The South Orange – Maplewood Board of Education approved the district’s 2017-2018 budget Monday night; the vote was 8-1 with Johanna Wright voting against.
The total budget is $130,017,435; the overall tax impact, including debt service, is 3.56%.
See the full budget resolution on page 26 of this document on the district website.
Find more budget documents here.
The budget restores Spanish in 4th and 5th grades, but eliminates the proposed addition of two math intervention teachers. BOE President Elizabeth Baker explained that Spanish was preserved after the administration confirmed it was required by state law to provide World Languages in elementary school.
In response to questions about how the district would make up for the lack of the two new math teachers, Supt. Dr. John Ramos explained that they will work with existing staff, and that some savings would be found when longer-term, higher paid teachers retired or left and newer teachers were hired at a lower salary.
Speakers praised the sparing of Spanish in elementary school. (In addition, the district announced it would pilot a grant-funded Mandarin language program in the high school next year; look for more information in an upcoming Village Green article.)
Read more about the budget process in these previous Village Green articles:
Tuscan teacher Barbara Bracey read a statement on behalf of SOMEA, the teacher’s union, questioning the district’s priorities in another tough budget cycle. As a large group of teachers wearing read SOMEA shirts stood in the audience, Bracey criticized the district’s attempt to ask teachers to “do more with less” by relying on them to cover classrooms when teachers were absent, rather than by hiring more substitute teachers.
Bracey alleged that in at least one school, an average of seven teachers a month were not covered by substitutes. Teachers asked to cover classrooms lose their preparation periods, she explained. “We are spending $18,000 a month for teachers to do the job of substitutes,” she said — which she called “a boondoggle” for the district.
“The policy of ‘do more with less’ seems to apply solely to teachers,” said Bracey. She also questioned the fiscal prudence of the district’s “Let’s Talk” program, which she said cost $19,000 in its first year. “Do we really need to spend any money when emails are free?”
Bracey concluded, “[Teachers] are doing more with less… and we will continue to. Let’s get our priorities in order so that the students of this district are really number one.”