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Proposed school budget includes funding for new staff, kindergarten

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

The fiscal year 2022 budget request for the North Attleborough Schools calls for a $3.5 million increase to cover technology specialists and free full-day kindergarten.

Discussed at the Dec. 17 School Committee meeting, the $44.6 million budget request covers contractual salary increases for staff as well as approximately $200,000 for out-of-district tuition expenses. Paid for in part through the state Circuit Breaker fund, Business Administrator David Flynn said this amount has fallen below what is needed, and so the school budget will cover the rest.

Another $200,000 is listed in the proposal for the hiring of four technology specialists. These positions have been tabled for the last two years due to budget shortfalls. The specialists would help teachers to navigate issues with the Google Chromebooks used by students as well as the newer tech-based teaching methods.

We just feel that adding those positions would ensure that the most effective teaching would happen,” said Flynn.

Perhaps the largest component of the proposal is $635,000 for full-day kindergarten for all students. This would cover the hiring of three kindergarten teachers at $50,000 apiece and three paraprofessionals at $20,000 apiece, as well as the $425,000 in kindergarten fees that the schools normally see.

Assistant Superintendent Michelle McKeon said this has been requested for years. She said offering it would provide additional opportunities for children to learn social skills, peer relations, and school routines. Director of Student Services Margaret Camire described it as a core component of student success and could provide early intervention if needed.

This seems like a well-invested endeavor,” said Camire.

The committee was largely supportive of the planned budget. Ethan Hamilton—who is also a member of the Budget Subcommittee—said he was adamant about including the kindergarten funding.

My stance is a moral stance,” he said. “We’re one of 13 communities that don’t provide free full-day kindergarten. I’d like to see us removed off of that list and back with the rest of the commonwealth.”

Kathryn Hobbs echoed this, but questioned if the technology specialists were needed after the progress made over the last few years. McKeon said that having four technology specialists would allow them to focus their efforts on different grade levels—high school, middle, and elementary. The schools have also had a coach from Discovery Education, paid for through a grant, to assist with technology obstacles.

I feel strongly to have someone in-district as opposed to a consultant,” said McKeon.

The budget discussion also looked at the building and grounds department. School Committee Chair James McKenna said they have been “taking it on the chin” with new responsibilities to make the schools more COVID-safe. Chris George, who heads the department, said he’s been working 50-60 hours a week, though he did not phrase this as a complaint. He said that having one or two more staff members would be a help to the facilities.

The committee voted 7-0 to recommend approval of the budget, which will be reviewed by other departments, including the Town Manager.

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