Category Archives: Budget

Isn’t It Time To Build That 16th School?

Why don’t we build a new elementary school in Upper Falls? I used to be a vocal advocate for a 16th school in Upper Falls. Then as I learned more my thinking gradually changed.

An UF school would have a small population, as low as 250 students, and ongoing student population growth in this area is speculation, not fact.  In the 70s and 80s Newton closed schools around the City as their enrollments hit the low to mid 200s because an economic assessment showed that schools of this size were very inefficient to run.  Building and operating new small schools is still inefficient, and investments in new buildings channel dollars away from maintaining and repairing our older school buildings.

Continue reading Isn’t It Time To Build That 16th School?

Full Day Kindergarden – Advocacy and Cost

I have been quite open to full day kindergarten (FDK) as research indicates it supports children academically, socially, and emotionally. My approach to an issue like this is to confirm the objective, and then work to figure out how to fund it.

Newton’s FDK task force, working under past superintendent Jim Marini, suggested steps to advance this discussion a couple years ago but no further action has been taken. So step one is to do followup. Continue reading Full Day Kindergarden – Advocacy and Cost

Flexibility with Our Short Term Space Budget

A year ago I was quite concerned that the proposed Day Middle School and elementary school modular (short-term space) budgets might not be strictly honored, but my point of view has evolved to a different place.

Three things have changed:

• The needs of Day have come into clearer focus as its population growth continues greater than projected. Newton Public Schools (NPS) is starting to speak of 8 new classrooms, well above the 4 or 6 that were being asked for last year;

• A very good program with some flexibility has been developed that strongly responds to present and anticipated space needs; Continue reading Flexibility with Our Short Term Space Budget

Should we be making changes to early release time?

Early release in Newton has been here for a long time and is firmly embedded in our teacher contracts. Rodney Barker, a former School Committee member and former Alderman, has fought about this in the past and he wrote an article to the TAB in January 2011 about them. Although his math is off his sentiments are true; still he made little headway in reversing this trend to add early release days. See his piece here:

Barker Op-Ed on Early Release

Comments from a followup TAB blog thread were recently lost in a technical glitch, but these provided additional commentary from the community on this topic. Continue reading Should we be making changes to early release time?

Top 2 challenges for our School Committee this year

Top Two Challenges:

1. Completion of a fair and sustainable teacher contract. Signs are that we are close, and a contract that is long-term affordable while respecting our teachers as bargaining table partners is a very good thing.

For years, contract growth has been the largest cost driver in the school budget; keeping this in check leaves more money to maintain student/teacher ratios, pilot and finance technology initiatives, strengthen early learning, and preserve breadth-of-program, for starters. Continue reading Top 2 challenges for our School Committee this year

Parkview Homes and School Overcrowding

The new Parkview Homes affordable housing development off Lexington Street will house children within the Burr School district. Many area parents have expressed concern that city planners have supported this private development but have not planned for its impact on school overcrowding.

If new construction creates increased tax revenues for the City, don’t we end up coming out even or ahead? The answer is more complicated than that, relating to resources, timing, and planning. I’ll start an explanation of why with an example: Continue reading Parkview Homes and School Overcrowding

What will happen if we start to renovate Carr and Angier without asking for a debt exclusion?

Let’s pick some numbers: Suppose that a substantial Angier renovation and addition costs $25 million, somewhat less than a new building that could run to $35 million by 2013. Suppose that Carr can be renovated into swing space for $7 million, or a million less than the “wish list” renovation currently being proposed. This brings us to $32 million in funding need. Continue reading What will happen if we start to renovate Carr and Angier without asking for a debt exclusion?

CIP Spending – The Right and Wrong Targets

Most of the funding for Newton’s school building maintenance comes from a fund called the CIP. CIP money, traditionally $1.75 million annually, is borrowed by the City via the sale of municipal bonds and is turned over to the Newton Public Schools to spend at their discretion. Each year Mike Cronin, NPS’s head of facilities, prepares a list of possible projects for review and approval by the School Committee. These projects typically include boiler replacements, door and window replacements, roof repairs, new elevators, new auditorium seating, etc. Continue reading CIP Spending – The Right and Wrong Targets

Trees in the Contract Negotiation Forest

Former Newton mayoral candidate Tom Sheff, commenting on contract negotiations with our teacher union recently stated: “… It’s possible to give a 1-2% payraise if the city gets back in return a 75-25% split on healthcare. It all depends upon the party’s priorities.”

Yet those details are the trees. The forest is the question “What can Newton both justify and afford to pay our teaching professionals?” Continue reading Trees in the Contract Negotiation Forest