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Friday, June 13, 2014

Nashua parents, school board members argue against cutting budget further at aldermen meeting

NASHUA – Parents, teachers and members of the school board urged aldermen to approve the school department’s proposed $100.2 million budget without making any further cuts Thursday night.

Members of the aldermen’s Budget Review Committee got their first explanation for the proposed 3 percent funding increase to the city’s largest department ...

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NASHUA – Parents, teachers and members of the school board urged aldermen to approve the school department’s proposed $100.2 million budget without making any further cuts Thursday night.

Members of the aldermen’s Budget Review Committee got their first explanation for the proposed 3 percent funding increase to the city’s largest department

David Scolera, Nashua resident and parent, said his family considered trying a charter school, but decided to stay in the district.

“We have been disappointed with the number of programs that have been cut,” Scolera said.

Scolera advocated for the school board’s budget over the mayor’s – a difference of about $160,000 – so no further reductions have to be made.

“I ask that you not accept that recommendation. … To be honest, I think the budget is too low, but I know we need to be realistic,” he said.

Board of Education members urged aldermen to avoid further cuts to the school budget.

“I hope that when you make your decision, I hope it will be about the kids,” said school board member Sandra Ziehm.

School board member Kimberly Smith Muise reviewed the driving forces behind the budget for the aldermen.

Aldermen-at-Large Jim Donchess asked what reductions the school board would recommend to meet the mayor’s budget.

“The Board of Education budget is higher than the mayor’s budget. We have provided the board with a list of reductions to meet the mayor’s budget,” Muise said.

Muise went through a of additional list of cuts to shed another $160,000 to meet Mayor Donnalee Lozeau’s bottom line, including reducing the schools’ furniture budget, eliminating one high school teaching position and eliminating one assistant principal position at the high school level. She noted that many public members have come forward and expressed concerns over the additional reductions.

Ward 4 Alderman Pam Brown said she felt the school board had already made sufficient cuts.

“I think we need to stop the bleeding. We need to really invest in our kids … and take care of their future,” Brown said. “The writing’s on the wall. We’ve seen the test scores. I think you’ve made enough cuts, and I don’t think we need to go further.”

Ward 9 Alderman Ken Siegel said he sought advice from a school resource officer, a friend from his personal life, who strongly advised against cutting the assistant principal position.

Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy said the discussion over education funding extends beyond this year’s budget.

“This is a really really hard problem … we have a student population that requires more service,” McCarthy said. “Nashua is dealing with the problems of a large town becoming a small city.”

McCarthy said the city needs buy-in from the community for a better school system.

“We need to put some thought into how we’re going to deal with (the budget) in the long term,” he said

But not everyone was convinced more cuts couldn’t be made.

Ward 3 Alderman David Shoneman said more money doesn’t always lead to improved classroom achievement.

“We do have test scores declining. … The answer doesn’t seem to be found in the budget book I’m afraid,” Shoneman said. “We have seen the budget go up and down, and the test scores don’t reflect that.”

Thursday’s meeting went over its scheduled time, with the aldermen seeking further information on line item allocations.

The conversation on the education budget will continue at the aldermen’s public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday Nashua High School North.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402 or tforbes@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Forbes on Twitter (@Telegraph_TinaF).