Superintendent Presents Proposed NPS Budget

Newton Public Schools (NPS) Superintendent Anna Nolin presented the proposed NPS budget for the upcoming fiscal year at the Newton School Committee meeting on Wednesday evening.

“Newton students are those students who will change the world for the better, and these budgets help to support their education that allows them to grow in this way,” Nolin said.

Nolin called the proposed budget a “level service plus” budget, which both maintains NPS operations and modestly raises funding, resulting in a 5.17 percent—or $13,905,594—increase in funds from last year.

“It stabilizes some areas of needs and works to set the table for the future vision and need to strengthen our programs and services in future budgets,” Nolin said.

According to Nolin, the budget uses creative adjustments to accommodate for greater expenses like rising healthcare costs and increased cost-of-living pay adjustments for teachers, as well as losses in federal Title I funding, which is aimed at districts with high percentages of low-income students.

“This level refunding of our grant revenue does translate into a reduction of programming in that we have to make adjustments in other places in the budget to address those most acute needs,” Nolin said.

The proposed budget invests in additional social workers in elementary schools, smaller STEM high school classes, more IT services, facility and curriculum maintenance and improvements, the restoration of professional development, and more. 

Nolin said while the budget is balanced, it does rely on $3.7 million in one-time funds, which is unsustainable. 

To address this, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller created an Educational Stabilization Fund of $22 million to be used by NPS over the next five years. Fuller allocated $4.1 million of the fund to next year’s budget.

“We are deeply grateful for that shot in the arm, if you will, for the health of our budget,” Nolin said.

Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Ayesha Farag, who presented on the NPS elementary schools budget, emphasized the addition of seven full-time equivalent roles (FTE) to the elementary schools.

“The kinds of steps that we’re seeking to take next year, with the addition of the seven FTEs, are designed to help us strengthen the overall ecosystem of how our systems and structures are working at the elementary system,” Farag said. 

The additional FTEs will support scheduling adjustments at elementary schools, which will block time for student intervention and enrichment, stagger schedules to improve one-on-one student access to specialists, and include common planning time for educators.

“[The schedule changes] will provide dedicated time in every one of our schools for intervention and enrichment at every grade level, and a cascading schedule that ensures that staff are available to help support those blocks as best as possible,” Farag said.

Despite a projected decline in elementary school enrollment this coming year, the budget includes 245 classrooms with two in reserve—the same as the previous year. 

Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Toby Romer, who presented on the NPS middle and high schools budget, said the projected enrollment changes at those levels are “negligible,” but that enrollment shifts between schools are resulting in staffing shifts.

At the middle school level, only Bigelow Middle School is experiencing a staffing change.

“Bigelow, based on the redistricting that we were able to do to bring Bigelow up to its targeted size in the 500 student range, is headed nicely in that direction, allowing us to add back two team teachers and an additional half FTE for the multi-team in phys ed and art,” Romer said.

At the high school level, the increase in enrollment at Newton South High School (NSHS) and the decrease in enrollment at Newton North High School (NNHS) has resulted in an enrollment adjustment of 2 2/5 FTEs, leaving NNHS with a total staffing change of 6 additional FTEs and NSHS with 8 1/4 FTEs, for a total 14 1/4 FTE increase at the high school level.

“The focus [with the additional FTEs] is on creating better class sizes and more access to math, science and engineering courses, but across the board, there’s going to be a trickle down effect, or domino effect if you will, creating more first choice class options for students in all of their departments and selections,” Romer said.

According to Romer, the specific allocation of the FTEs will be decided in May based on course selection and student enrollment.

The budget review process will continue on Monday, March 25, and will address student services and teaching and learning. 

The final budget presentation to Newton City Council will occur on April 24.

“We welcome the public to join us,” Nolin said. “But our movement here and our budget is based on the value for a thriving school system, and that we hope that we are growing minds, hearts, and bonds for a bright future.”NS

March 22, 2024