The Board of Education voted this evening, 5-1, to redistrict 10 streets from Macdonough Elementary School to Snow and Farm Hill Elementary Schools. The move would reduce the number of classrooms at Macdonough from 14 to 12 this fall. Superintendent Charles explained the move as the only option to relieve the overcrowded conditions at Macdonough, where specials teachers do not have a dedicated space to teach in. As an example, Art and Music share the same room, and both teachers have to undo and re-stage the room each time they teach. Macdonough Principal Jon Romeo called it a "work climate space issue" his teachers have to face that no other school in the district does.
BOE member Ryan Kennedy raised many concerns about the move, including the rather painful observation that these 10 streets had been moved to Macdonough just 3 years ago to help solve the racial imbalance issues the school faces. At that time, many parents begged to be left at the schools they loved, and BOE member Sheila Daniels reminded the board of that fact. When asked specifically, both Dr. Charles and Principal Romeo admitted that this redistricting would only solve overcrowding for now, and it would work against solving the racial imbalance issues. Specifically, Macdonough is only allowed to be 25% above the district's minority population average, and it was at 24.9% in October when school populations are measured by the state. Principal Romeo commented, "We think this move will change racial imbalance by about 1.5%, which is not significant....We're hoping the state will be lenient about being 2 or 3 students over since we're not asking to be like 10-15% out of balance."
The move will affect about 30 students, mostly those starting kindergarten, first and second grade in the fall. Only a handful of third and fourth graders are affected, and only because they are the older siblings of the younger children being moved. Macdonough currently has 3 kindergarten and 3 first grade classes, and the move would reduce those two grades to 2 classes each. The families have not yet been notified as the Superintendent needed the Board's approval before she could move forward.
The Board was missing three members this evening, including Ed McKeon, who is the Chair of the Feasibility community. Cheryl McClellan commented that the committee had discussed all of Ryan Kennedy's objections, but had decided that this move was the only option to solve the most pressing concern of overcrowding. In the final vote, Ryan voted against redistricting.
In other BOE news, seven Keigwin Middle School students helped Principal Silvia Mayo Molina present their school to the board. Their combined presence and polished public speaking skills made a huge impression on the board and the audience. The students spoke about their individual Student Success Plans (SSP), their involvement in extra-curricular activities, and their pursuit of personal goals. All were dressed to impress - great job!
From back left to right: Ramo Bajraktarevic, Sara Canfield, Khaliesha Ellison, and Makayah Joseph
From front left to right: Rose Romano, Anthony Vidot, and Bianca Labella
Finally, as the Superintendent prepares to present her budget to the City Council next Tuesday night (April 16), she was able to report that the district has erased the $1.2 million deficit it faced at the beginning of the school year. This is very good news, especially given the fact that the budget Dr. Charles is asking for represents a 7.1% increase over last year's budget. While this seems like a huge jump, the BOE budget has been flat for 5 years, which actually means the budget was cut each year when contractual price increases such as salary raises or contracted services price increases are taken into consideration.
Charles also reported that she is counting on receiving $1.6 million from the Governor's new budget, but that the district will not receive funds that were sequestered from the Federal Government. She admitted to some preliminary discussions about what would be cut if her budget is not fully funded, but she did not hint at what the cuts would be.