At a Joint Convention of the Everett Board of Aldermen and City Council called by Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Jr. on Monday, January 23, the Board of Aldermen unanimously approved allocating $1.5 million in supplemental funding to the Everett Public Schools. The meeting was well attended by many concerned voters, some of whom wore simple paper badges urging the Aldermen to “Keep Everett’s Schools Everett’s Pride”.
The City Council will vote on the School Committee’s request next Monday evening, January 30 at 6 PM at City Hall.
Speaking for the approval of the School Committee’s request at the meeting, Mayor DeMaria said that he was committed to giving $1.5 million from the city’s free cash account to the public schools. The Mayor said that he was also ready to give back to the schools “about $500,000 in [student] Medicaid reimbursements” to make up the difference.
Everett’s state Senator, Sal DiDomenico who was also at the meeting, said that he was working at the state level to help find long-term financial solutions for the Everett schools.
“I am pleased that our state Senator, the Mayor, and the Board of Aldermen were able to come together to work so quickly to help resolve this issue” said Superintendent of Everett Public Schools, Frederick F. Foresteire.
“It is our hope that the City Council will do the same and resolve this matter now in a timely manner. The School Committee needs to be able to make some difficult decisions in time to balance the school budget” the Superintendent added.
Should the School Committee’s request be approved, the School Department must come up with cuts totaling $1 million in non-personnel line items to help cover the $3 million shortfall.
The rest of the funding, or $2 million, will come from the city treasury and Medicaid reimbursements, according to the Mayor, who said he had also been in contact with State Senator Sal DiDomenico, who is working with state leaders to request $1 million in emergency funding for Everett Public Schools.
If the City Council denies the School Committee’s request however, the Superintendent said “some drastic steps [will be needed] in order to balance the school budget. This will include, at the very minimum, 96 layoffs that will affect every single school in our district.”
School Committee Finance Chairman David M. Ela, Jr. presented the public schools’ Mid Year Report to city government and emphasized that the schools’ budget shortfall resulted from several conditions over which the School Department and the School Committee have no control.
Mr. Ela pointed out that Everett Public Schools experienced a continued loss of funding at both the state and federal levels due to current economic conditions. At the same time the schools experienced a significant increase in school enrollments, including a record enrollment of 6,580 students last fall that was greater than increases in any other school district in the Greater Boston area in that time period.
Mr. Ela also pointed out that there was an unexpected increase in two groups of students: the Special Needs students and the students whose first language is not English; which forced the schools to spend more to cover expenditures required by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Mr. Ela said that the public schools must remain in compliance with federal and state laws in order to keep federal and state funding in place, and this means having to pay for additional staff to meet the increase in the number of those students. “This school year, we were ordered to pay for five interpreters, two educational Team Leaders, eight teachers, two Behavioral Specialists, and sixteen paraprofessionals just for this fall’s unexpected new students, with special needs and five additional teachers to address new students whose first language is not English” Mr. Ela said, adding that this expense was “in addition to the staff already hired and already budgeted for this group of students.”
In spite of the schools’ current budget problem, Superintendent Foresteire reminded city officials that “We are the first line of defense for the children of this city. Providing an opportunity to have an equal education for all students is what our business is all about” here in Everett, he added.
“I applaud the work being done by our school administrators as well as Everett’s elected officials,” Superintendent Foresteire said, “and I am confident that we can work together to ensure that we continue to provide the best possible education for all our students.”