Newton School Committee Approves $178.8M Budget; Some Art Time Added Back

With savings found in the budget, the School Department will be able to add back some elementary art time and the district's One to One program.

The Newton School Committee unanimously approved the district's $178.8 million fiscal 2013 budget last night, to handle an increase of nearly 200 students next year. 

The numbers also include money for additional time in elementary art classes, which were cut from 60 to 45 minutes last year. According to Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Joe Russo, some savings were recently found in the budget that allowed adding back a few minutes to the art time. 

During a public hearing on the budget last week, that was cut last year. Unlike fourth grade chorus, the art time was not initially restored in the fiscal 2013 budget. 

Some School Committee members also advocated for additional art time during .

Russo explained that some small savings allowed for an extra 0.6 full-time equivalent (FTE) teacher on the art staff. This will add back a few minutes to art, likely in the upper elementary grades. It will also reduce the number of teachers that have to travel to multiple schools.

The exact amount of time to be added is still in discussion, Russo said, and could vary from grade to grade. The district would need approximately $120,000 in additional money to restore the full 15 minutes.

Starting next year, 10 of the district's 15 elementary schools will have a single art teacher. The five other schools will still share a teacher, Superintendent David Fleishman said.

"It's a big improvement from where we are now," Fleishman said. 

In addition to the added art time, administrators announced last night that the district's One to One program will stay in place next year thanks to some savings in unemployment costs. 

Several parents also spoke in favor of the One to One program during last week's public hearing, a big brother/big sister-like program that would have ended next year due to lack of grant funding.

Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Cindy Bergan explained that $51,000 in unemployment savings will provide an additional 0.4 FTE for the high schools (0.2 FTE at each high school), which will help maintain the program.

According to Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan, the district initially found $142,000 in unemployment savings for fiscal 2013. However, a new five-year transportation contract came out $91,000 over-budget, resulting in just $51,000 in savings next year. 

Guryan added, though, that the five-year transportation contract has a fixed cost, and will not increase in the budget for the next four years.

With its budget approval last night, the committee also gave an OK to , which will be used toward and technology upgrades. 


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