The Framingham School Committee, without much discussion, approved the Superintendent's recommended $96.9 million budget, including 22.5 positions needed due to rising enrollments or state mandates.
School Committee member Carol Phalen’s motion to accept Superintendent Steven Hiersche’s $96.6 million budget and have the document prepared for Town Meeting passed without discussion.
When asked about a $218,000 difference in what the schools want and what the town will allocate, Hiersche said he would be able to overcome the gap.
Hiersche’s report showed an increase of 22.5 full time positions that were either driven by enrollment requirements or by state regulations.
Another 13 positions are added as enhancements to current programs. Of the 22.5 enrollment/compliance positions, at least 10 are special education positions mandated by the state.
Four, new assistant elementary school principal positions are required to oversee and implement an involved state-mandated teacher evaluation program, said Hiersche.
Hiersche said the budget books will be delivered to Town Meeting sometime next week in advance of the April 24 start of the Annual Town Meeting.
School Committee members while agreeing on the $96.9 million budget, have not specifically agreed on how that money will be spent.
Also at Tuesday night's meeting, several parents and and one high school student implored School Committee members to reinstate the elementary school instrumental music program.
Michael Berkson, one of two Framingham High representatives to the Framingham School Committee, gave his personal opinion as to why music in the lower grades is important.
“Music is not just special because you learn to play and instrument,” Berkson said. “It is special because of the community that you build out of a collective passion.”
Parents who spoke related how music has helped their children academically, socially and artistically.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools John Brackett responded to the parents with a promise that a committee is reviewing at all the issues and will be looking for ways to reinstate the elementary school music program. Committee members include music teachers, elementary school principals and parents.
“The issue is availability and cost,” said Brackett. “In the short term, what can we do for next year and what will be a long-term solution?”
He mentioned the committee will be seeking grant money to help offset the cost of lessons. “It’s going to take a while to put things in place,” he said.
This year and last year, PAC said there about 200 students across all 8 elementary school students participating in the fee-based instrumental after-school lesson program. This year, based on state education numbers there are 650 fourth graders and 645 fifth grade students.
Students enrolled in the fee-based after-school instrumental music program have to pay about $150 twice a year, plus the cost of a monthly rental of an instrument.