Friday, Dec 25–School Board Hoping To Maintain As Budget Looms

NEWARK – With a harsh budget year approaching, the Worcester County Board of Education is hoping to just keep what it has.

“We’re not asking for new programs, just to maintain or sustain existing programs,” said Superintendent of Schools Jon Andes.

Local schools budget goals continue to call for small class sizes, support for good teachers and the infrastructure necessary for instruction.

“They’re all very important budget goals. They were last year. They are this year,” said Board of Education member Sara Thompson.

The Worcester County Board of Education’s budget goals for the next fiscal year have not changed since last year, said Andes.

“I think it’s important we as a school board stay consistent,” said Board of Education member Jonathan Cook.

Board of Education Chair Bob Hulburd said consistency is critical.

“Excellent point. Any organization has to have a vision and a direction we’re going in, and these are what drive every decision we make,” said Hulburd. “These are basically the same goals we had and we’re continuing on that path.”

The school board budget goals are based on the school system’s master plan, federal and state standards and comments by parents, students and the rest of the community, Andes said. The school board’s budget goals are familiar to anyone who follows school funding in Worcester County.

Budget goals begin with the maintenance of small class sizes, the provision and maintenance of educational services for students and staff, student access to up-to-date technology, keeping school buildings safe, efficient, and clean, providing adequate playgrounds and athletic fields, providing textbooks, materials, and equipment for strong instructional programs and providing employees with continuing training to improve teaching and learning.

“Our biggest priority is to maintain our class size,” said Andes. “In order to provide individual attention to students and classrooms, we need small class sizes. Learning takes place in the classroom between a caring adult and a motivated student. Small class sizes make learning personal.”

Overall, the Board of Education is focused on keeping current programs, rather than expanding to new offerings.

“We’re not asking for new programs, just to maintain or sustain existing programs,” Andes said.

Technology in the schools is an area that needs some assistance, the Board of Education and staff agree. In recent years, that allocation from Worcester County has been cut drastically, from nearly $1 million to just $200,000 last year.

That $200,000 was just enough to allow the school board to renew site and software licenses, but not enough to replace aging equipment.

“We still have a challenge of having our existing technology breaking down, wearing out, and those are all tools for the teachers whether it’s laptops or document cameras,” said Andes.

Students in Worcester County schools need to both learn technology that has real world applications and use technology for learning other subjects, he said. Technology is embedded in the schools curriculum, from reading and math practice programs to Smart Boards recently purchased with federal stimulus money.

“Our students must know and understand how to use technology, and we need technology in the classroom so students can gain experience using technology,” said Andes. “That’s the world we live in today.”