North Shore Board of Education trustees last Thursday voted unanimously to adopt Superintendent Dr. Peter Giarrizzo’s $107.8M proposed budget. The adopted 2019-20 budget reflects a 2.8 percent increase from the previous year. Its major drivers include central services, regular instruction and special education.
At a Feb. 7 board meeting, Giarrizzo said, “An important takeaway here is that the biggest portion of the pie is in instruction, that includes special and general education, and accounts for almost 75 percent of our expenditures.”
Giarrizzo spoke with the Herald Gazette to discuss the differences between the budget that was adopted and the budget that was proposed. In recent line item discussions, board members had recommended that funds set aside to develop a program at the Victorian house adjacent to the high school, which equates to roughly $32,000, be used elsewhere.
The location, he said, was originally designed to be used as a television production studio. “Over the course of time equipment was never purchased,” Giarrizzo said, “and there’s not a lot of student interest in a formal, T.V. studio.”
The $32,000 will now be used for more than one budget line item. A total of $21,000 will fund the salary of the district’s new assistant superintendent of instruction, Dr. Chris Zublionis, the current principal at Sea Cliff Elementary School, and the remaining $11,000 will enhance library services at each of the five schools. Sea Cliff, Glen Head and Glenwood Landing elementary schools, as well as the middle school, will receive $2,000 respectively, and the high school will receive $3,000.
Using the funds to invest in the schools’ libraries, Giarrizzo said, would help increase the size of the collections. “We’re looking to [offer] approximately 20 books per student at the middle school, and 50 to 60 books per student at each of the elementary schools as a general rule.”
Giarrizzo said he was most excited about line items in the budget that support the district’s strategic five-year plan, which was adopted in the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. The goals of the plan are to enhance social emotional learning, build a more contemporary teaching and learning environment and address achievement gaps to improve equity and diversity districtwide.
“Now that we have enacted a five-year strategic plan we’re starting to hit the targets included in it,” he said.
The adopted budget includes a health and wellness teacher and full-time guidance counselor at the elementary level to support social emotional habits. New course offerings hope to enhance contemporary teaching and learning styles, including LEGO robotics in first grade, coding and journalism/writing electives at the middle school, expansion of Mandarin into 11th grade and multiple STEAM-related electives at the high school.
The instruction portion also includes $65,000 for 21st century learning spaces, which are spaces intentionally designed to encourage collaborative learning among students and teachers. “Each school will have a classroom designated for 21st century learning,” Giarrizzo said.
Last year some trustees had recommended the superintendent add $100,000 to the proposed 2018-19 budget to benefit special education. Under the adopted budget, those services receive a $726,000 increase, which would fund a full-day co-teaching model to reinforce learning and professional development for related faculty to work together and enhance their understanding of progress monitoring tools for special needs students in grades one, two and three.
On the other side of the ledger are North Shore’s revenues, which total $88 million and reflect a $2 million increase from 2018-19. The proposed tax levy — which accounts for school taxes that will be raised to fund the budget — clocks in at 2.6 percent, right below the allowable 2.7 tax levy.