Proposed budget for 2015-16 school debated by BOE and Landon

Anders Hovstadius and Becca Rawiszer, Staff Writers

During the February Board of Education meeting, a budget increase was proposed by Superintendent Elliott Landon. The majority of the budget increase goes into two categories: literacy coaches and school security. Literacy coaches are professionals who work directly with teachers in their professional development rather than with students. This will primarily be in the elementary schools.

Landon presented an initial 3.75 percent or $4,091,509 increase from this year’s budget. However, at the end of the meeting, the board trimmed the budget down to $111,500,000, only a 2.08 percent increase from last year.

“Just like top athletes have coaches to help them improve their game, teachers need coaches to help them continually improve their practice,” Julie Droller, Director of Elementary Education said about the new posiition.

Literacy coaches work in professional development, where a coach can model a teaching strategy or method or debrief and follow-up with the teacher. Coaches can also co-teach and provide guidance and feedback. It is meant to be a model of professional development that transforms a teacher’s practice.

The other half of the budget deals with one of the largest hurdles schools face: school security. Despite past efforts to increase and improve the security within the district, school security has still been a concern for many schools across the state.

“I have included in my proposed 2015-16 school budget a major effort to expand our security needs consistent with the Kroll security report, specifically the addition of a dedicated security person in each school that does not already have one on staff,” Landon stated in his letter to the BOE.

While Staples already has a security person at the front desk, other schools that do not should expect to receive one.

The new budget will include several changes to Staples, primarily for educational purposes. New classes that will be offered next year as a result include AP Computer Science Principles, Animal Behavior, Zoology and Lifeguarding.

Ryan Angerthal ’16 thinks “it is very exciting that Staples is branching out with the courses they offer.” Having experiences as a lifeguard, Angerthal was intrigued by the new lifeguarding course Staples will be providing next year. “I think the lifeguarding class is pretty cool for the people who lifeguard so they won’t be rusty when summer rolls around.”

Additionally, Kindergarteners will receive 30 more minutes of music class each week.

“I’m excited about the new Kindergarten music initiative,” Michael Gordon, Chairman of the BOE, said. “Music in early childhood helps enormously with a child’s cognitive development.”

Despite, the fact that the initial budget has been reduced, Droller has hopes that “Westport will be able to meet individual needs of diverse learners, making sure that every student meets the Common Core Standards and helping students develop the habits of mind and dispositions to be successful and productive citizens and lifelong learners.”