WILMINGTON — At a meeting on Jan. 22, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Glenn Brand presented the Superintendent’s FY 2021 (2020-2021 school year) recommended budget to the School Committee.
“I know the title is Superintendent’s budget but it truthfully is far greater than that,” said Brand, as he introduced members of the central office leadership team. “It’s a collaborative budget process.”
Brand introduced two comparison frameworks for the presentation. According to Brand, the Department of Education has designated Radar/DESE communities that can be considered comparable to Wilmington. In addition, the town has also identified comparable communities.
“It’s not just geography, and it’s not just Middlesex league as a sports framework,” said Brand.
After revisions, the non-salary portion of the budget is set to $9,318,630, representing a 1.91 percent increase over last year’s budget. The salary portion is set for $34,403,406, representing a 4.90 percent increase.
Combining the two categories gives an overall allocation of $43,722,036, which marks a 4.25 percent increase over the FY20 budget, which had an overall allocation of $41,939,603.
According to Brand, the new district strategic plan played a role in informing this year’s budget. The current 3-year strategic plan was developed during the spring of the 2019-2020 school year. The new plan included a new mission, vision statement, and core values. Based on these considerations, $75,000 was budgeted specifically for strategic plan initiatives.
Brand identified several areas through which the district aims to increase student services and resources. Student retention figures were offered to contextualize this need.
According to values provided by the Superintendent’s office, 33.8 percent of students in the class of 2022 left the district after grade 8, up from 23 percent in the class of 2018. The majority (80 students) left for Shawsheen Tech and an additional 26 left for private schools.
“When you take a look historically, in that low 30’s range seems to be where we’ve hovered more often than not,” said Brand, suggesting that a few recent years in the low 20’s were outliers.
The office of student support services discussed increasing needs among students within the district. According to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the number of Wilmington students reporting having experienced sexual violence and thoughts of suicide were both above the cohort average. The number of students taking medication or receiving treatment for behavioral, mental health, or emotional problems was also above the cohort average.
Special education services for students were also explored as a need for additional funding. According to statewide statistics, a much smaller percentage of Wilmington special education students are considered in partial inclusion when compared to the state average (three percent versus 15.2 percent). A higher percentage of Wilmington students are considered substantially separate (21.5 percent versus 13.5 percent).
The number of students considered in full inclusion was comparable to other districts (66.6 percent versus 64.3 percent). The number of special education students place out of district was also above average (8.8 percent versus 6.9 percent). Efforts to build in programming to keep students in district, often requires increased staffing levels, which accounts for increased funding recommended in this budget.
To account for identified district needs, the new budget proposes 11.25 new full time equivalent (FTE) positions. These include a team chairperson, board-certified behavioral analyst, social worker at the middle school, special education teacher at the middle school, reading specialist at the Wildwood, districtwide educational assistant, clerical support student services, technician for the office of information technology. The total allowance in the new budget is for 489.6 FTEs.
In addition to increased needs in regards to curriculum instruction, and student support services, the office of information technology has also identified projects that will require funding in the year ahead. These projects include replacements for standing projectors, which generally date to 2013, as well as chromebooks, desktops, and teacher laptops.