Steve Stycos of the Cranston School Committee provided the following update:
SCHOOL UPDATE FROM STEVE STYCOS
CRANSTON SCHOOL BUDGET
The Cranston School Committee will resume its effort to balance its budget Thursday June 4 at 6:30 PM at Western Hills Middle School. Although state funding for education is still undecided, the school committee must cut at least one to two million dollars from its budget. The committee requested $2.6 million more from the mayor and city council. We received $1 million. In addition, there is $1.7 million in stimulus money in dispute. The mayor says if we receive the stimulus money, we will not receive the $1 million increase.
We also budgeted for $1.2 million in union concessions, but have not reached an agreement with the teachers union leaving us about $1 million short of our goal.Areas for possible budget cuts include the EPIC program, the elementary instrumental music program, some sports and the elementary guidance program.
After listening to many parents, my top priority will be preserving the elementary instrumental music program. I think the elementary instrumental music is more important than EPIC because it is open to all children and impacts upon instrumental music at all grade levels. If we cut the elementary program and children start instrumental music in middle school, our middle and high school programs will suffer.
Parents may want to communicate with school committee members about their priorities. I do not find simple communications of “don’t cut that program,” helpful unless I know what cuts are preferred.
In recent months, my budget cutting efforts have focused on the school lunch program’s $250,000 deficit. I chaired a committee to reduce the school lunch deficit which met weekly. A report of a committee is at cpsed.net under “Committees and studies.”
The school committee accepted our report and endorsed some of our proposals to cut spending. We are in the process of cutting holidays for three hour school year employees from twelve/year to seven/year and reducing their sick days. We are also seeking concessions from the unionized cafeteria workers (the sixteen who work more than three hours a day.) In addition, we cut the hours of cashiers in the elementary schools from three hours a day to two hours a day and laid off three 3 hour workers.
POSSIBLE FUNDS FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
The school committee also endorsed the school food service committee’s proposal that if a elementary principal can collect the daily lunch money without using a cashier, the school will receive $1000 for its use. The principal must devise a method to collect the money with existing employees or volunteers and then the plan must be approved by the central administration. I hope this will be a fairly easy way for schools to make some money while cutting lunch program costs. If you are interested, you should discuss the idea with your principal.
The school committee continues to debate a proposed policy requiring all school volunteers to have a criminal background check. After meeting with several PTOs and listening to their concerns, I proposed that casual volunteers at public events (sports events, book fairs, school parties) not be required to have a BCI check. My amendment, suggested by Rhodes PTO president Julie Bradley, however, would have required tutors, after school program volunteers and field trip volunteers to get background checks. The amendment failed 6-1, although three other members of the committee have expressed concerns with the proposed policy.
I will not support a policy that requires people selling hot dogs at high school football games or scooping ice cream at school socials to get background checks. I hope a compromise can be reached, but I worry that fear of child molesters may severely cripple parent involvement in our schools.
The policy will again be debated at the June 15 school committee meeting. Check the meeting agenda on line at www.cpsed.net to be certain.
I am glad that Mr. Stycos articulated the concern for people not volunteering because of the new BCI policy. While the principle of screening people more closely who are in our schools is a good one, I am worried about people not volunteering because they have a minor infraction on their record that they don’t want the schools to see, because they are embarrassed about it. I also think a lot of people who only volunteer once or twice a year, at a special school-sponsored Halloween party, for example, might forget about getting their BCI until it is too late, and then they will not be able to volunteer.
As to Mr. Stycos’s statement about hot dog vendors at football games, I was under the impression that vendors would be exempt, as was specified by Andrea Iannazzi in the interview she did with me about the policy.