The Woonsocket School Department's budget, currently pegged at $66.2 million, raised a few personnel questions for Budget Commission member Mayor Leo Fontaine last Thursday.
First, Fontaine questioned why the school department was asking to advertise for a $100,000 deputy superintendent position, when Superintendent Giovana Donoyan had recently recommended to the School Committee that they not staff it.
Donoyan said she didn't remember saying that, and that the district did need a staff member in the deputy superintendent's position to handle curriculum.
However, according to a recording of the June 27 School Committee meeting at Mywoonsocket.com, Donoyan said, in response to a question from School Committee member Eleanor Nadeau, "Based on the financial problems here, it would be my recommendation that rather than having a deputy superintendent, that we would remove that and have a curriculumn director or some form of curriculum committees that can be charged to one of the federal grants," Donoyan said.
McGuire-Forcier said the director of curriculum and learning (budgeted at about $100,000,) was essentially a deputy superintendent, with a different title because the idea of hiring a deputy superintendent was politicially unpopular.
The last person to hold that position was Mark Garceau, who left to take a job at RIDE about a year and a half ago, McGuire-Forcier said.
McGuire-Forcier said Donoyan told her that she was creating the position of STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, Math) Coordinator to handle curriculumn, to be paid for out of grant money. But at Thurday's Budget Commission meeting, Donoyan appeared to have changed her mind. "We do need that instructional leadership," Donoyan said.
Whether or not to advertise for the deputy superintendent's position will be reviewed by the School Committee tonight, 6 p.m., at the Hamlet Middle School building, 60 Florence Drive, said McGuire-Forcier. If approved, the request will then have to be approved by the Budget Commission.
The meeting continued to focus on personnel matters when Fontaine asked about a secretary's position, budgeted at $40,802, for a secretary to the deputy superintendent. The district has not had a deputy superintendent for six years, Fontaine pointed out.
"It raises a question when you have secretaries for people who don't exist," Fontaine said.
Thomas Bruce, city finance director, said the secretary's position is filled by Kim Blais. With benefits, the total cost to the city for the position is $64,998, he said.
School Committee Chairwoman Anita McGuire-Forcier said that Blais has taken on the duties of the superintendent's secretary, running the office and keeping minutes of School Committee meetings.
Prior to that, she said, Blais had been the secretary for Garceau. Though Garceau isn't working for Woonsocket any more, McGuire-Forcier said, the office still requires clerical work that Blais is handling. Also, she said, Blais operates as a floating secretary, helping principals and directors throughout the district. "She's been doing two jobs and doing a good job of it," McGuire-Forcier said.
Earlier in the meeting, Carolyn Dias, RIDE's chief of fiscal integrity and efficiencies, told the Woonsocket Budget Commission she's almost finished with the Woonsocket School Department's budget.
Dias came prepared with answers to a list of 12 questions the Budget Commission sent to her since the previous meeting (see attached .pdf).
Among the answers, Dias informed the Budget Commission that the new budget accounts for two fewer teaching assistants (a $1,522,629 line item), one due to the closing of the Feinstein Learning Program and one due to a Grade 8 Team closure.
She also wrote that the budget allocates $45,000 for math, science, and social studies at Woonsocket High, $50,000 for social studies and general education at Woonsocket Middle School, and $75,000 budgeted to the central office for assignment to schools. Of that $75,000, about $48,000 will be used to replace textbooks at $60 per book. The remaining $27,000 will support curriculum changes.
"Maybe now kids can learn that something happened after men landed on the moon," Commission member Council President John Ward quipped.
Dias said she hopes to have all the details of the budget settled this week. "We want to come back and ask for approval next week," Dias said Thursday.
Jeff Partington, Woonsocket Teachers Union president, told the Budget Commission the uncertainty of the city's financial position is costing the school department experienced teachers. Already this month, he said, he had notice of five resignations and four leaves of absence.
Usually, he said, you don't see those kinds of numbers until much later in the year. "If you've got nine today, I think you've got a lot more coming," Partington said.
The Woonsocket Budget Commission will meet again Thursday, 3 p.m., at Woonsocket City Hall.