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Mary Hogan sees a proposed spending hike of 4.5%

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury voters on April 10 will be asked to approve a 2013-2014 Mary Hogan Elementary School budget of $6,418,788, reflecting a 4.46-percent increase in spending that would preserve current programs and beef up science, technology, engineering and math instruction.
The proposed budget does not include a second-language (Spanish) program that the ID-4 school board has been discussing for the past few years. The board elected to take a pass on such a program, at an estimated cost of $144,671, in favor of a greater focus on math and sciences.
Tom Buzzell, co-principal of the Mary Hogan School, said ID-4 school district officials decided to delay implementation of a second-language program so that it can be done in concert with the other elementary schools in the Addison Central Supervisory Union. Seven elementary schools in the district send students to Middlebury Union middle and high schools.
“There is a feeling that there needs to be a coordinated ACSU plan for second language instruction so that there can be equity throughout the district,” Buzzell said.
Meanwhile, the school has decided to double-down on science. The ID-4 board is proposing to add 60 percent of a full-time-equivalent teaching position (at a cost of $43,429) to fortify math and science instruction. This will allow the school to, among other things, increase students’ technology literacy; integrate engineering concepts and skills within elementary science topics; and extend some specialized programs for the most proficient students.
Bottom line, according to Buzzell: Students will be given more real-world applications for their learning as opposed to merely reading about science and math concepts in a textbook. Pertinent props, experiments and demonstrations would be increasingly woven into the curriculum.
“We are getting this direction from the experts on science education, who are asking that sciences not be taught in isolation, but in a way that we interact with it in the real world,” Buzzell said. “The real push here will be that this will be inquiry-based, materials-rich science.”
It is an approach that ID-4 officials believe will allow students to a gain better understanding of career opportunities at an earlier age.
“I want to expose them to this whole range of real-world technology and engineering so that we are uncovering those possibilities for kids through these school experiences,” he said.
Other factors influencing the proposed 2013-2014 budget include:
•  Adding 15 minutes per day of compensated time for paraprofessionals, amounting to $25,500. This comes in conjunction with the board’s decision to lengthen the school day by 15 minutes, as allowed by the current teachers’ contract.
•  Additional reading instructional materials, at a cost of $9,000.
•  $27,406 for school-based clinician services provided to some students through the Counseling Service of Addison County.
•  A combined total of $16,850 for various school improvements, including landscaping; and replacement of bathroom stalls, some furniture and carpets.
•  $3,000 for new computer purchases.
•  $3,000 for professional development.
Buzzell also noted the school’s health insurance costs are pegged to go up 11 percent and not by the 14 percent originally forecast. That’s a difference of $22,000.
Residents at the annual ID-4 meeting, to be held at the Middlebury school on April 10, will also be asked to place $100,000 (from fund balance) into an education reserve fund.
Officials expect enrollment next year to grow by a handful of students (there are currently 400). Because of that, and variables associated with Middlebury’s Common Level of Appraisal (CLA), the town’s K-12 homestead education property tax rate is expected to rise by around 7 cents per $100 in property value if both the ID-4 and high school/middle school budgets pass. The CLA is an equalization ratio used to adjust the assessed value of property within a municipality to its estimated fair market value. Each municipality’s CLA is used to calculate its actual homestead and non-residential education property tax rates.
Karen Lefkoe, chairwoman of the ID-4 school board, said she hopes Middlebury voters will support the proposed budget.
“I think it is a good budget that meets all of our needs and will expand our science program a bit,” Lefkoe said. “It is a budget that is fiscally responsible but that covers all the great programs we offer our children.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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