Barrington FTM voters: Use school budget increase for teachers

Superintendent says additional $242K will pay for administrative position

By Josh Bickford
Posted 5/25/23

Barrington residents voted to raise the school budget increase from $2.5 million to $2.7 million at Wednesday night’s financial town meeting.

Some taxpayers asked school officials to …

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Barrington FTM voters: Use school budget increase for teachers

Superintendent says additional $242K will pay for administrative position


Barrington residents voted to raise the school budget increase from $2.5 million to $2.7 million at Wednesday night’s financial town meeting.

Some taxpayers asked school officials to guarantee that the additional money (a total of $242,049 proposed by Barrington resident Morgan Hellmold) would go toward hiring more teachers, but Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore said the funds would pay for a new administrative position: an assistant director of curriculum. 

Messore said the new administrator would offer support to teachers as they cope with state mandates and a push for higher standardized test scores. 

But the call for another administrator met resistance from members of the School Committee, the Committee on Appropriations, a Barrington teacher, and residents in the audience. 

Devin Smith said the school district had added two administrators in the last two years, referring to a new human resources director position and a communications director. At the same time, the school administration has been a disaster, Smith said. He added that Barrington teachers spoke out against creating a new assistant director of curriculum. 

Smith said residents want more teachers and better schools, but not more administrators. 

Mary Roberts, a longtime teacher in Barrington, said the district planned to reduce the number of sixth-grade teachers. (Messore had earlier explained that a slight decrease in next year’s sixth grade student population would be coupled with one less sixth grade teacher.) Roberts said the move to eliminate a sixth grade teacher position would negatively impact teachers and the students they educate. 

Thomas “TR” Rimoshytus said residents wanted to see more teachers hired, not more administrators.

He asked school officials to guarantee that the $242,049 increase would be used for educators and not for an additional administrative position. (Barrington School Committee Chairman Patrick McCrann said officials could not make that guarantee on a bottom line budget, but added that the Committee had the power to direct how money was spent.)

John Taylor said it was time for school officials to tighten up the budget. He said it was not clear what officials planned to use the additional increase for and needed to better explain it. 

Shelli Edgar told meeting attendees that Barrington school teachers oppose the creation of an assistant director of curriculum. Edgar said she would not support the motion. 

Barrington School Committee member TJ Peck said he believed the assistant director of curriculum post had been officially withdrawn from budget consideration at an earlier School Committee meeting. 

Officials asked Messore if he wanted to respond to that point, but the superintendent said “No comment.”

Committee on Appropriations Chairman Stephen Primiano said the school department had increased staffing by more than two dozen positions over the years. He said the district was also able to cover the loss of $1.2 million in state aid in the current school year and will still finish with a surplus. 

Primiano said he believes the school department could absorb the reduction to the budget increase and still complete its mission. 

COA member Bill DeWitt told residents that the school budget is a bottom-line budget — he said school officials have the final say about how the money is spent. DeWitt said that if a teaching position is the priority, then school officials have the power to fund it. He said administrators just need to prioritize what positions are funded and which ones are pushed to a future budget cycle. 

School Committee member Megan Douglas said officials had already made a series of difficult cuts and reductions to the school budget. She referenced the complexity of the school budget. 

Douglas’s husband, Scott Douglas, encouraged residents to vote for the $242,049 increase. Sarah O’Brien said the school district’s electricity bill was more than $400,000 and if officials put solar panels on the schools then they would have that money to spend on the budget. 

Tinsley Kampmier-Williamson said cutting the school budget makes the statement that the town did not value its teachers. 

Maddie Lauria said it was important for the district to fully support students’ needs, especially as the state will be pressing for higher test scores. 

Committee on Appropriations member John Stafford called for voters to invest in local schools.  

School Committee member Frazier Bell said he would support the motion to add the money back into the school budget increase if it would mean the expansion of a middle school foreign language program, but, he added, it would not. He said the money will go to another administrator. 

After the lengthy discussion, Town Moderator Richard Staples called for a voice vote. The ayes were loud, but the nays were also quite loud. 

Staples called for a standing vote.

The results: 109 in favor of adding $242,049 into the school budget increase, 62 opposed. 

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