A handful of parents and community members attended the North Shore School District Board of Education meeting on Feb. 7 to hear Superintendent Dr. Peter Giarrizzo’s proposal for the 2019-20 budget.
“The proposed budget supports our values and the goals that we’ve set forward, and is built to support our strategic targets,” he said.
Trustees unanimously voted in September to adopt a strategic five-year plan. Its three goals focus on improving teaching and learning, equity for all learners and social-emotional learning district wide.
The proposed budget, $107.8 million, is an increase of 2.8 percent from the previous year. Its major drivers include central services, up 6 percent; regular instruction to increase by almost 3 percent; and special education, also up 6 percent.
“An important takeaway here is that the biggest portion of the pie is in instruction, that includes special and general education, and accounts for almost 75 percent of our expenditures,” Giarrizzo said.
Adds to instruction
Much of the additions to the preliminary budget revolve around enhancing teaching and learning through new course offerings, including coding at the middle school, a journalism/writing elective at the middle school, expansion of Mandarin into 11th grade, and electives in gaming, building and robotics, cyber security, and theatre and dance at the high school.
Last year some trustees had recommended the superintendent add $100K to the proposed 2018-19 budget to benefit special education. Under the proposed budget, those services would receive roughly a $726K increase, which would fund an integrated co-teaching model to reinforce learning and professional development for related faculty to work together to enhance their understanding of progress monitoring tools for special needs students.
The instruction budget also includes $65K for 21st century learning spaces, which are spaces intentionally designed to encourage collaborative learning among students and teachers. In October the district invited architects from CSArch to present renderings of what these new learning spaces would look like. They include “flexible,” easy-to-move furniture, and a commitment to building areas out to provide for more storage and to maximize the use of natural daylight.
Giarrizzo called these spaces a “core component of what we’re looking to accomplish.”
Safety and security
The proposed budget also includes significant funding for safety and security upgrades throughout the district. In the past year the schools have adopted a number of measures to ensure the safety of all students and staff, including: a single-point-of-entry system at all five buildings; implementation of the RAVE panic button app; installation of text-alert capabilities to communicate with students and parents; and the standardization of all emergency drills.
The 2019-20 budget allocates $155K for added security personnel districtwide to cover athletic and performing arts events, after-school programs and recess. It also recommends the installation of LED lights around the perimeter of Glen Head School, pole lights at the high school parking lot and security cameras and site lighting at the middle school softball field.
Other measures are targeted to protect students out of school, specifically, while they’re riding the bus. Giarrizzo’s proposed budget includes $5.7K to issue student ID cards to be used when boarding the bus; $16.4K to install accompanying card readers on all school buses; and roughly $29.5K to retrofit 15 large buses with security cameras.
On the other side of the ledger are North Shore’s revenues, which total $88 million and reflect a $2 million increase from 2018-19. The proposed tax levy — which accounts for school taxes that will be raised to fund the budget — clocks in at 2.6 percent, below the allowable 2.7 tax levy.
Giarrizzo remarked that the permanent state tax cap, which is set at 2 percent, could pose a challenge to the budget-formulating process since “The tax cap is not on pace with where inflation is,” he said, noting the 2.25 percent inflation factor.
The district is expected to receive over $5.5 million in state aid, a 5.7 increase from the previous year.