From congratulating Hull students who achieved perfect scaled MCAS scores and hearing budget presentations to listening to updates on the Student Opportunity Act, Memorial Middle School building project, and Best Educational Use of School Facilities Study, the School Committee engaged in a full agenda Monday.
Hull High School Principal Nicole Nosek had high praise for sixth-grader Elsie Harper, seventh-grader Veronica Fleming, and 10th-graders Katie Cliford, Fionn Krahforst, and Benjamin Olivieri, who all achieved perfect scaled MCAS scores (raw score between 96 and 98 percent) on their English Language Arts exam.
“This is quite an achievement,” Nosek said. Interim School Superintendent Judith Kuehn noted that only 13 percent of sixth-graders, 8 percent of seventh-graders, and 13 percent of 10th-graders in the state achieved perfect scaled English Language Arts MCAS scores.
Three fiscal 2021 proposed Hull Public Schools budgets were presented at the March 9 meeting:
* Technology: Presented by Judith Saide, the budget totals $134,744, including $55,478 for 70 iPads for fifth-graders and 64 Chrome Books for eighth-graders. “We need to invest in our technology,” she said.
* Theater arts: Jim Sullivan, theater arts director, presented a budget that indicated a current balance as of March 4 in the Drama Donations Revolving Account of $25,415, with $3,763 in the Drama User Fees Revolving Account. Performances for this season include the already performed “Elf the Musical” and Disney’s “Frozen Jr.” and the upcoming “Laramie Project.”
* Special education: The budget, presented by Kuehn, totals $4.47 million. This current fiscal year 57 students are enrolled in HPS’ special education program. “We’re providing quality programs in-district and are recognizing financial savings [because of this],” she said. About $65,000 is being paid for out-of-district schooling. There has been a reduction in grant funding, which poses a challenge.
The proposed preliminary overall Hull school budget for fiscal 2021 is $16.12 million or 2 percent more than the fiscal 2020 $15.8 million figure.
Kuehn also presented an update on the Student Opportunity Act (SOA). The deadline for submitting the plan to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is April 1. The School Committee is expected to vote on the proposed plan at its next meeting.
The SOA has as its goal to ensure that public schools have adequate resources to provide a high-quality education to all students in Massachusetts, regardless of their zip code or income level.
School Business Administrator David DeGennaro noted that there are 185 school districts in Massachusetts and that the Hull is expected to receive only the minimum funding available under the SOA – $30 per student per year.
“The state looks at Hull’s property values and income levels and considers us as able to fund our students’ education on our own,” he said. “We need more [funding], but we’ll do the best we can.”
Because some competitive grant opportunities may be available under the SOA, Kuehn said that HPS might explore the possibility of offering a full-day pre-kindergarten program.
Kuehn also reported that representatives from the MARS consulting group has held eight meetings in Hull and three with the New England School Development Council as part of the process of undertaking a Best Educational Use of School Facilities Study for the Hull Public Schools. MARS has made several site visits and completed interviews with the school administration team and support staff, School Committee members, the three school principals individually, Town Manager Philip Lemnios, the South Shore Educational Collaborative director, and Hull Teachers Association representatives, along with multiple meetings with Kuehn and DeGennaro. “They are very impressed with our staff,” he said.
MARS has also reviewed the HPS budget, financials, and demographic information and is expected to have a report for the School Committee this spring.
Also at this week’s meeting, the committee granted permission to spend up to $30,000 from the school revolving fund for an update on what building envelope work is needed at Memorial Middle School and discussed the two related town meeting warrant articles.
“Per our town manager, if the town pays for these renovations and repairs [without Massachusetts School Building Authority assistance], town officials would have more flexibility to use the building any way they want to [including a potential nonschool use],” DeGennaro said.
One of the warrant articles asks voters to appropriate $1.5 million to pay the cost of renovating and making repairs to the exterior of the school without potential MSBA partial reimbursement. The other asks voters to approve funds for the project with potential MSBA participation. (See Page 1 for the town meeting preview for full details).