The Board of Education on Wednesday night approved a $100,748,192 budget proposal, a 3.3 percent increase over last year. The spending plan, which passed on a 7-2 vote, will now be sent to the Board of Aldermen.
Two members of the board, Sandra Ziehm and Dotty Oden, voted against the final proposal because of last minute changes that reduced the plan to hire four new elementary teachers to two new teachers. Both Ziehm and Oden had consistently advocated for more resources and support for classroom instruction throughout the budget hearings.
At Wednesday night’s final public hearing, several guidance counselors and teachers shared their concerns over a plan to cut two high school guidance counselors. Several gave examples of the emotional and psychological turmoil some Nashua students face. They stressed that guidance counselors and social workers enable students to get the help and services they need to succeed in school.
“Your job is to say no, you can’t cut anymore,” Stephanie Keating-Bayrd, a teacher at Fairgrounds Middle School, told board members.
“It’s about the kids and putting your money where your mouth is,” she said.
Jean Bennett, a guidance counselor at Nashua High School South, explained that the role of guidance counselors has evolved and the job is not limited to helping students apply to colleges as many may think.
After listening to the comments, the board voted to reverse their decision to cut two guidance counselors, but in exchange they agreed to limit the new hires for elementary schools to two new teachers.
That decision was made in part because of the opening of Gate City Charter School for the Arts, which will reduce Nashua’s elementary school enrollment by roughly 100 to 120 students when it opens in September.
Several people came to the hearing to oppose the board’s budget proposal.
Fred Teeboom questioned the board’s priorities and stressed that the school district was asking for more than its share under the city’s spending cap.
Mayor Donnalee Lozeau asked the board to limit this year’s increase to 2.1 percent, and several members of the Board of Aldermen asked the Board of Education to make cuts that will enable the city to accept the budget proposal.
Members of the Board of Education are hopeful that the city will accept the budget as is, however, they also acknowledge they may be forced to make additional cuts in the upcoming months.