Proposed Budget Introduces Elementary Spanish
NEWINGTON - A proposed school budget that aims to reduce class size, hire more teachers, and implement a new elementary school world language program was unanimously adopted and transmitted to Town Manager John Salomone by the Board of Education last Wednesday night, Feb. 6.
While Superintendent of Schools William Collins’ original budget proposal called for $68 million, it has been cut to $67.144 million since the board last met two weeks ago to discuss the topic. Although his plan originally requested funds to hire seven instructional coaches, the board will be asking for four. Collins said that he felt that four would be a more attainable number for now.
“If I feel very strongly next year, I’m going to come back and ask for three more,” Collins told the board during the discussion.
Collins will also be transitioning an administrator into a special education position, a move that allows him to use a $98,000 Federal grant, thus removing that cost from the budget.
Board members discussed the possibility of scheduling additional meetings in order to allow further discussion of the tentative budget. The board has until March 22 to submit it to the town manager, who will then move it along to the Town Council.
“Nobody likes extra meetings, but I’d prefer to have extra time to look at it,” said Board Member David Tatem. “I don’t want to feel like we’re rushing.”
Board Member Daniel Carson Sr., however, cautioned them into speculating too much at this stage, saying that the budget may look radically different once it has been through the town manager and Town Council.
“The number that you see before you is probably a best case scenario,” Carson said.
Board Member Cynthia Callahan echoed this sentiment.
“I think the discourse will occur when we have recommendations from the Council,” Callahan said.
One of the highlights of the proposed budget is the hiring of two Spanish instructors for kindergarten through second grade. The program, which features two 15-minute lessons per week--the instructors will have to be shared between schools--will eventually extend to third and fourth grade.
“This would be getting our foot in the door,” said Board of Education Chairman Marc Finkelstein. “It’s been on the agenda for 14 years. It’s always been there and it’s always been eliminated.”
The district would need a minimum of four instructors to make world language a core subject, but the board is trying not to plan too far ahead without knowing how well it will work, Finkelstein said.
“This isn’t something we’ve done before,” he said. “We want to try it out, see how it goes. This is an evolving process. This is just starting out but I believe it’s a worthy program to start.”
Minnie Alexander, a parent who attended the meeting, agreed, citing the importance multilingual skills are expected to play in future years.
“I love the fact that we’re going with the world language,” Alexander said to the board during the public comment segment of the meeting. “I applaud all of you for bringing these ideas forward.”
Tatem expressed cautious support for the initiative.
“In principle I’m for the idea, but I’d like to see some research on whether or not 15 minutes a day is really worth it,” he said.