Sutton School Committee OKs $16.1 million budget
By Amanda Collins
Sutton – The Sutton School Committee approved a $16.1 million budget for the next fiscal year at their June 29 meeting, trimming more than $430,000 from the preliminary budget presented in February.
The fiscal year 2016 district budget marks a 2.1 percent increase over the last fiscal year’s budget of $15.7 million.
Members thanked Superintendent Ted Friend and business manager Susan Rothermich for “making difficult decisions” in what chairman Liisa Locurto said was “an incredibly difficult budget year.”
Adjustments from the original requested budget include more than $333,000 in staff cuts and more than $105,000 from other district expenses. Rothermich explained that to balance the budget, additional revenue from revolving accounts was also put forward, a “one-time money grab” which she said could impact FY2017.
The budget also reflects $50,000 in revenue from an increase in sports fees next year that the committee approved at the meeting. High school athletes will pay $300 for the first two sports, and $150 for the third, with a $1,500 maximum cap per family. Friend said last year, fees were $200 for the first two sports and the third was free.
“It’s unfortunate, but it is needed to balance our budget,” he said.
Membership to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) which is $3,245, was not trimmed from the budget, though the superintendent, high school principal and school committee had earlier said it might be on the chopping block.
NEASC is an independent, nongovernmental, voluntary accreditation association. Every ten years, NEASCaccredited schools undergo a three-year evaluation of their programs to maintain accreditation. The process, which school officials said is tens of thousands of dollars, includes a self-study, peer review and followup.
At recent school committee meetings, Friend has said he is among many school administrators across the state who has become frustrated with the process, and pushing the organization “retool” the way schools are evaluated.
“One of the things the superintendents organization is greatly concerned about is there has been tremendous change in public education since 1993. As an organization we’ve reached out NEASC and asked them that they need to adapt what they’re doing to come in line with what’s happening in our state and our federal government,” he said.
A letter signed by 19 superintendents and principals to the Director of the Commission of NEASC that was included in the School Committee’s packet summarized six areas of concern: inflexibility, insularity, dual standards, expense, responsiveness and relevance.
“Do I support having an outside agency come in and look? Very much,” said Friend. “But we’re looking for them to become a more valuable partner than they are.”
Sutton’s evaluation was delayed two years because of the school construction, and on June 29 a letter was sent to the organization requesting that it be delayed another year to see if NEASC makes changes to its system.
“We are currently scheduled for a 2017 site visit. Currently, NEASC is undergoing a number of changes in their accreditation process to address concerns that many schools districts have about the cost and redundancy of the process,” explained Sutton High School principal Ted McCarthy. “We have submitted a request to further delay our site visit to 2018 to allow the changes that NEASC is going through to take effect.”