Haverhill’s School budget deserves special attention this year. This is not only because of this year’s increased state funding from the Student Opportunity Act, but also because of profound uncertainties about the COVID-19 virus, the economy, and future state and local revenues.
Every spring the Haverhill School Committee considers the budget for the following school year. The school budget is included in the city budget and approved by the City Council, usually by the start of the City fiscal year on July 1. This year the budget will follow the Superintendent’s submission (by April 1st) of a three-year plan for spending new Student Opportunity Act (SOA) funds. Decisions being made now will shape the future direction of Haverhill Public Schools. This year especially, we need to ensure that we make the right choices about where school resources, including new funds from the SOA, will go.
Here are ten options for school spending which were discussed at the Haverhill Education Coalition online meeting (March 18, 2020). Each of these program options is supported by evidence from successful implementation in other districts. Each is relevant and timely for application in Haverhill. However, we cannot afford to pursue all of these changes at once.
These options are:
- Option 1: Support School-wide Transformations
- Option 2: Strengthen Early Literacy programs
- Option 3: Build Project-Based Learning into High School Curriculum
- Option 4: Improve Classroom Culture
- Option 5: Meet Demand for Extended Learning
- Option 6: Invest in Workforce Diversification
- Option 7: Expand Instructional Coaching
- Option 8: Increase the Number of Teachers
- Option 9: Strengthen School Leadership
- Option 10: Increase Maintenance
Among the points raised by those participating in the meeting were the following:
- School-wide transformation, such as has been successfully implemented at Tilton Elementary School, is a proven approach that improves student achievement. Transformation, however, relies on simultaneous implementation of many components. While some might wish to unbundle the approach and only implement some components, the synergies of all components working together seem to be important to the model’s success.
- Priority should be given to early literacy as a foundation for learning in later grades.
- Co-teaching for classes that include students with special needs could be a means of improving classroom culture and reducing disruptive classroom behavior. Co-teaching focused on social and emotional learning might also reduce the need for separate special education classes.
- Project-based learning, while valuable for students, is challenging to implement. It would require planning and training of teachers in methods such as those of the Expeditionary Learning model. Perhaps the District could budget for planning the first year, training the second, and implementation the third, as Student Opportunity Act funds are increased over time.
- Extended learning can take many forms. Haverhill already has varied voluntary options, including summer and after school programs. The Mayor would like to extend the school year, but he seemed to stop short of proposing that for the coming year.
- Strong leadership is critical to successfully implementing any of the options. Provisions should be made to support budget initiatives with necessary leadership resources.
- Improving school maintenance could create a better climate of respect for education, improve school morale, and encourage students to protect facilities.
To assist the Superintendent, the School Committee, parents, and wider community as they consider school spending options, I have attached a short summary of each option (and some sub-options) in selected slides from the March 18 meeting. I indicate the issue each option addresses and note evidence that supports use of the approach. Many of the options include sub-options that represent alternative ways to address the issue. Finally, I note what impact might be expected to result from implementing each option. I have not included estimated budget amounts; these would need to be developed by the District staff and will depend on just what form of program specifics as proposed by the District and the proposed scope of implementation.
For this descriptive catalog of ten options for Haverhill’s 2020-21 school budget see this linked Haverhill School Budget Options March 2020 document.