School budget priorities include new teachers and courses

Principals also want to evaluate social emotional learning program

By Josh Bickford
Posted 1/27/23

If the Barrington School Department has millions in its capital reserve account, why not use some of the money to purchase a bus needed to transport students in the special education …

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School budget priorities include new teachers and courses

Principals also want to evaluate social emotional learning program

Posted

If the Barrington School Department has millions in its capital reserve account, why not use some of the money to purchase a bus needed to transport students in the special education program?

Barrington School Committee member TJ Peck asked that question during Thursday night’s meeting, as officials began to wade into the school budget process. 

The early part of the discussion offered the principals of all six schools in town an opportunity to share their requests for the upcoming budget. And shortly after the teachers finished their presentations, school committee members offered some of their own priorities. 

School Committee member Dr. Megan Douglas asked administrators if there was a way to find funding for a bus for students enrolled in the Life Skills program at Barrington High School. Students visit off-campus locations as part of the program, but officials said there is currently no bus or van to transport the students. 

One official said the district was working on the issue, while another said she was exploring grants or possibly federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. 

Peck offered a more direct approach. 

The first-term School Committee member asked if officials could dip into the school department’s capital reserve account to pay for the bus. 

The account, which is filled with prior budget surplus money, reportedly has between $10 and 15 million in it. 

Barrington Schools Director of Finance and Administration Doug Fiore said money from that account could be used to purchase a van. 

Officials stopped short of making any decision about whether to follow Peck’s suggestion. 

Principals’ priorities

The principals of Barrington’s six public schools took turns detailing their budget priorities during the School Committee meeting on Thursday, Jan. 26.

First up were the K-3 elementary school principals, Melissa Moniz (Nayatt), Coleen Smith (Primrose Hill), and Jim Callahan (Sowams). They listed six priorities, including two areas that were related to student enrollment and space issues. 

Callahan also mentioned that Sowams School was in the process of working toward National Blue Ribbon distinction. Barrington Superintendent of Schools Mike Messore said the review process required for a Blue Ribbon is very beneficial to school officials — in fact, the process is even more important that the award itself, he said. 

School Committee members spoke about the district’s pre-kindergarten program, and suggested the topic be discussed in depth at a future meeting. 

School Committee Chairman Patrick McCrann said the situation at Primrose Hill School, which houses the pre-kindergarten program, needs to addressed. Peck agreed. He said pre-kindergarten is essential — “an integral and important part of our mission” — but suggested officials consider offering preK at multiple sites. 

Fellow School Committee member Frazier Bell said he fully supports preK in Barrington Schools, but was very concerned about crowding issues at Primrose Hill. 

Gino Sangiuliano, the principal at Hampden Meadows Schools, offered a list of four priorities, including a long-term goal to have the local school attain a National Blue Ribbon. He said the teachers at Hampden Meadows School are ready for the challenge. 

Barrington Middle School Principal Andrew Anderson listed the priorities for the Grades 6-8 school. Included on the list is the expansion of the World Languages program, and a move to have all the clusters feature four-teacher teams. Currently, two of the clusters have three-teacher teams. Anderson said it is difficult for teachers to attain certifications in two subject areas; currently some teachers on three-person teams need to teach two subjects.

Messore said the need for double-certification has, at times, made the teacher hiring process more difficult for the district. 

Anderson said he is hoping to add one new teacher this year and another one next. 

Barrington High School Principal Chris Ashley shared a list of eight priorities. Like the other principals, Ashley referenced the evaluation of the school’s social emotional learning program. He also included the expansion of elective courses at the high school, specifically in social studies and science. Messore said the push for more electives has been student-driven.

Ashley also prioritized a new hire to help with special education support for world languages and other core subject classrooms. And Ashley was happy to announce the addition of a new audio engineering CTE (Career and Technical Education) program. 

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