Tuesday, April 28, 2015

MERSD’s Track Record of Fiscal Responsibility and Academic Achievement

In the coming weeks, Essex and Manchester face critical votes that will decide the near-term future of the Regional School District.  Students are the driving force behind our budget development process and, as such, Manchester Essex has a reputation of strong academic achievement, high quality faculty, a commitment to small class size and a robust co-curricular program.  These factors have made Manchester Essex a popular place to live and to send children to school.  In fact, over the past seven years, the Manchester Essex resident student population has grown 24% or 281 students. This is greater than the current student population of the Essex Elementary School.

At the same time that we have been growing, our student body has also become more diversified in its needs. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 22.8% or 336 students (the size of the ME Middle School) are identified as “high need.” A student is designated high need if he or she is identified as low income, ELL (English Language Learner), former ELL, or a student with disabilities. While our primary mission is to deliver a traditional academic program, as a public school we are a human services provider, responsible for ensuring that all children can access and progress through the curriculum.  Over the past three years, we have worked to broaden the scope of our programming to meet the needs of all learners.

Through internal reorganizations and the state Community Innovation Grant, MERSD developed model in-house Special Education programs that not only fulfill our mission of inclusion but also reduce expensive out-of-district placements with a $685,000 annual net savings to taxpayers.  Cost avoidance in this area was a key factor in managing the additional expense of enrollment growth.  By reducing costs in this area, MERSD was able to avoid program cuts and maintain our robust core program.   The K-12 program, which consistently ranks within the top 10% of MA schools, provides individualized tiered instruction, extensive honors and Advanced Placement programs at the secondary level, and a wide-range of state and nationally recognized co-curricular programs. While students may spend time in different classrooms during the day, they work together to celebrate their interests and passions in the halls and playing fields of both our towns.

MERSD has demonstrated its ability to balance sound fiscal management with the delivery of a high quality program that supports its mission of educating all students, inspiring passion, instilling a love of learning, and developing local and global citizenship.

  • Through the state Community Innovation Grant MERSD, developed in-house Special Education programs to limit out-of-district placements, with an annual net savings to taxpayers of $685,000.
  • Through restructuring its health care offerings, MERSD reduced a $1.8 million unfunded annual obligation to an estimated $235,000, which will be eliminated over time. 
  • MERSD’s per pupil expenditure ($14,317) is at the state average and the lowest on Cape Ann.
  • MERSD teacher salaries are at state average, ranking 138 out of 313 school districts. (Boston Business Journal)
  • Over past four years, our annual increase in the assessment to the towns has averaged just 2.35% per year.
  • There has been no operational override since 2005.
  • As a result of increased resident enrollment, MERSD absorbed a loss of $475K annual School Choice revenue.

MERSD’s first priority is to provide the best educational outcome for all of our students. We are proud of the accomplishments of our students, faculty, and staff.  The culture and quality of our schools affect everyone in our towns.  We need to keep our school district strong because strong schools create healthy, thriving town economies. In order to preserve our education program, to restore the FY 14 cuts, and to protect our reserves, we are asking for an increase in school funding for FY16. Should this budget correction fail, the District will see a budget shortfall that will require a reduction in staff and program and a continued increase in fees.  However, should we be successful at Town Meeting and at the ballot, the District has a multi-year plan in place to ensure continued delivery of a quality program deserving of our students that fits within the limits of Proposition 2.5.

 MERSD School Committee & Pamela Beaudoin, Superintendent