GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

December 9, 2012

Rockport schools eyeing cost hikes

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — Rockport school officials have made their initial cuts to fiscal 2014 budget outlines, but the current preliminary spending plan for the 2013-14 school year shows a potential 3.5 percent — of $407,704 — increase from the current year.

And that’s before any potential salary increases are included through teachers and othre contracts that are still being negotiated, says first-year Superintendent of Schools Robert Liebow.

Liebow said that town taxpayers will likely see an increase to cover school spending, with the town’s share of the school budget pegged to rise by 909,835, according to the tentative budget.

Liebow added, however, that Rockport’s schools have their hands tied on a number of the increases.

“New standards for special education means we will have to be taking more kids out of our district,” he said.

In that vein, the preliminary budget document shows a total of $4,258,688 has been allocated to funding special education needs, up by $530,175 from the 2013 fiscal year. Liebow said there are no other alternatives to sending students out of district. Having the proper resources in house, from teachers to equipment, would be far too expensive and difficult, he said.

“Even if we could afford the right teachers and resources, we would still have to find them,” Liebow said. However, school officials have been cutting from earlier versions of the budget. The first version of the budget presented in November had an additional $942,044 tacked on to it. Liebow said that even the initial version of the budget was modest.

“I didn’t tell anyone to make a wish list,” he said.

Shawn Maguire, Principal of Rockport Elementary, hopes to see one $85,000 yearly expense survive the cuts – money to fund a position of assistant principal. Liebow said higher core standards passed down from the state will require heavier workloads for administrators, and may be too much for Maguire to handle alone. Maguire, meanwhile, holds a positive outlook the budget line item will stay.

“What I’m really excited about is the possibilities,” he said during a phone interview Friday. “We would really like to have someone with curriculum expertise as well.”

Maguire said he is looking for an assistant principal with a strong background in math to better serve the school. He said the school already has a designated reading specialist and a math specialist would be a welcomed addition and the position is a top priority.

“It would be very difficult to meet goals without another supervisory position,” he said.

Rockport’s Finance Committee will meet tonight at 7 to discuss the status of the budget. Additionally, the Board of Selectmen will meet on Dec. 18 to discuss the progress of faculty and staff contract talks, along with other budget items within the school district.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.