Additional Staff Requested for FY 2017

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Thursday May 26, 2016

This year’s school budget, approved by the voters of South Burlington in March, added a total of nine FTE (full time equivalent) staff to the roster for the 2016-2017 school year. These additions were cautiously approved at the time, due to concerns around costs to the community and slightly declining enrollment. However, as Superintendent David Young has begun looking at the impending needs for the FY 2017 school year, he has identified additional needs that were not in the approved budget.

Young proposed adding 3.3 FTEs for the upcoming school year. The positions include a kindergarten teacher at Chamberlin School, a special education outreach coordinator, and 1.3 high school additions. Young provided justification for each additional position along with proposals for where the funding would originate for these additions.

Looking ahead to the upcoming school year, Young noted that Chamberlin’s kindergarten registration/enrollment is now at 39 children with a strong likelihood that more students will enroll over the summer. In the FY 2017 budget, Young had anticipated the enrollment to be 32-33 students where two teachers would have been appropriate. The money for this position would come from money in the budget earmarked as “contingency.”

In addition, Director of Educational Support Systems Joanne Godek reported both in December 2015 and at the May 18, 2016 board meeting that the numbers of students diagnosed with autism, emotional disturbances, or other health impairments continues to trend upward. There has been a significant uptick in the number of students either enrolled in a therapeutic day school or placed by their parents in a private school. Currently these students are managed by Godek and the high school curriculum area supervisor, but given the increase in need, it has been determined that additional support is necessary. It is anticipated that a portion of the special education outreach coordinator’s position would be funded through special education reimbursements.

Finally, the number of students that tuition in to South Burlington High School from the Grand Isle Supervisory Union and the Franklin West Supervisory Union is increasing. When the budget was developed, it was anticipated there would be 148 students tuitioning in for the 2016-2017 school year and as of May 12, that number had jumped to 176. This has created the need to develop additional core and non-core sections of classes such as Spanish, French, Latin, Math, English, Science, and Physical Education. The 1.3 FTE proposed would be split among the various sections of courses. Young anticipated the funding for these positions could come from an offsetof the increased tuition received from the enrollment bump.

Board members were taken aback by Young’s request and wondered how forecasting could be better conducted. Some suggested doing an analysis to see how many tuition students the district would need to lose in order to necessitate cutting programs and cautioned against relying on such a volatile revenue source. Others asked for more data to better understand the ebb and flow of kindergarten numbers.

Elizabeth Fitzgerald pointed out that Young was asking for a three percent increase in staff, 13 FTEs total (including the FTEs from the FY 17 budget) when enrollment continues to decline. “The math doesn’t work at some point,” Fitzgerald said, “this isn’t a comment on the validity of specific positions . . . these may be the best 3.3 we need right now.” She agreed with fellow board members that better forecasting is necessary and wondered why the kindergarten enrollment always seems to come as a surprise.

After much discussion, Martin LaLonde motioned approval of the new positions, Bridget Burkhardt seconded, and the motion passed. Elizabeth Fitzgerald voted “nay.”

SOURCE: Corey Burdick,  Correspondent