09 Mar Voters Okay New Special Ed Teacher Students with Disabilities to Stay LocalMarch 9, 2010
By: MEG HECKMANSource: Concord Monitor
In Chichester this fall, children with serious disabilities will be more likely to share classrooms with their neighbors after voters yesterday approved a $5.4 million budget that includes an overhaul of the district’s special education program.
Right now, Chichester, like many smaller schools, sends students with complicated disabilities to special programs in larger communities. At yesterday’s meeting, Principal Pamela Stiles said that practice is increasingly expensive and forces the district to separate some kids from their peers.
That will change this fall. The budget approved yesterday adds a full-time special education teacher and a third resource room where struggling students will receive extra help. Two teaching assistant positions will be eliminated, and the district will pay for fewer children to attend other schools.
"We’re very happy about this," Stiles said. "It will allow us to keep these children as part of our community school and make them a part of who we are."
The change will lower Chichester’s special education budget by $53,000 compared with this school year, but the savings are far bigger. Without the new program, district officials say they would have had to pay $167,000 more in special education costs next year.&l t;/p>
"It lowers the bottom line, which is great," said school board member Benjamin Brown. "But it’s got a cost differential of well over $200,000. That’s real money."
The budget was the only item on the agenda at Chichester’s annual school district meeting, which was held yesterday in the room that serves as school’s gym and cafeteria. About 60 people spent two hours picking through expenses line by line.
An effort to remove any increases from the school board’s proposed budget failed 22-43, leaving the district with $57,000 more to spend than last year.
In addition to special education, the budget includes reductions in several other areas:
– District-wide tuition costs for Pembroke Academy are $95,000 lower than expected because fewer Chichester teens than expected are attending the high school.
– Energy costs are down $26,000.
– The district is paying $34,000 less toward debt this year.
But the bottom line grew anyway because of increases to employee health insurance, contributions to the state’s retirement program and contractual raises for teachers. The district also increased its subsidy of the school lunch program, and set aside additional money for students to use buses for field trips and travel to Pembroke Academy.