School Officials Say $6 million Hike Needed to Provide Excellent Education

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Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald, second from left, Assistant Superintendent Dari Donovan, second from right and financial specialist Frank Colvario presented the first draft of the Fiscal 2015 Watertown School Budget. Director of Student Services Arlene Shainker also participated. Photo by Charlie Breitrose

By Charlie Breitrose

School officials discussed a very preliminary school budget for the 2014-15 school year, but one number stuck out – an increase of $6 million or 16 percent officials said they need to provide the education that Watertown’s students need.

The increase is based on what principals and program directors said they needed to run their school or program right, said Assistant Superintendent Dari Donovan said during Thursday’s School Committee Budget and Finance Subcommittee meeting.

“This is what people really feel like that need to proved an excellent education to students next year,” Donovan said. “We have had to figure out what to cut for so long that some of us forget what we cut.”

The schools have been growing, adding nearly 200 students over the past five years. School officials, however, based the increase on the current enrollment, said Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald. Efforts to forecast enrollment have only resulted in frustration, she said.

Parents at the meeting pushed for the increase, whether it takes into account an enrollment jump or not.

“We are underwater with the kids we have,” said Hosmer parent Erica Dorenkamp. “We are already behind where we are with 2,700 students. It will be even worse with 2,800.”

Hosmer School parent Martina Hughes said she is tired of the schools lacking the resources they need.

“Kids are learning in the hallways,” Hughes said. “There needs to be a plan for what’s going to happen. I don’t see an end in sight.”

School officials will have to convince the Town Council that they need such a big increase, said School Committee member and subcommittee chairman John Portz.

“Sixteen percent is a big amount,” Portz said. “It is popular with people (at this meeting) but there is a whole community out there that much bigger that this.”

The Fiscal 2015 budget will be discussed more on Monday night when the Budget and Finance Subcommittee reconvenes at 6:30 p.m. in the Watertown High School Lecture Hall.

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