There is a Lynn Parents Organizing for a Better Education (LPOBE) meeting tonight, August 22nd, at 6:30pm. The location is 20 Central Ave., 6th floor.
Items on tonight's meeting agenda are:
-Discussion of the yard sale fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, 9/14
-Developing a get out the vote plan for the September 17th primary election/Marshall bond vote
-Planning the October community forum on communication issues within LPS and with parents
On August 8, 2013, the Lynn School Committee held a public hearing
regarding the FY14 school budget. During the hearing two people spoke against
the budget while none spoke in favor; in total, there were six people present in the audience for the public comment portion of the hearing which lasted approximately 7 minutes. Here is a recap of the concerns raised by those who spoke
against the budget as drafted.
Melissa Romaniello (Hillcrest Avenue) raised some points on behalf of Stanley Wotring who could not attend the hearing. Romaniello questioned the zeroed out line items for the translation of IEPs (Individualized Education Plans). She noted that that there was $90,000 for translation listed under the Parent Information Center (PIC) section of the budget and questioned whether a single person at the PIC could provide interpretation services there while simultaneously being charged with translating IEP and other school related documents.
Lori D'Amico (Euclid Avenue) questioned why approximately 80% of the school budget went toward salaries; she also noted that since FY11 there has been a substantial increase in the amount allocated toward these salaries. Specifically, concerns over the amount of money paid to administrators as well as secretarial staff was raised. D'Amico also asked if the Lynn Public School system was in fact lacking financial resources or if it was a matter of a misuse or poor allocation of the resources that the system already has. Finally, she asked about the money used for salaries as opposed to direct services for the students of LPS.
During the discussion portion of the public hearing, some of the concerns/questions raised by both Ms. D'Amico and Ms. Romaniello were addressed.
First, Superintendent Latham stated that the translation lines from the Special Education and ELL departments were in fact zeroed. When questioned by School Committee member Donna Coppola about why this decision was made, she explained that with the school administration move to Bennett St. this fall and the consolidation of all school related departments under a single roof, the money allocated for translation services was put on a single line item. It was noted that $7,000 was taken from what had been the SPED translation line and $3,000 from the ELL department; the total money earmarked for translation had also increased from $10,000 from these two sources to $90,000 for FY14. Latham also clarified that the translation money was not for a single position but for all necessary translation services and needs.
Also, in regard to translation/interpretation services, Latham mentioned that the school system was investing money in purchasing a phone service for translation needed in emergency situations during the discussion portion of the hearing. School Committee member Maria Carrasco asked about the translation of report cards and gave an example of a parent who had contacted her because he or she received a report card in English; Deputy Superintendent Sue Rowe stated that report cards are generated electronically and that if someone is not receiving a translated report, it may be a matter of a coding glitch as all student/family language needs are coded in the system. Rowe added that this was an easily fixable problem. When asked by Carrasco if IEPs were also translated, the school administration stated that they indeed translated as well.
In terms of the salary issue raised by Ms. D'Amico, Latham confirmed that approximately 80% of the budget does go to salaries. She stated that the budget is built on a school-by-school basis starting in alphabetical order with Aborn and takes into account the number of children, the number and types of classes needed and the ELL/SPED support required first. Mayor Kennedy added that the city budget is also about 80% salaries and that this was not specific to the school department.
-Class sizes were mentioned during the discussion with the Superintendent noting that there are approximately 1,000 students in each grade with the 1st grade slightly higher at 1,464 students. Additionally, Ingalls will see an increase in the number of 1st graders from 93 last year to 107 this year.
-Out of district placement costs were noted to have increased from $5.9 million in FY13 to $6.6 million in FY14.
-SC member Donna Coppola asked about a previous pledge to devote similar resources/supports to the Level 3 schools that the Level 4 schools receive. She noted that Level 3 Drewicz with a projected enrollment of 456 students only has 4 support staff while Level 4 Harrington has 12. Deputy Superintendent Jaye Warry stated that the number of support staff may change given that final numbers on Title 1 allocations have been given and that principals may use this money to hire more support staff as needed.
-SC member Charlie Gallo praised the school system for investing more
money in the fine arts department while raising the point about a gifted
and talented program geared toward the liberal arts as a counterpart to the STEM based program scheduled to begin during the upcoming school year; Latham stated that
this was in the works but that nothing had been developed yet.
-SC member John Ford also noted that in the context of an economy where some school districts are charging $300 or $400 for athletic user fees, he was happy to see that Lynn was not charging its students in order for them to engage in these extracurricular activities.
The duration of both the public hearing and discussion period regarding the budget lasted 40 minutes. During the regular School Committee meeting which followed, the SC passed the FY14 budget.