2008-03-06 / News

5% hike proposed in school budget

By Michaela Kennedy

The Jamestown School Committee unanimously approved a total budget of $11,867,384 for the fiscal year 2009. The recommendation made at the committee's Jan. 28 meeting was a 5.24 percent increase over this year's spending plan.

Just before the final vote, the committee added $13,000 to the capital budget for a computerized point-of-sale system in the two school cafeterias. The vote came after superintendent Marcia Lukon advised investing in the system.

The technology would speed up the line, and would also provide parents a very easy way to pay for meals. At least an hour each day of administrative time is taken to count it, tally it, "not to mention the time it takes to make the trip to the bank for the deposit," Lukon said. Committee member Julie Kallfelz speculated that two hours a day of manpower hours at least was spent in the current method of selling lunches. "With respect to human productivity, looking at the period of time it would take to pay for itself, I think it's something worth looking at," Kallfelz said. Committee member Bruce "B.J." Whitehouse agreed, saying he has seen it at his workplace. The committee agreed to add the $13,000 for the system.

On the topic of special education, a member of the school panel questioned the yearly analysis of special needs children in the district. Student Services Director Robert Fricklas pointed out that changes were based on who became eligible. "You can try to do a study on it, but it's based on referrals and eligibility. You need to see the nature of each disability and look at the referral," Fricklas explained.

Numbers of autistic children have gone up across the country, Lukon added.

In an open forum, Anthony Rafanelli, co-chairman of the Special Education Local Advisory Committee, said the committee met on Feb. 26 but did not reach a quorum to vote on a budget recommendation. He provided a summary of the discussion from those present at the meeting. Their comments urged the administration to "do the right thing" despite cuts in the special education budget. The summary noted support for a community based education initiative, suggested at the last meeting by the director of student services.

Also in open forum, Laura Hosley, coordinator of the Jamestown Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force, stood up to say she read in the Press that one school committee member did not support funding the student assistance counselor. She noted that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration "does not want to fund projects that don't have scientific evidence to back it." She also noted that student assistance was included as a school component in the teen center grant received by the town. Hosley warned about plans on the state level to cut funding for student assistance. "We're hoping for a transitional period," she said. "I'm here to advocate that these programs stay in the budget."

Principal Kathy Almanzor noted that part of the wages paid for the student assistance counselor would come from the teen center grant this year.

In correspondence, school committee member Julia Held read a letter from Jill Harrison, a member of SELAC, who expressed "a heartfelt thanks" to the support found in the student services in the district.

Retuning from executive session, the committee voted 4-0 with one abstention, to deny a level III grievance.

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