Superintendent's proposed budget includes return of sports to East Providence middle schools
EAST PROVIDENCE — Superintendent Kim Mercer presented a draft budget for the department's Fiscal Year 2013-14 to the East Providence School Committee at its meeting Monday night, Sept. 23, the proposal among other items of value including a provision to bring back sports in some form to the system's two middle schools.
Superintendent Mercer implemented a $75,000 line item to fund sports at both Riverside and Martin, a very small component of the School Department's proposed overall budget of $72,858,459. The total requested would be a 2.468 percent increase ($1,798,208) over the $71,060,251 the Budget Commission allotted to the department for FY12-13. Middle school sports were not funded by the Commission last year.
"I'm happy to say we will be reinstating middle school sports as much as we can," the superintendent, overseeing her first budget since being hired for the job last spring, explained. "We will fund sports as much as possible."
While setting aside money for middle school sports as well as the same $75,000 towards transportation for athletic teams throughout the district, Superintendent Mercer did call both figures "iffy." She said she will have more definitive numbers for each item in the coming days and weeks after meeting with the system's new athletic director Bob Duarte.
Questioned by a member of the public, Superintendent Mercer also said the $75,000 figure for middle school sports did not include salaries for coaches. It is intended for uniforms, league fees, officials and transportation among other costs. The situation regarding the possibility of paying coaches is another point she will discuss with the athletic director as well as the teachers union. The coaching positions were part of the bargaining unit prior to sports being done away with at the middle school level.
Mr. Duarte's ascent to the director of athletics position was one of nine appointments approved by the Committee Monday evening. He replaces Paul Amaral, who resigned from the post three weeks ago.
In another sports related item, the superintendent set aside $5,000 for pool rental fees this winter, meaning both the East Providence High School boys' and girls' swim programs will continue despite the closure of the campus facility. Superintendent Mercer also said she plans to continue to hold discussions with Marshall Muir, owner and operator of Envious Swimming, about the possibility of having the EPHS operated privately.
More budget notes
Most aspects of the superintendent's proposed FY13-14 budget remain at least level funded, including Special Education which saw its line item move from $8.652 million to $8.7 million.
Technology funding would be increased from roughly $661,000 to $680,000, the superintendent saying there is an imminent need to purchase computers for students to use in preparation for the implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) testing in 2014. Some $240,000 would be used for this purpose.
Superintendent Mercer added approximately $125,000 to the instructional supplies line item, bringing that number up to $500,000. Also, the superintendent has added $30,000 for the purchase of textbooks, something that was not funded at all a year ago.
"That was an area of concern. Last year we did not have enough supplies to meet the needs of students," she said. "And even though a lot of times we're using the web as resource, we still are using textbooks in the classroom."
Superintendent Mercer also made reference to a $500,000 set-aside for legal claims, an item she said will hopefully be reduced significantly in the near term.
"There are some continuances out there that hopefully will be taken care of this year that will bring that number way down," she said.
And last but not least, the superintendent noted the addition of a line item valued at $615,000 earmarked for capital expenses in a continuing effort towards maintenance and upkeep of the system's facilities.
"I would like to thank all the directors and coordinators who poured over and over and over this budget with us as we tried to redirect money towards supporting our goals for the department," Superintendent Mercer concluded.
More meeting notes
Besides Mr. Duarte, eight other appointments were approved by the Committee Monday.
Robert Anastasi was appointed as the yearbook advisor and Richard Pacheco was hired as a custodian, both at East Providence High School.
Kim Forest was named head teacher at Whiteknact Elementary while Kelly Vasey was appointed to the same position at Kent Heights Elementary. Laura Laviano was named NECAP coordinator at Francis Elementary.
Barbara McIntosh was approved as a reading specialist at Riverside Middle School.
In addition, Anthony Carroll was hired as a HVAC maintenance mechanic and Paul Santos a plumber for the district.
Committee member Anthony Ferreira briefly questioned the capabilities of the two new employees and asked if there would still be a need to hire outside experts to handle some heating and plumbing projects.
City Facilities Director Ed Catelli said both Messrs. Carroll and Santos were "two very qualified individuals." Mr. Santos, in particular, is a licensed plumber, boilerman and pipe fitter. Mr. Catelli said it is "very hard to find a someone with one of those licenses never mind all three."