Committee finds funds to save guidance counselors
Warwick School Committee members David Testa and Karen Bachus successfully carved out $155,000 from the FY18 Warwick Public Schools budget to save 1.5 elementary guidance counselor positions, out of the six total that were laid off, at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Warwick School Committee, held at Toll Gate High School.
Testa proposed cuts to seven line items amounting to $115,000, which included cutting $35,000 intended to go towards a new maintenance vehicle, a $20,000 cut to the HVAC maintenance budget, a $20,000 cut to the school’s website development and various $10,000 cuts to utilities such as natural gas.
“I am not yet convinced that eliminating elementary guidance is the correct course,” Testa said. “I have some lingering concerns, specifically who is going to go into the classrooms to teach the specific skills of our elementary guidance curriculum? Our students are coming to school today with far more issues and baggage than when we were students...The school day time pie is only so big.”
There was no dissent to the cuts from others on the committee, however Testa did vocalize some frustrations that his original plan to get back more guidance counselors by re-purposing an additional $200,000 – which is scheduled to be spent on high school technology reintegration specialists – was foiled, because those fulltime positions are funded through federal Title II money and cannot be re-purposed as such, as was pointed out by finance director, Anthony Ferrucci.
“I won’t say the word I’m thinking of right now,” Testa said after being told the bad news, obviously deflated.
Later, Bachus would propose cutting funding for the remainder of the communications development budget and the money that would go to continuing the services of the public relations firm, Martin and Associates, which would have amounted to $120,000.
“I just don't think we need it,” Bachus said of the expenses. “We need to bring back our teachers and our guidance counselors that we laid off first, before we do anything else.”
This measure was ultimately voted down, however Bachus would prove successful in getting an additional $40,000 cut from the budget by eliminating funding for a “Common Core teacher” position, which had been budgeted for the past few years. The vote brought a thunderous applause and cheers from those in attendance.
“If they don’t know how to teach it by now, they never will,” Bachus said.
The money made available won’t go as far as some may hope though, as the schools are contractually obligated to bring back guidance positions at the top funding level, meaning they must hire back the positions making $100,000 a year, including benefits, first. With just $155,000 freed up, this will only make way for one full time counselor and one part time to cover all the elementary schools in the district.