The School Committee voted 7-0 Wednesday, May 13 to refinance the debt on the Whitman-Hanson Regional High School — a decision that will save the towns just over $929,000 over the next 12 years, or about $77,000 per year.
Whitman would save about $45,000 and Hanson would save about $32,000 next year.
Member Alexandra Taylor arrived after the vote and members Robert O’Brien Jr., and Robert Trotta were absent.
School principals, meanwhile, presented school improvement plans by level and the bottom line, all agreed, was more investment is vital to a system already cut to the bone.
“If we can’t move forward, we’re going to start to regress,” said WHRHS Principal Jeffrey Szymaniak. “I don’t know where to cut anymore. We’re getting to bone.”
Speaking for elementary school administrators, Maquan Principal Donna Murphy said curriculum focus remains literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) with safety also a concern.
Hanson Middle School Principal William Tranter said he and WMS Principal George Ferro and their school councils work closely together. They are especially keen to bring algebra to grade eight and are also concerned about school safety.
School Committee member Kevin Lynam noted the goals indicated more resources would be appreciated.
“I hope that rang through,” Ferro said.
Szymaniak again this year stressed his goal for graduates is college and career readiness, and noted NEASC recommendations continue to point to the need for investment.
“They want a plan in place [as to] how we will support education at the high school minus user fees,” he said.
Szymaniak also advocates AP training for all teachers as well as training on Google Classroom and a year-round curriculum for core courses, as the trimester schedule does not allow a full school year in all courses.
“The budget has precluded me from working on that schedule,” he said. “This year I’m looking at potentially laying off teachers in my building and I’d be hard-pressed to put forth a full schedule for 1,200 students if I don’t know if it’s going to work.”
Teachers also need mental health training to help the increasing number of students with mental health issues.
“They want to help as best they can,” Szymaniak said. “They’re teachers. They know their subject matter, they care about kids, but they don’t know, necessarily, how to identify a kid who’s dealing with anxiety and stress.”
He said he will soon be coming to the committee to seek approval for gofundme.com fundraisers to support programs.
“We heard a message loud and clear,” said Chairman Bob Hayes. “One of the biggest issues … is the funding source.”
“When you’re 10th from the bottom, every single teaching position, support position that we cut hurts — and hurts children,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner said of ongoing cuts to materials, which have so far reduced the FY 2016 budget deficit to about $500,000. But cuts that won’t affect staff are becoming hard to find.