On August 2, 2012, the Lynn School Committee held a public hearing regarding the FY13 budget. During the hearing six people spoke against the budget while none spoke in favor. The hearing lasted approximately 30 minutes. Here is a recap of the concerns raised by those who spoke against the budget as drafted.
Stanley Wotring (Maple Street) questioned the practice of posting a budget online and later making changes to the budget this time in the form of the superintendent and principal raises without ever reflecting these changes in the online format. He also asked about where the additional sources of funding for these raises were specifically coming from particularly when there seemed to be have been a finite amount of money allocated to the school department from the city budget. Wotring ended by calling the budget "bogus" as the budget voted on during a previous school committee meeting was not the budget that was going to go into effect once the votes were taken after the public hearing and hoped that members of the school committee could sleep well after the budget hearing.
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy noted that the school committee did not actually pass the budget during a previous SC meeting, but voted to post a working document that demonstrated examples of the expenditures for each line item. The mayor stated that any changes to the draft budget would be voted upon in an open session.
Jesse Jaeger (Williams Place) provided the school committee with charts and graphs showing the per-pupil spending at the elementary school level and noted some trends in this area based on the teacher/student ratio, the percentage of minority students and the percentage of low income (free lunch) students. The information provided by Jaeger seemed to indicate that some of the Lynn elementary schools with the highest percentages of low income and minority students had the lowest per-pupil expenditures. Additionally, Jaeger raised a point about energy costs - specifically that the schools seemed to be spending double the amount in energy costs since 2010. Finally, he suggested itemizing all Title I money allocations and putting this information online for the public.
Victor Lopez (Western Avenue) is the parents of two children in the 2nd and 3rd grades at Cobbet Elementary. Lopez was concerned about the infrastructure of his children's school. He gave the particular example of his brother going to visit the school and seeing children playing around a pipe with exposed fiber glass insulation as tall as the children. He asked that funding to be put toward necessary things like school repairs.
Charlie Lopez (Western Avenue) also has children at Cobbet Elementary and was concerned as well about the health implications of children playing around exposed fiber glass given his own background in plumbing. He stated that he has seen new schools in cities like Revere and Everett and believes Lynn schools to be in terrible physical shape comparatively. Lopez wants to transfer his children but feels confined due his interpretation of the student assignment policy, mainly that one's children must attend the school to which they are assigned. Mayor Flanagan Kennedy told Mr. Lopez that there is an appeals process to the student assignment policy and suggested he speak with Dave Hegan from the school department.
Natasha Megie-Maddrey (Beacon Hill Avenue) also has three children at Cobbet and was president of the PTO. She was concerned about the fact that Cobbet has had no library for three years. She also suggested putting funding toward before and after school care for parents whose work schedules may call for this type of service. Megie-Maddrey went on to question why schools that are Level 4, or failing as determined by the state, receive more money than other schools and whether this was the type of message that we should be sending to our children, i.e. that despite doing poorly, you will be rewarded financially. She also asked about play equipment for children in the schools and having more parent say/involvement in the allocation of Title I monies, but also that the SC be open to parent voices.
Tarik Maddrey (Beacon Hill Avenue) raised a point about insulation in the context of being told by his daughter, who attends Cobbet, that she and her classmates had to wear coats in the classroom during the winter months. He went on to question priorities in spending as the school department, he believed, spent $16,000 on renovations to the Principal's office at Cobbet but the heating issue, along with the other issues raised by his wife, had not yet been fully addressed.
This marked the end of the public hearing. After some discussion, the school committee passed the FY13 budget by a vote of 6-1 with Donna Coppola being the lone vote against.