Town Crier

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.

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