WELLSBORO — For more than three hours, Wellsboro Area School District directors hammered out details of the 2019-20 budget in anticipation of a vote next week and delaying the start of the work session by more than 90 minutes.
The discussion waged back and forth over what a curriculum director does and whether the administrative team can take on that responsibility. Directors polled principals and teachers as to their preference of a curriculum coordinator versus assistant principals.
At issue is funding all three administrative positions, which would increase 2019-20 proposed expenses by $140,000. The proposed budget would raise taxes by 2%, but directors said they are not willing to increase it to the Act I index, which is 2.9%. Director Sue Judlin said she will not go to the index until the district demonstrates it is willing to make cuts.
Director John Hoover asked how to do that since 70-80% of expenses are staffing. Superintendent Dr. Brenda Freeman said cuts have been made including retirement buy-outs and adding revenue with the dual enrollments for the aviation program.
The discussion often resulted in blunt words from the board to administrators and to each another.
Director Chris Gastrock said he finds it “mind boggling” that Freeman cannot take on the curriculum coordinator responsibilities given her past experience in that role. He said he would not pass a budget if the district “continues to play money games.”
“We’re all pretending we know what a curriculum director does,” said Hoover. “You’re walking a dangerous line getting rid of a curriculum director and expecting things to remain the same. My advice to you is you might slide backwards rather than go forward.”
Assistant principals, explained Freeman and principals Rob Kreger and Steve Adams, can handle discipline, evaluate teachers, staff training, interact with parents and the day-to-day responsibilities of principals. While the superintendent helps the district achieve its goals, said Freeman, a curriculum coordinator would would align curriculum for all grades, set up student interventions, and be responsible for reporting to the state.
“My time is better spent working with people and entering data,” said Freeman.
Director Dave Messineo said he supports replacing Pietropola, but not this year. He lobbied for “setting the stage” for a curriculum coordinator to be successful by creating metrics for success and developing a technology strategy for every classroom.
“We’re ignoring what’s obvious. We need to make changes and we can’t do that without measurements,” said Messineo.
Director Kacy Hagan asked whether morphed assistant principal positions that incorporated curriculum coordinator responsibilities would work. Freeman said that would be a workable compromise. Adams said asking administrators to take on more responsibilities is do-able, but it will take longer to accomplish what the district wants.
The consensus of the board from a straw poll was to flatline the administrative budget for 2019-20. Superintendent Dr. Brenda Freeman said the final budget will not fill the position of curriculum coordinator vacated with the resignation of Mike Pietropola, but include two assistant principals at the middle and high schools. The middle school position will include curriculum development responsibilities and the high school will have athletic director responsibilities. The board also indicated support to hire two additional teachers.
A vote on the 2019-020 budget is scheduled for next Tuesday, June 11, starting at 6:30 p.m. In case the budget fails, the board will meet on June 21 for another vote to meet the June 30 deadline.