SCHOOL COMMITTEE RACE: Bryson Identifies Underfunded & Overfunded Areas In School Budget

WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Apple recently asked all six Wilmington School Committee candidates a few questions about the school district’s budget.

This week’s response schedule is as follows: Amy Largenton (Monday), Sabrina Hewitt (Tuesday), Jennifer Bryson (Wednesday), Steve Bjork (Thursday), Kathleen O’Donoghue (Friday), Rhonda Musikar-Rosner (Saturday), and a recap (Sunday).

Below is the response from candidate Jennifer Bryson.

Jennifer Bryson

QUESTION: The School Committee reviews, approves, and oversees the operation the school district’s budget. (1) Describe any areas of the school budget you feel is currently underfunded? (2) Describe any areas of the school budget you feel is currently overfunded? (3) Do you have any ideas on how the district can save money without negatively impacting student learning?

ANSWER: The recently approved FY 2018 Wilmington school budget includes a spending increase of 3.25 percent. I support the budget’s prioritization of class size reduction, funding of special education, technology improvements, and continuation of full-day kindergarten. In addition, I also support that current staffing levels be maintained to support our desired class sizes, and professional development funds to support ongoing learning opportunities for our staff. Other highlights include reinstatement of a part-time librarian at the Boutwell and Wildwood Schools and a full-time librarian at the Middle School. The budget ensures that all mandates are funded such as, special education, MCAS 2.0 testing, educator evaluation, bullying and crisis prevention. While Chapter 70 provides some state aid, it is essential that Wilmington Public Schools maximize resources in a period where state and educational funding has been inconsistent and at times, declining.

In reviewing the budget, it is clear that we leverage funding to support the collaboration between the schools and the town. The town truly appreciates and supports the school system, as evidenced by their commitment to helping the schools through capital expenditures. In FY 17, the town supported technology improvements, adoption of two literacy programs and a social emotional learning program. The town has continued to defer the cost of our need to update computer equipment throughout the school system in FY 18 as well as covering the cost of school vans.

Throughout my career and experience in districts across the Commonwealth, school districts are constantly searching for additional funds to support teaching and learning. There are many areas in WPS we would agree need additional funding, such as continuous updates in science and technology, updated texts in classrooms and libraries, and resources to support special education. In recent meetings with Wilmington residents, my experience as a WPS parent, and my deep knowledge of teacher preparation, it is clear that our district needs to continue the financial support of embedded professional development for teachers and school leaders. With the adoption of a new program, there is a need to support teachers in the systematic implementation of this new program. Ongoing job-embedded professional development is an essential component of any new adoption, such as properly preparing educators to implement Google classroom, effectively implementing a new literacy series in year one, or ensuring that all teachers and school leaders are equipped with best practices in addressing the social and emotional needs of all children. It is important that we engage in embedded professional development that is effective, and not seen as a one-shot opportunity, to deeply understand the complexities of any new program. Professional learning should include ongoing support throughout the first two years of implementation. It should be carefully designed to introduce the program’s goals and objectives, offer opportunities for observation of this program in classrooms, schools or other districts, and coaching for the teachers as they begin implementation in their own classrooms. I’d also recommend that we prepare teams or cohorts of teachers to encourage collaboration, and avoid training one teacher or leader who is then responsible for preparing all others. Funding systematic and sustainable job-embedded professional development has the ability to deeply engage teachers in this work, result in improvement in practice and most importantly, meet the needs of all students.

If I am elected to represent you on the school committee, I will ask the next Wilmington superintendent to present an action plan with specific steps in regard to equipping the district with embedded professional development and materials to support any new program adoption. I will also encourage our district leaders to explore local, state and national grant opportunities to support this important work. In my role as faculty member at BU’s School of Education, I work with districts to design professional development and explore grant opportunities to support this work. Wilmington would also benefit from seeking additional sources outside the town budget to strengthen our schools.

I have reviewed the last three FY budgets and I cannot identify an area in which we overfund. The school department has remained on budget while working to honor their mission to provide all students with an exemplary education: Wilmington Public Schools provides a challenging, relevant, personalized educational experience that promotes both the academic success and the social and emotional well-being of all students (WPS Mission Statement). The town and schools are committed to not charging any students for transportation and the town also prides itself on not charging fees for athletics, theater and music programs. Transportation costs are very expensive, but we know that our streets, with the absence of sidewalks, are not suitable for all children to walk to school. One area to consider for reexamination is our bus transportation, for example, completing an inventory regarding the actual number of bus riders, consolidating stops/buses, and possibly requiring fewer buses. Although the work and updates associated with the Facilities Master Plan is preliminary and not immediate, option 6 which will result in two less school facilities, may also result in transportation savings.

I am hopeful that I will be elected to represent you as the school committee engages in the important work of approving the school budget, supporting our new superintendent, addressing the town’s educational goals and policies, and school improvement plans. Please consider me for one of your school committee votes on April 22, 2017. I would appreciate your vote and would be honored to serve on the Wilmington School Committee.

To learn more about me, please visit
https://www.facebook.com/JennBrysonForWilmingtonSchoolCommittee/

Very truly yours,
Jennifer (Jenn) Bryson

Jennifer Bryson
Jennifer Bryson

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