SCHOOL COMMITTEE RACE: O’Donoghue 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 Kathleen “Kathi” O’Donoghue.

Kathi O’Donoghue

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 state just announced a total of $4 million in capital funding, for 49 recipients across Massachusetts, through the MLSC’s STEM Equipment and Supply Grant Program. From what I understand, Wilmington was not one of the many schools systems that received money from this funding. I am disappointed and somewhat amazed that we would not seek out these grants that are currently available. I am hopeful that we are at least in the running for the Massachusetts Life Science Center (MLSC) $39 million available to middle schools and high schools across the Commonwealth. The new STEM Equipment and Supplies Grant Program assists school systems with the purchase of equipment and supplies for high schools and middle schools in the Commonwealth to train students in life sciences technology and research- areas we hope to train our students to obtain these growing fields. The program also seeks to increase student achievement and student interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The program also offers funding for teacher professional development to ensure that all recipient schools have teachers that are trained to use the equipment and have access to relevant curricula that will introduce equipment in labs and introduce activities that support the benchmarks and skills in these lucrative career paths we would like for our students and future workers.

This grant supports professional development for educators that would not have to come from our own limited budget. As an educator myself, I would like to see more Professional Development provided to the teachers here in town and as School Committee member I would advocate greatly on their behalf in acquiring the training that they believe would benefit the students in their classroom. With all these grants and state funding available our school leaders should be researching and applying for this additional funding rather than continuously asking for more money from our already over-burdened tax payers.

In the future, I would be hesitant to see Wilmington partake in the New England Schools and Colleges Program (NEASC). Although it is not a yearly expense in our budget, it does come with a hefty price of a Decennial Accreditation visit that costs between $25,000 -$30,000. This is money I would like to see allocated elsewhere on a yearly basis that immediately affects our students for additional transportation or after school programs especially in the middle school. The NEASC Accreditation of public secondary schools by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges indicates that the educational institution has conducted a self-evaluation of all of itself. Many towns in our areas have chosen to not participate in this voluntary program such as Reading, Burlington, and in 2013, several school districts, including Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Brookline, Lexington, Lincoln-Sudbury, Newton, Weston, and Winchester, questioned participating in this voluntary program also. Their concerns was that value of the NEASC process has declined over the last several years and NEASC has failed to adapt to the new expectations and demands that schools now need to function, an issue Wilmington should also be asking itself. As a school committee member I would want to better explore this money being used to directly impact the day-to-day life of our students and staff.

I have also been concerned with the fact that the middle school releases the students at such an early time, 1:40 P.M., and provides minimal extra-curricular activities for the students after school. I have personally reached out in the past to the principal, assistant principal, WEF, and met with the past superintendent all asking to have that addressed. I have been told of numerous obstacles, but mostly due to the lack of money available for stipends to encourage staff to stay and work with the students. I think this community should keep our students busy and offer enriched activities that would be greatly beneficial to the kids, parents, and community as a whole. We have these beautiful new schools that do not need to have their doors closed in the middle of the work day leaving many of our kids unattended or left to their own devices. As a school committee member I would work hard to see where funding could be obtained so we could address this growing concern in our community and pay teachers for their time to stay after and create fun and enriching activities for all level of learners and interests.

To learn more about me, my credentials, and work experience please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathleen-o-donoghue-52b52099/
https://www.facebook.com/ODONOGHUEFORWILMINGTON/

Kathi O'Donoghue
Kathi O’Donoghue

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