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Friday, November 21, 2014
School News
Work continues on District 13 budget
Andrew Hackmack/Herald
James A. Dever School first-grade teacher Debora O’Connor teachers a math lesson to her students. The District 13 Board of Education will be looking at ways to provide additional support in math for younger students.

As budget discussions progress in District 13 for the 2014-15 school year, Board of Education members know they still have some work to do.

A draft $45.8 million budget was presented to the public on Feb. 12, a 2.62 percent spending increase over the current year. The tax levy would rise by 2.35 percent, which is the district’s allowable limit, and the average tax bill would go up by $82 next year.

Board of Education President Sean Douglas said some concerns expressed by parents that night, specifically in regards to math, will prompt trustees to take another look at services offered for students.

Tara Casucci asked district officials to provide more math support for students in the younger grades. She noted that intervention programs aren’t offered until third grade. With the raised expectations resulting from the Common Core Learning Standards, Casucci said the extra support is critical. “Math is going to get very hard,” she said.

Christine O’Toole, vice president of the Wheeler Avenue School PTA, said the building has about 600 students but only one math specialist. She asked the board about providing more support there, even if only part time. O’Toole agreed that the increased expectations has created this need. “Kids that weren’t struggling before are now struggling,” she said.

Douglas said that the board, over its next few meetings, will look at ways to provide additional services within the confines of a tax-cap compliant budget.

The draft budget maintains all programs and services for students next year. There would be a reduction of three classroom teachers, which is based on enrollment projections. The student population is expected to drop next year by about 40 children.

District officials are looking to add another special education class next year for children with autism, and hire two additional teaching assistants.

As in years past, the budget is being driven by mandated increases. Health insurance premiums are going up by more than $250,000, while pension costs are expected to spike by more than a half-million dollars.

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