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April Press Release

posted Apr 8, 2014, 7:11 AM by Dianne Georgantas

The Superintendent and School Committee partner with families in highly valuing education.  The transition to offering full day kindergarten is an excellent example of this commitment.

Longmeadow is not alone in the struggle to fund free full day Kindergarten. Several of our “like” districts, such as Wellesley, are seeking overrides to fund similar programs. When preparing the budget, the School Department follows the guidelines set forth by the Town Manager and Select Board. At the onset, the directive from the Town Manager was an allocation of a 2.7% increase with the stipulation that we were to maintain level services with no new initiatives added.  At follow up sub-committee meetings, the Town Manager and Select Board representative requested the School Department’s aid in bridging a $400,000 town wide deficit.  Understanding the fiscal realities facing the town, the School Department has worked closely with the sub-committee and the Town Manager to bridge the gap and cut our original allocation by $190,000.  I am sure that should the fiscal circumstances of the town improve, the School Committee would welcome the funding to provide full day Kindergarten at no cost for all residents. 

Municipal budgets and state grants are not easy to read nor are they user friendly.  It is easy to misread information and be led to incorrect conclusions. What possible benefit is there for Longmeadow Public Schools NOT to apply for state funding? The School Committee is consistently looking for funding to finance projects in order to lessen the burden on the residents of Longmeadow.  For example, there has been much discussion about the 702 Transition to Kindergarten grant. Yes, every town is eligible to apply for this grant, much like most everyone is eligible to apply for a mortgage. Not every district is eligible for funding, much like not everyone is eligible for a $5,000,000 mortgage. The primary criteria for this grant is having low 3rd grade MCAS scores, a high percentage of  low income families and a high percentage of English Language Learners.  The small amount of funding that Longmeadow could possibly receive from this grant subjects our Kindergarten program to the state’s discretion and requires NAEYC accreditation.

Contrary to statements that have been made in various public forums, such as Facebook, Chapter 70 funding for free Full Day Kindergarten would not be substantial. When communicating with representatives from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), it was reported that the maximum the town of Longmeadow could receive would be up to $628 per student if full day Kindergarten was provided without tuition.

While everyone would like more concrete numbers, the reality is that state & federal funding is a constantly moving target. In addition, enrollment numbers still remain uncertain.  For example, for the 2013-2014 school year the District had an increase of 45 students over what the census had predicted with many of these students enrolling in the last days before the school year began. This resulted in the hiring of an additional teacher at the last hour.

There are many demands placed on families today, a few of which include time commitments and financial concerns, and with that in mind, the School Committee went forward with offering several opportunities for open communication and dialogue in the attempt to reach all members of the Longmeadow community.

Please be assured that the new Common Core curriculum will be presented to all students whether they attended the Half Day or Full Day Kindergarten programs. The Longmeadow School District has every confidence in our highly qualified teachers that the students will receive the foundation needed to succeed in first grade.

I would like to reassure all families that the decision that was made regarding full day Kindergarten was reached only after significant thoughtful analysis. While the School Department is unable to fully fund Full Day Kindergarten at this time, we will continue to explore every avenue possible along with working with town and state officials to fund full day kindergarten. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our parents for their patience and continued support as we embark on this new exciting chapter in education.  I appreciate the open dialogue and look forward to continuing to work with you to assure a positive Kindergarten experience for your child.  As always I am committed to providing the highest quality education for every child in Longmeadow.

More information about Kindergarten screening & orientation will be sent to parents next week. We are looking forward to meeting our newest students, the class of 2027.

 

Sincerely,

Marie Doyle

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