WOONSOCKET — The state Budget Commission running city affairs hasn't yet solved a known $4 million funding shortfall in this year's $67 million school budget but that won't keep School Superintendent Giovanna Donoyan from asking for additional positions when the panel meets today.
Donoyan received approval from the School Committee Wednesday night to post existing vacancies in the school department including new positions at the elementary level caused by new student enrollments. Positions on that list not already under consideration by the Budget Commission will have to be given the greenlight by the commissioners before they can actually be filled.
Donoyan told the School Committee new enrollments that were continuing to surface even this week resulted in the need to hire a new kindergarten teacher and a teacher assistant for that teacher's classroom as well as a one-on-one special education teacher assistant for a newly-arrived student.
The arrival of 40 new kindergarten students in the district thus far required the creation of new half-day kindergarten classes at the Edward Harris and Gov. Aram Pothier elementary schools, Donoyan said. The new teacher will be at Harris in the morning and at Pothier in the afternoon, Donoyan said. That position is not budgeted currently, but Donoyan said the committee was aware of the “necessity to have a qualified, certified teacher in front of the new registrants.”
The new kindergarten enrollments total 40 students thus far but Donoyan also warned that students were continuing to enroll in Woonsocket even Wednesday and that those additional numbers could push her to consider further staffing additions to address them. Elementary classrooms by contract cannot host more than 25 students without the district paying added fees to teachers until the students can be moved. Donoyan told the committee she will have a better understanding of the district’s staffing needs when it finalizes this year's enrollment figures for a required Oct. 1 report to the state Department of Education.
The teacher assistant position for the kindergarten classroom will be funded through the department's federal Title 1 grants and the special education one-on-one post from district funding, Donoyan said. The one-on-one post is for a new student with special needs who enrolled at the Globe Park Elementary School.
The enrollment increases have also resulted in the need for a grade 5 teacher at the Citizens Memorial Elementary and a new librarian at that school, also from local funding, according to Donoyan.
The panel voted unanimously to approve all five positions before moving on to a review of posting requests Donoyan was seeking for positions that have been under review by the committee for several weeks. Some of those positions, such as an Instructional Technology Specialist for the secondary schools and a Network Director have already had job descriptions and postings approved unanimously by the committee but are still awaiting Budget Commission approval. Donoyan told the committee the Budget Commission is currently reviewing whether those posts might be shared with the city in a consolidation effort that has also been suggested for the school department's finance director post.
The committee agreed unanimously to forward the vacancy for the high school's e-learning Academy teacher post to the Budget Commission and voted 4 to 1 with School Committeewoman Anita McGuire-Forcier opposed to send along an $89,481 Race to the Top Educator Effectiveness Administor position for Budget Commission consideration. It took ook similar action on a vacant position of confidential secretary to the superintendent. Forcier argued that since it doesn't appear the district's shortfall will be covered with negotiated savings, the department shouldn't be filling vacant positions at this time.
The committee voted to deny Donoyan requests for a federally-funded coordinator position that is intended to improve the district's support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics instruction. The panel declined to approve creation of a job description for the new coordinator on a 3-2 vote, overruling Chairwoman Vimala Phongsavanh and member John Donlon, or post the job. Phongsavanh argued in favor of the posting saying that failure to take that action could cause the department to lose federal funds.
"I'm just very cautious about throwing money back to the federal government. We shouldn't be doing that," Phongsavanh said while pointing to the department's unresolved financial needs.