Letter: Little Compton School Committee should support school excellence

To the editor:

We at Little Compton Community First (LCCF) write today in support of a school operating budget that maintains all current teacher and staff numbers along with al current school programs.

At a meeting on February 20, a three-member contingency of the Little Compton School Committee was presented with a draft school operating budget for FY ’15. As of this writing, the draft suggests the elimination of two teacher positions, the reshuffling of middle-school teachers and the possible reduction of several teachers from full-time status. Though the school superintendent and the School Committee have unfortunately been pressured by both the Budget Committee and Town Council to submit the lowest operating budget possible, the current draft includes slightly more than a 3 percent increase over the FY ’14.

Over the past five years, the school operating budget has essentially remained flat-lined as compared to other major town services, and over this same time period the school operating budget’s percentage of the overall town appropriation has steadily decreased. In addition, having contributed nearly $1 million toward expenses which should have been covered by the School Building Project budget, it is clear that the school has more than done its part to help maintain Little Compton’s low tax rate. We all need to be very clear that the school renovation budget – one that was overwhelmingly approved by the town – is and should remain separate from the school operating budget.

School Committee meetings generally include far too much talk of what is affordable and where corners can be cut vs. how we can assure the best possible education for our kids. The School Committee’s primary fiduciary responsibility must be to support the best possible education for our children above all else, and this can only be achieved by properly funding the school. Little Compton can and should continue to offer an excellent education to our children, particularly one that maintains small class sizes – easily one of our school’s most valued assets. Consolidating classrooms and reducing the number of teachers will directly and negatively impact the quality of education our kids receive and would be a needless blow to the morale of all as we make the transition back into the newly renovated school building.

To underfund the school operating budget just as our kids are returning to this wonderful new space defies logic. Further, teachers and students are at this time facing huge challenges  and more pressure than ever as the school aligns to Common Core standards and implements new PARCC standardized testing. Let’s not accept the school being a target and the place to go to solve the town’s financial shortcomings. Our teachers and children should not bear the responsibility of shortsighted decisions being made on their behalf.

As always, LCCF encourages strong civic participation.  With this in mind, please attend the next school budget workshop and School Committee meetings which will happen back-to-back on Friday, Feb 28 at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. respectively at Town Hall. Please be there to show your support for protecting the jobs of all teachers and staff. Please be there to protect the best possible education for the children of Little Compton. The Wilbur & McMahon School is a treasure to our town and community, one that should be fully funded, fully supported and fully protected.

David Middleton

Coordinator, Little Compton Community First

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