On April 19, the Mamaroneck Board of Education adopted the Superintendent’s proposed budget for the 2016-2017 school year. The adopted budget–which totals $133,159,163–reflects a decrease of 0.55 percent from the previous year despite an increase in districtwide enrollment.
Highlights of the budget include a plan to further emphasize STEAM education (the traditional STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math with the addition of arts) while also ensuring that there is enough technology to go around for all district students. Specific initiatives at the high school include the addition of more advanced classes in areas such as computer science and engineering and the expansion of the 1:1 ratio of students to computing devices in grades 8-12.
Notable changes are also taking place at the Hommocks Middle School, where new electives are being proposed to increase the technological proficiency of students. These electives include a computer science course for sixth graders and a course for eighth graders titled “Exploring Music,” which uses computer technology.
In addition to adjusting for new trends in education, the budget also adjusts for the trend of increased enrollment at MHS. To accommodate the additional 51 students projected to join the Mamaroneck School District next year, 27 of whom will to come to the high school, Robert Shaps, Superintendent, allocated funds for three new teachers and one bilingual psychologist. The addition of new teachers correlates to an almost two percent increase in the amount of money set to be spent on new teachers.
Yet despite the new teachers and courses being introduced, the budget is set to be less than what is projected to be spent on this school year. The main reduction in the budget comes at the expense of teachers, rather than students, as the benefits section of the budget is set to decrease by 3.5 percent, saving over one million dollars.
The district as a whole is also reducing staffing, mainly due to more efficient scheduling (assigning teachers more periods) and some excess hires. Notable eliminations include the laying off of nine teacher aides, the ending of the media elective at Hommocks, and the reduction of one English teacher. There are also reduced workloads for some teachers, due to the elimination of everyday gym in eighth grade and the restructuring of some electives, such as Home and Careers in the middle school.
There has been some student backlash proposed to the staffing changes, including a petition to save Chemistry teacher Michael Pepe, which has been circulated on Facebook and been signed by 156 students. One signer of the petition, Sebastian de Lasa ’18, spoke well of the first-year teacher, stating that he “provides a fun and enriching learning environment and is also a really good guy as well.”
The adopted budget for the 2016-2017 school year attempts to save money while also advancing students’ education through technological fields. The positives of this approach can be seen through the broadened opportunities in fields such as computer science and engineering while the taxpayers will save money from nonclassroom related cuts in benefits. A few teachers are slated to be let go, upsetting some MHS students. Mamaroneck residents will be able to decide whether the positives outweigh the negatives when they vote on May 17.
By Jack Mollin