WAKEFIELD – With the State scrambling to bridge it’s nearly $1 billion budget shortfall, it was only a matter of time before education was affected. For Wakefield Community Schools, that time has come.
Monday night, the Wakefield Community Schools Board of Education voted to cut full time equivalent (FTE) hours from some of its programs like vocal and instrumental music and library services, according to Superintendent Mark Bejot.
“We are reducing one half FTE in each of the areas at this point. It’s still not done – they’re still subject to hearings and things like that that may happen,” Bejot said.
Roughly 70 members of the public, faculty and students attended the meeting to try to sway the Board away from touching the programs, citing that the Arts are just as important as any other core class and that students who study music tend to do better in math and science.
The school district felt changes needed to be made to help get through the next budget cycle. A big part of the uncertainty with the district’s budget stems from decisions made in Lincoln, and how the school has to operate legally. At this point, however, the Board opted to plan for the worst-case scenario, budget-wise.
“The difficulty is that when the legislature decided to move the date back for State aid certification to June 1, that created a lot of problems because we have to make our hiring decisions by statute by the 15th of April,” Bejot said.
That left the district unsure how to move forward with renewing contracts for faculty in those programs while staying comfortably within budget. Bejot ensured the Board that the programs would not be cut, but some hours would be reduced.
Though some members of the public where visibly and, in some cases, audibly upset by the Board’s decision, Bejot was encouraged by seeing so many at the meeting, especially students.
“I was pleased that people were concerned and they had an opportunity to express their opinions about what the School Board was looking to do and the decisions that we were looking to make,” Bejot said. “I liked seeing the kids there I think it’s an opportunity for them to have some exposure and some experience with local government.”
The next Wakefield Community Schools Board of Education meeting was set for April 10th at 7 p.m.