The Watertown Public Schools budget for Fiscal Year 2023 will include a 3.5 percent increase, and planned additions for the 2022-23 school year include funding for equity coordinators, drama and music teachers, assistant principals and a family engagement and communication specialist.
The total budget will be $55.63 million, which is a $1.88 million increase from the previous fiscal year, said Superintendent Dede Galdston, who presented her recommended budget to the School Committee Monday night at the meeting held at Cunniff Elementary School.
Most of the increase, about 80 percent, will go to providing a level-service budget, Galdston said, which is maintaining the programs and services provided during the current school year. The remaining funds, $370,835, will mostly be spent on new staff and positions.
No budget area has increase significantly, Galdston said, but the Administration and Curriculum budget appears to be much higher than FY22 (46.8 percent more). The increase is due to the money the district has set aside for potential increases as a result of contract negotiations with the district’s unions. Negotiations will take place in FY23, Galdston said.
Galdston thanked her administrative leadership team, principals and others who participated in the budget process, which began in October. She also thanked the Budget and Finance Subcommittee, to which she presented the budget multiple times.
The FY23 budget is the result of building upon previous budgets, Galdston said. In previous years, the allocation from the City budget was a five percent increase. That money was spent on hiring positions to improve the district such as instructional coaches, and adding co-teachers, Galdston said, and now 3.5 percent is being used on other priorities.
“We have done such a good job funding what we need to fund that now we are adding some of the things that will move us forward,” Galdston said. “I am pleased by that.”
School Committee member David Stokes, who is a member of the Budget and Finance Subcommittee, said he is pleased with the budget.
“We are putting our best food forward. Watertown is showing it is in a very good spot. We have a healthy investment from the City for our students, and it shows in the ways we are funding our priorities,” Stokes said.
Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Additions
While there are 13 items in the budget Galdston presented, many are stipends and only one is full time. In all they represent 2.95 full time equivalent (FTE) positions and will cost a total of $370,835.
The Equity Audit Report presented to the School Committee in March had dozens of recommendations, including creating an Equity Coordinator staff position at each school. Galdston said that the FY23 budget includes $27,120 in stipends for six equity coordinators, one at each school, plus the Early Steps Preschool program. According to the Equity Audit Report, the Equity Coordinators “will be responsible for supporting the development of culturally responsive, anti-bias, and anti-racist practices in their individual school building.”
Another addition will be $60,000 for the district’s curriculum equity audit.
The arts will receive a few new partial positions, including 0.2 FTE for the high school drama teacher and 0.2 for the middle school drama teacher. Galdston said the interest is high in drama, and each year the budget has increased the amount of funding for the drama teacher by 0.2 FTE. It will be 0.6 FTE in total in FY23.
The high school world percussion teacher has been added as a permanent part of the budget, Galdston said. The 0.2 FTE position was funded for one year this year, and Galdston said the position has been so successful that she has heard multiple people advocating to make the position permanent.
One position that has not yet been funded, but which Galdston expects to be able to add if there are some retirements, is a 0.4 instrumental music teacher. Currently, the music teachers at Watertown Middle School and Watertown High School also teach at the elementary schools. However, that limits what time of day these classes can be taught. The new position would add more flexibility.
School Committee Chair Kendra Foley advocated for the instrumental music teacher to be included, saying that it would not just allow more students to take music, but also to allow them to take other electives.
“As for the 0.4 music position, I want to double down on the importance of that,” Foley said. “There has been years and years of discussion of intransigence in the schedule at the secondary level. I really hope this type of investment can make the difference. It should be high on the list.”
Two budget additions are half the salary for two assistant principals: one at the middle school and one at Cunniff Elementary School. The other half is paid for with the ESSER Grant, which is school funds provided as part of the CARES Act Pandemic relief funds. The following year, Galdston said the district will pay for the portion covered by the grant in FY24.
The district will also add a Family Engagement and Communications Strategist, which will be a 0.35 FTE position.
“If I heard one thing the past five years it is how do we provide opportunities to bring families into the school to be part of the education process,” Galdston said. “So part of the person’s job will be to bring people into school to make that engagement.”
Other additional positions include:
• 2 Mental Health Specialist Stipends
• A Student Services-Related Stipend
• An additional Athletic Trainer
• A Library Aid at Hosmer School
Level Services Additions
Several other positions will be added in 2022-23, for a total of $244,983, but Galdston said she included them under the level services budget.
“These are items we need to operate our education program,” Galdston said. “They are new positions to the district, but they are absolutely necessary to fully function and deliver our education programs. This is not a priority. This is a need.”
The positions are:
1.0 FTE teacher at Hosmer, $69,995
1.0 FTE teacher at Cunniff, $69,995
0.5 FTE ESL teacher at Cunniff, $34,998
0.6 FTE Spanish teacher at the Middle School, $41,997
0.2 FTE increase Spanish teacher at the High School, $13,999
0.2 FTE Physical Education teacher at Cunniff, $13,999
The School Committee will take a vote on the Superintendent’s Budget Recommendations on Thursday, April 14. See the budget presentation by clicking here. The more detailed budget book can be seen by clicking here.