WATERTOWN — The Board of Education, meeting Monday, January 9, congratulated students from Polk and Judson Elementary Schools as selected artists of the month.
The students are Wintyr Kish and Greyson Pettit from Polk Elementary School and Nora Stentiford and Jack Major from Judson Elementary School.
During the meeting, the board listened to cabinet members as they presented budget information.
Dr. Perri Murdica, director of Special Education and Pupil Personnel Services, described the intent of shifting from a reactive to proactive mode.
An example of that mode is the training approach that is transferring knowledge within the school district to reduce reliance on outside sources.
The budget requests include staff increases the goal of moving from programming to highly specialized programing, which is intended to keep students within the Watertown Public School community rather than moving them outside the district for the resources they need.
Dr. Murdica noted a strong foundation in understanding and supporting vulnerable student populations with genuine care and advocacy to meet student needs.
There is strong interest in new learning opportunities and strong partnerships with families.
A four-year examination of data demonstrates that the number of students with disabilities has increased as have the associated costs have increased; that data is useful for planning as the district works to meet student need.
The disabilities addressed include autism, emotional disturbance, health and speech language impairment, as well as intellectual, learning, and other disabilities.
Superintendent Dr. Alison Villanueva spoke to the volatile nature of the budget as the district is obligated to serve students and the number of students and their needs cannot be predicted.
The adopted budget for the current year includes $2,064,700 for professional and technical services, $650,582 for pupil transportation, $36,301 for other, $2,102,898 for tuitition, and $43,326 for instructional supplies.
The percent of total district budget for 2021-2022 was 10.64 percent but Dr. Villanueva anticipates that percent to increase to 15.22 percent or $7 million in 2022-2023.
The district is in a budget freeze in anticipation of this increase.
PowerSchool Student Information Specialist Michael Dalton shared a technology presentation that highlighted how the district is using software to improve processes, such as using Vizor to track inventory the repair of that inventory.
Chromebooks represent the highest percentage of tickets in Vizor at 36 percent. There are 650 computers in the district and aging devices are a concern.
Balancing between convenience and security represents 17 percent of tickets as the district implements a new, stronger firewall with multi-factor authentication and an anti-phishing campaign.
The proactive approach to reducting tickets is education and ensuring the hardware and software are right for needs.
Mr. Dalton pointed out that knowing how to use software is important because he has experienced a teacher or staff member wishing for functionality that does exist.
The district budgets IT at about $100 per student with one IT staff member serving about 650 students; there are four staff members in the whole IT department.
The budget request is $736,732.46 to replacing aging hardware and software—most especially replacement of obsolete equipment in the computer labs so curriculum can be delivered—continue with the district’s 10-gigabyte project to ensure instructional time is maximized, and improving the sounds system at Watertown High School.
The proposed addition of one staff member is not included in the request total.
Luigi Velardi, director of facilities, explained that his budget represents 2 percent of the entire school budget and half of that addresses utility costs.
Those costs have increased by 50 to 150 percent.
The 2023-2024 budget includes truck and large equipment replacement, protecting capital projects investment, and inflation and basic budget lines.
The budget request is $3,376,275.
Dr. Villanueva noted that the budget book would be shared with the Board of Education in the coming weeks and provide detail for all areas of the budget.