Add AP classes, sports to possible Brunswick school budget cuts
BRUNSWICK — Advanced Placement courses and freshman sports are among the latest additions to programs that could be cut in the fiscal 2013 school budget.
Cutbacks at Brunswick High School were the subject of Wednesday night's School Board budget workshop, the latest in a series of meetings that have highlighted the gravity of the town's school funding crisis.
In order to cope with a nearly $3 million funding gap, Superintendent Paul Perzanoski has proposed reductions to nearly every academic department at the high school. He has said that the cuts will disproportionately affect the district's older students, because the town's elementary schools absorbed the brunt of reductions the past few years.
The new cuts could eliminate many Advanced Placement and honors classes, including calculus, pre-calculus, European history, French, Latin, physics and human anatomy. They could also curtail enrollment in consumer education, environmental science and fitness, among other electives.
The possible course reductions, Assistant Principal Pete Gardiner explained, were determined according to which teachers are likely to be laid off and what their specialties are. Upper-level classes were the first ones to be dropped, so that staff would be available for teaching required classes.
But this approach upset many of the parents and residents who spoke after Perzanoski's presentation.
Lisa Martin, a reading recovery teacher at Coffin Elementary, said advanced learners deserve as much attention as those who need extra help.
"I fear that colleges will start to look at Brunswick differently if our programming changes," she said.
Angelo Girardi, a sophomore at Brunswick High School, also asked the board to spare AP classes and consumer education.
"I was saving that class for my senior year," he said, "I don’t think that it should be something that you should put at the top of your cut list."
Board members also weren't happy about the possibility of losing AP classes.
Michelle Small objected to the math cuts in particular, expressing concern about what advanced students would do in their senior year without calculus.
In addition to programming cuts, Perzanoski has also suggested laying off one assistant principal at the high school and a guidance counselor, which would increase the average counselor's load to 246 students.
With an annual budget of less than $63,000, freshman sports once again could be on the chopping block, although the proposal generated little discussion on Wednesday night.
Brunswick Junior High School could also see across-the-board cuts, including one position each in consumer science, math, language arts, science and social studies, and a resource assistant.
To cope with the reductions, Perzanoski has suggesting taking two staff from the junior high school's Response to Intervention program, which assists students who are struggling academically.
Elementary school staffing levels would be kept largely unchanged, but could shrink by one art teacher, one educational technician and two resource assistants.
"None of this is easy," Perzanoski said. "We get lots of citizens that come up and say, 'You’ve lost 800 kids. All you have to do is cut a bunch of teachers.' Well, there’s more to it than that."
In her budget, Jean Skorapa, principal of Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School, asked the district to hire an assistant principal. But in his March 21 presentation, Perzanoski said that's unlikely to happen due to financial constraints. On Wednesday, he explained that Stowe does not need as many administrators as the high school.
"I don’t think Jean has to deal with the sort of discipline that they deal with at the high school," Perzanoski said. "Not that Brunswick High School has a lot of discipline problems, but it has enough to be able to warrant at least three administrators."
But School Board member Corinne Perreault questioned that logic.
"I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but I think Jean deserves better than piecemeal support," Perreault said. "I think we are doing a disservice to HBES. It's our second largest school in the district and it’s very light (on administrators.)"
The one bright spot of the otherwise grim meeting was when Perzanoski outlined his vision for how Brunswick's schools could be improved.
Getting the district's burgeoning summer school off the ground would go a long way to help students, and allow teachers looking to step into an administrative role to get more training, he said.
He also discussed designing interdisciplinary classes in humanities, science and math at the high school level, as well as increasing the number of students enrolled in college-level classes.
Before coming to Brunswick, Perzanoski assisted in the creation of a magnet school at a community college campus, something he said helped smooth the transition into college for many high school students.
All of his ideas – except summer school, which could be self-funded – will be possible without additional expenditures, he said.
The next budget workshop is April 5 at 6 p.m. and will cover, among other topics, special education, guidance, health and professional development.