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Long Beach School District floats school budgets

Officials seek to hire additional faculty and staff

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While the Long Beach School District’s general 2019-20 budget has yet to be proposed ahead of a May 21 budget vote, the district floated its projected spending plans for the middle and high schools at the Feb. 6 Board of Education meeting.

The district kicked off a series of budget presentations last month, announcing a proposed $18.2 million spending plan for the elementary program and citing staff increases at the elementary level as well as the middle and high schools.

Officials proposed a budget of about $11.2 million for middle school staff, including general education teachers, special education teachers, library and media staff, guidance counselors, psychologists and social workers. District Chief Operating Officer Michael DeVito said the spending plan represents about a $400,000 increase over the current year’s budget, which he attributed to contractual salary increases for existing staff members as well as the addition of new staff members.

Administrators said they plan to hire more teachers to fulfill needs in the math and reading departments at the middle school, as well as a permanent substitute teacher and a special education teacher.

“We are expecting an additional special ed class — an additional section in the middle school — and we need a teacher in order to accommodate that,” DeVito said, adding that the costs will be partially offset by four expected retirements at the middle school next year. The district will employ the equivalent of about 100 full-time staff members at the middle school for instructional and mental health staff, he added.

Also, Long Beach Middle School Principal Paul Romanelli asked the board to hire math staff members to bolster resources for sixth-graders, who, he said, need greater support. Romanelli also explained that more reading teachers are needed because the current staff is stretched thin.

“Our reading teachers currently are being pulled in a couple of courses to teach other classes outside of their area, so, for instance, a reading teacher might teach a class like writers’ workshop,” Romanelli said.

He also said students approached him and requested to form a new sewing club. “We had a big petition of the number of kids who were interested in joining, so that’s one club we’re looking to add for next year,” he said.

The middle school now has 28 clubs that, administrators said, provide students with a sense of belonging that translates into increased attendance as well as positive academic, social and emotional effects.

“There’s a place for everyone at the middle school. It really is an inclusive place, and we feel that the clubs are a big part of that,” Romanelli said. “We’re really proud of our attendance at the middle school, and we’re always looking to improve that.”

Administrators projected a budget of about $16 million for the high school, which, if approved, would cover instructional and mental health staff, including general education teachers, special education teachers, library and media staff, guidance counselors, psychologists and social workers.

Administrators said they are seeking to hire additional teachers to support the needs in the business program, specifically to allow the district to offer an accounting course to students. Administrators are also looking to add a second Virtual Enterprise course.

“Course enrollment, that process is under way, and we actually have a lot of students who enrolled in the Virtual Enterprise course, so we can’t cap it at one,” said Dr. Ayesha McArthur, the interim schools superintendent. “We actually have to open another section, so we’ll need two courses.”

McArthur also said that a plan to start a school store was in its early

stages.

“This wouldn’t be a class, this wouldn’t necessarily be a club, but it could be a component of the business program,” she said. “[We’re] thinking about different ways to prepare students for DECA” — a career preparatory program — “so this would be a great opportunity for students to get practical business experience.”

She also recommended increasing staff to support the district’s AVID program, a college readiness program designed to help students develop the skills they need to succeed after high school. McArthur said that funding for the AVID program would come from a grant rather than the general fund.

School officials also said they are seeking to add a new robotics club at the high school next year, and they would like to re-categorize DECA as part of the business program to alleviate costly competition travel plans for students and parents.

“When something is a club, we cannot actually fund those activities in the budget,” DeVito explained, “but we still want opportunities for students to engage and participate in various activities.”

Administrators also suggested exploring the possibility of reclassifying the hockey and surfing clubs as non-Section 8 athletic teams, rather than clubs, to be able to support those groups.