Mount Abe, Bristol Elementary budgets deserve support
Please vote YES for the operating budgets for Mount Abraham Union High and Bristol Elementary schools.
I have been present at almost all of the BES, Mt. Abe, and supervisory union boards and executive committee meetings since Feb. 9. I have heard the difficult conversations between the boards and community members. I have personally dissected and analyzed the budgets in great detail.
There are many unsettling issues swirling around our Addison Northeast Supervisory Union district at the moment, but those issues are separate from the budgets. They are being addressed and will be resolved through different processes and timelines.
Our budgets have to be passed NOW.
For the second re-votes, 2.5 positions were put back into BES and 2.3 back into Mt. Abe. The money is just NOT there this third time to return more positions.
Despite that and current cuts, these budgets DO meet the academic, social and emotional needs of our kids. The curriculum, programs and support services will continue in a manner that is in the best interests of every child, just as they are now. They may look different as they are realigned to match staffing, but our administrators, faculty and staff are engaged in designing both master schedules to ensure continuity in a manner that the students and community currently have and expect to carry on.
The BES student to teacher ratios are NOT low, they are in fact quite appropriate (2015-2016 projected numbers: kindergarten, 13:1; first grade, 20:1; second grade, 18:1; grades 3/4, 19:1; grades 5/6, 22:1). Mt. Abe’s are also appropriate.
The reason the number of adults in the schools has remained constant while student enrollment has decreased is because of the increase in students’ needs for support. The fewer students we do enroll are coming in with greater and greater academic, social and emotional needs. If left unaddressed, learning for all is hindered. Unfortunately, the supports for those needs have been shifted from community service agency budgets to our school budgets, increasing our personnel costs.
We are taking care of the BES roof and north parking lot now, in this current budget, before June 30 budget year-end. Both facilities will be taken care of next year and going forward. Occupant health and safety are paramount.
Initially, there was tremendous faculty/para-educator/parental resistance to the proposed budgets because the cuts were conducted without staff input. It was unclear and somewhat frightening as to how students’ education and needs would be met. That tide has turned as more and more folks are getting on board with these proposed cuts now that faculty have started working with the administration on the master schedules and see that, in fact, these organizational changes will work.
Enough people have resigned or retired from their positions so that the other people that would have been Reduced in Force (RIF) because their positions were RIF’d will actually be able to retain some position, not necessarily the one they were in that got RIF’d, but an appropriate position.
While our other swirling issues are complicated and require significant time and effort to address, our current budgetary situation is simple. If these budgets get voted down again, we are in serious danger. There is no money to increase the budgets to add back in staff/programming, and there are no more budget lines that can be further reduced to lower budgets/property taxes. That would cut infrastructure essentials and existing programs, drastically reducing our educational quality.
And, unfortunately, it is pointless to vote the budgets down to give the ANeSU District Office a “message.” They have already reduced their assessment by $75,000, and they have firmly stated they will not reduce it again. Please, I appeal to you, we have to stop harming our students and schools.
It may seem counterintuitive to vote YES for both budget re-votes, but the money cutting and program tweaking simply will not get any better. Budgets are fluid, so the proposed program cuts are not totally set in stone. The ENDS Policy has to be met, and folks will do what needs to be done to ensure our educational quality continues.
I have complete and total faith in Ellen Repstad, the grades 7/8 faculty, and the remaining Mt. Abe administration and faculty in that they will make the incoming 7/8 teams and all other programs work, and work well. I have the same confidence in Sandy Jump and her BES teams to do the same for BES.
These new proposed budgets meet the educational and support needs of students, are fiscally responsible, and attend to the infrastructure of our schools. We do have amazing schools, faculty/staff, students, and community. I am excited to work with the boards, schools and community to move forward in a positive manner.
I am absolutely comfortable voting yes for both budgets. I hope this information helps you to vote YES for both budgets, and then encourage others to do the same.
Allison Sturtevant, Parent at BES and Mt. Abe, Bristol
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