Representatives from Weston Public Schools turned out in force Wednesday afternoon to let School Committee members know that they were deeply distressed by proposed personnel cuts in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
Teachers' Union President David Poras welcomed attendees, which included School Committee members Danielle Black and Ed Heller as well as Superintendent Cheryl Maloney, telling everyone that the short-notice meeting had been called specifically to address proposed cuts to Weston Public Schools personnel.
The proposed cuts would reduce personnel costs at Weston Public Schools by $380,000 and 7.8 FTEs, according to a revised budget presentation from March 4, 2013.
“We feel it’s really important that the members of the School Committee hear how those cuts would impact our work," Poras said, adding that he planned to video the planned addresses for School Committee members who were unable to attend.
For the next hour, nine individuals from throughout the Weston school system told the crowd spilling out of the Woodland School library how they saw the cuts directly impacting the quality of education Weston is able to offer its students and those students' parents.
The cuts outlined in the School Committee's revised FY'14 budget presentation touch a variety of areas, but the call for a reduction of four FTEs in the K-8 grade aides drew the greatest amount of comment.
Gil Davis, a second-grade teacher at the Country School, said he was "pretty troubled" to learn of the cuts to grade aides, explaining that the aides handle a wide range of tasks and duties that free the teachers to focus on planning and instruction.
“These are people that we cannot afford to lose,” Davis said.
Carol Fahey, a sixth-grade aide at Weston Middle School, added that the impact of an aide cannot be fully realized through benchmarks or numbers comparisons to so-called similar towns.
Aides provide students and parents "real people" contact, Fahey said, explaining that it isn't unusual for aides to field 20 phone calls a day from parents.
"Real people" communicate with students throughout the day, manage scheduling for student teacher conferences and, in a real world anecdote, clean a student's locker of ants after she leaves an open lollipop in it, Fahey said.
"School services are central to the quality of life," Fahey said. Cutting aides means schools would “lose that caring, human contact in each grade."
The K-8 libraries at Weston Public Schools are also poised to lose a singte FTE in the FY14 budget. It's a move that would "erode" the services available to students and could have a detrimental impact on special needs students, Weston High School Head Librarian Alida Hanson said.
Hanson said that studies show libraries have a particularly positive impact on students on IEPs (Individualized Education Programs).
But Special Education programs in Weston Schools stand to gain a few positions and resources, according to the revised budget plan. A proposed $485,000 increase in the Special Education budget would allow for five new FTEs in program development, as well as 1.15 FTEs for new psychologist positions, 1 FTE for a new speech and language pathologist position, and .89 FTE for a new occupational therapist position.
Additional changes to the Special Education budget move about $110,000 of expenses to a revolving fund and a grant.
The revised recommended FY14 budget is $35.2 million, a 2.51 percent increase over the $34.3 million FY13 budget.
The vote on the revised budget is scheduled to take place on Monday, March 18 during the 7 p.m. School Committee meeting.