DOVER — Three social workers, a district-wide English to Speakers of Other Languages paraeducator and a high school social studies teacher are among the new position requests in the city school district’s proposed budget for the 2023-24 school year.
The School Board on Tuesday approved a budget of just under $78.9 million, sending it to the City Council, which finalizes the city budget. The fiscal year 2024 proposal represents a 6.26% increase over the current fiscal year budget of $74.2 million.
The bottom line proposal exceeds the school district’s portion of the Dover tax cap calculation by just over $1.1 million.
Adding in a special revenue fund total of close to $6.3 million, the school district’s budget proposal for the upcoming academic year is just over $85.1 million.
Which Dover school jobs would be cut and a look at the new positions
Eleven existing full-time teaching positions — six across the city’s elementary schools and five at Dover Middle School — were cut from the budget due to lower student enrollment at the elementary and middle school levels, according to the district.
“The budget includes a cost-neutral staffing plan that addresses lower enrollments at the elementary and middle school levels, while expanding educational opportunities for students at the high school and career technical center,” a message from Dover schools Superintendent William Harbron and district business administrator Lines by Michael Limann. “The staffing plan also includes significant student and staffing support services at all three levels.”
Although each of the three Dover elementary schools would lose two full-time teaching positions in the budget proposal for next fiscal year, the proposal calls for each elementary school to appoint eight team leaders for the 2023-24 school year. The two dozen team leader positions, stipends paid to existing staff members, are proposed to cost $30,600 collectively.
A district description of the team leader positions states they “will bridge the gap of the school improvement plan — helping to ensure that decisions on teams align with the district’s and school’s mission, vision, and strategic plan.”
If the budget is approved as proposed, the elementary schools would also have one social worker floating between the campuses. Dover Middle School would have its own social worker, as would Dover High School.
The middle school would receive funding to hire a special education teacher and an instructional coach, too, which the district stated would “deliver timely instructional professional development directly to the classroom; helping predict and get ahead of issues as well as introduce new and supportive instructional materials.”
Dover High School would be allocated money to hire a school psychologist, a special education teacher, a library aide, a jazz band director, two percussion instructors and a marching band drill writer, among other additions.
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At the Dover Regional Career Technical Center, both a building trades teacher and a sports medicine teacher would be bumped up to full-time next fiscal year in the district’s budget proposal.
Kori Kennedy, director of the Career and Technical Center, said the stigma against career technical education no longer exists and parents are seeking out courses at the center for their children.
“It’s a really good time for (the) CTC, and as we all know, there are so many benefits to these kids. Especially now, kids who are experiencing mental health issues, they find this connection with CTC and it gives them the hook to want to continue to go to school,” she said to the board. “The CTC positions are just so important and these two in particular, moving the two part-time teachers to full-time will really open up a lot of opportunities.”
Dover School Board chair one of two members who did not support the budget
On a 5-2 vote, the board adopted the proposed budget. Voting against the budget, which does not comply with the city tax cap, were School Board chairperson Carolyn Mebert and board member Michelle Clancy.
Maggie Fogarty, a School Board member representing Ward 1, stated that choosing whether to keep or cut positions, as well as deciding which ones to add, is a “mentally and spiritually painful” process worthy of reexamination.
“That we’re always choosing between those things because of artificial scarcity, it is not good and we need to be advocating in every realm that we can for a system that’s more human and more just,” she said.
Dover City Council has final say on the budget
The City Council will soon start reviewing department budgets and will decide on a final citywide budget in early spring. The timeline for when the school department would submit a budget proposal to city leadership was moved up this year, in order to spare the district any uncertainty on funding and whether they could afford to keep educators employed.
School Board members said Tuesday they are not finished editing the budget proposal, with some hoping to move the bottom line figure closer to the district’s portion of the tax cap.
“This year’s escalated budget timeline forced the board to make decisions based on a number of projections that may potentially change as we progress towards the City’s budget hearing in March. With all four bargaining unit contracts up for renegotiation (teachers, paras, office staff and administrators), we should expect additional budget discussions and revisions,” Harbron and Limanni’s message states.
The Dover school district is tentatively scheduled to have a budget meeting with the City Council on Feb. 22. A public hearing on the school district’s budget will be held during a City Council budget meeting currently scheduled for March 8.