To make budget, NH schools cut art, textbooks

Posted Aug. 14, 2011, at 7:07 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 14, 2011, at 7:33 a.m.

DOVER, NH — Recycled art and used textbooks are just part of what resulted from the last set of cuts school administrators were forced to make recently.

As part of the school district’s decision to save the existing structure of the middle school teams, each school agreed to cut about 5 percent of their already tight budget to make up a remaining $27,267 in needed cuts to cover downshifted retirement costs to the Garrison City.

The middle school currently has three “teams” consisting of four teachers per team — one set for the seventh grade and the others for eighth grade. The proposed cut had asked for the seventh- and eighth-grade teams to be reduced to two teams of five teachers each.

Administrators were asked not to cut from programming or personnel costs. The 5 percent cut came after the School Board already approved a cut of $272,233 from Edjobs, a program intended to help with teacher development.

“We’re very fortunate to maintain these teams,” said middle school co-principal Kim Lyndes. “We were able to keep our class sizes low.”

As part of the cuts, the middle school cut a total of $3,714.85 from its budget, taking out items such as funding for art, music and text book replacement. Lyndes said staff and students will be asked to work on more electronic projects to help reduce paper use.

“We made cuts across the board,” she said. “We tried to do as minimal as possible. I think every year we ask our teachers to do more with less.”

Superintendent Jean Briggs Badger said she is impressed with the district’s decision to work together, rather than let the middle school restructure its teams or allow other schools to take a bigger hit than others.

“It wasn’t pitting one school against another,” she said. “They came together and said what was best for the district.”

The Career Technical Center saw a $3,473 cut from its budget, and the technology department is seeing a loss of $1,121, even after it was already expected to tighten its budget earlier this year. As with all departments, Briggs Badger said the budgets were already “bare bones,” and the cuts were methodically calculated.

In the elementary schools, principals said they aren’t expecting to be passing out new books, and at least one school opted to trim its art budget and look for more creative means to keep children busy.

“It’s hard because you need to buy things and what we are doing is changing our curriculum,” said Woodman Park School Principal Patrick Boodey. “We are going to do more art with recyclables.”

Last year, students had the opportunity to work with a local artist to create art from recycled products, and Boodey said to save money, they are following on those coattails.

However, with the $1,516 in cuts, Woodman Park parents will be seeing additional items on their back-to-school lists. Crayons, glue sticks and additional pencils normally provided might not be available.

“Now we’re asking for things we never used to have to,” Boodey said. “Like glue sticks. We didn’t want them in backpacks because they make a mess, but now we have to.”

With the rising cost of supplies, parent-teacher groups are probably going to be raising funds to bring in construction paper and funds for any other needed supplies. Boodey said the schools have been grateful for the response they get every year from parents and community members.

“We’re lucky in Dover to have a great group of citizens who give so much,” he said.

At the Horne Street School, Principal Malcolm Forsman said he tried to pick items that could be spared and saved his art budget, while adding he took a bigger hit on his general supplies — pencils, paper, rulers and other classroom type supplies. His school saw an reduction of $2,188 in the last few weeks.

“We live with what we have,” he said. “It’s not the ideal situation to be thinking about (cuts) at this time.”

Forsman said he is also thinking about moving about 100 students back into the Horne Street School this year from Garrison Elementary. When Horne Street School began its renovation, students had been redistricted and now will be returning after a decision by the School Board earlier this year.

“It’s going very well,” he said. “We’ve got everyone placed. We’re excited about having them here.”

In regards to the cuts, Garrison Elementary School, Principal Dustin Gray said his $2,240 budget adjustment was made by trying to take cuts from across all line items, while looking at prior trends and inflation rates. With most of the cuts, the immediate impact will be absorbed.

“If it’s on a continual basis, we still need to maintain care of our books,” he said. “There is a shelf life to many of these books and if we keep cutting, it will have an impact on upkeep.”

Not only do the schools need to replace broken books, but also books that contain out of date content, Gray said. Not replacing items in the future could leave the school behind on educating students on new concepts and ideas.

At the high school, interim high school principal Christine Boston said she tried to maintain a level cut, while still talking with department heads to ensure cuts were plausible. Students will not be seeing many new textbooks, as classrooms are trying to reuse as many as possible.

“I felt that was the least painful place to take it from,” Boston said of textbook replacement. “If someone had a book with a broken binder, I felt that was better than not having a program or a person here.”

However, she said the schools probably won’t feel the real weight of the cuts until sometime in February when schools begin to get low on supplies.

Athletics certainly will be seeing a shortage of new equipment and uniforms, though, said Director of Athletics Peter Wotton. A $275 postage cut will reduce the number of mailing to families, while other cuts will force students to pay for transportation to and from games.

To pick up costs, the School Board previously approved a decision to charge $75 a student for a high school sport, and $40 for middle school sports. The third sport is free for a student. Students on free lunch will be waived the fee and those receiving reduced lunches will pay half the rate, Wotton said.

“And to the School Board’s credit, they made an effort to do away with that fee, but the School Department’s feet were held to the fire,” he said.

Booster clubs will be helping provide funds for uniforms this year and parents will most likely be expected to be helping purchase some of the protective gear for some sports.

“I think our School Department has done a tremendous job under a great deal of pressure,” he said.

Copyright (c) 2011, Foster’s Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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