups, but with the guaranteed maximum coming in lower, “We are $649,000 below the current year’s budget.”
The current working budget is $81,253,834, $649,890 lower than last year’s $81,903,724. The working budget is minus 0.79 percent lower than last year’s. The default budget is $80,869,204; thus the working budget is $384,630 more than the default budget.
MaryAnn Connors-Krikorian, assistant superintendent, gave an overview of curriculum needs from 2014 to 2019, with a focus on preparing for the Common Core standards and also for technology updates. “Things change so rapidly,” she said, noting that one publishing company told her it expected not to be using textbooks after three years, but to have math students “one on one” with tech devices.
A pilot for the Glencoe math program is already in the budget and is being piloted at the two middle schools, Gilbert H. Hood and West Running Brook, Connors-Krikorian said. If accepted, the Glencoe program is estimated to cost $75,297, though that would not be implemented until the 2015-16 budget, she said.
The district is required to pilot and study two Kindergarten-Grade 5 math programs before choosing one, she said, and it is hoping to pilot a program called enVision in 2015-16. The pilot cost would be $11,553 for K-5 and $11,553 for another company.
Superintendent Laura Nelson said the district last adopted a new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum 15 years ago, and a new Math curriculum 12 years ago. “They’ve had a good run, but they’re really outdated and not linked to the Common Core,” she said. “They are end-of-life materials now.”
While teachers have supplemented the material with curriculum they’ve found on their own, that is not a permanent solution, Nelson said, explaining, “We don’t want to have separate materials used across the district – we want to have equity for all children across the district, to be consistent.”
Reading is also a critical need, Nelson and Connors-Krikorian said. A program called Readers’ Workshop is being implemented and is expected to cost about $333,000 over five years, Connors-Krikorian said. Benchmark assessment kits are in the current budget at $14,759. “They match the text to the reader, the reader to the text and monitor progress,” she said.
The district is also hoping to implement a program called Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI), a small-group supplementary intervention for students performing below grade level in reading. It is estimated to cost $68,062 for 2014-15 and is already in the budget, Connors-Krikorian said. It is intended to be implemented at the district’s five elementary schools, Barka, South Range, Derry Village, East Derry Memorial, and Grinnell.
“It is a 30-minute, scripted program,” Connors-Krikorian said in response to a question by board member Dan McKenna. It is research-based and has been proven to work in other districts, she said.
“It is ‘intense reading rehabilitation,’” Nelson added.
Nelson reminded the group that federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funds may only be spent on special education and children who are identified as such. “What if you have a child that’s regular education, but just slow to read?” A program such as LLI fills the gap, she said.
Fiscal Advisory member Craig Bulkley suggested that since Simard estimated the district wouldn’t need all the money initially budgeted for the Obamacare penalty, that $100,000 of it be reallocated to the curriculum line and used to accelerate bringing in the new literacy programs.
That would be helpful, Nelson said, and the district wouldn’t have to wait to the next budget year.
“If we can accelerate it without increasing the budget, we should look into it,” board member Jeri Murphy said.
The group agreed to have Simard look at reallocating part of the penalty money, and to report back at the Nov. 13 meeting.
Fiscal Advisory member Walter Deyo asked if LLI is part of the requirement for implementing the Common Core standards.
It’s more basic than that, Connors-Krikorian told him: it’s getting children to read.