School committee unanimously approves FY23 proposal


Keertana Gangireddy

The Westford School Committee unanimously approved the FY23 proposal.

Keertana Gangireddy, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The Westford School Committee unanimously passed the budget proposal for FY23 on Feb. 28 during their meeting.

The proposal involves a reduction of a full-time English position at WA, up to three electives at WA, two full time positions at the middle school level, four reading interventionists at the elementary school level, as well as a reorganization of the central office. 

During public comment, fourth grade Day Elementary School teacher and Westford Education Association (WEA) President Kristine Jussaume requested the school committee to vote against the proposal. The WEA is specifically opposed to cutting reading interventionists and any position at the middle school level to maintain small class sizes and social-emotional services during the pandemic, in the hopes that more funds may become available in the near future.

“We as teachers would like to maintain the same number of students receiving reading services, especially with COVID. There’s obviously going to be a learning gap with the little ones as they’re developing their foundational reading skills. […] Before the pandemic, there were social and emotional concerns and obviously; the pandemic has just heightened those numbers,” Jussaume said. 

School committee member Chris Sanders, along with the rest of the school committee, acknowledged the difficult cuts in the proposal. However, he wants the public to be aware that the budget is finite, thus cuts are necessary. 

Sanders and fellow school committee members Gloria Miller, Kathryn Clear, Mingquan Zheng, and Valery Young explained their support for the FY23 proposal, as it will allow for the town to meet the needs of citizens in the future while ensuring that the town is fiscally responsible. 

“I would love to find a million teachers and a million reading interventionists. At the same time, we also are limited by our budget. We have to be fiscally responsible. I mean, it’s what we teach our kids: ‘you’ve only got so much money; you have choices to make’. If it’s not something like reading interventionists [who may have to be cut], is it something else [that should be cut]?” Clear said. 

In regards to blame for difficult budgetary decisions year after year, Miller does not want the public to hold any frustration to the town partners, who composed the proposal, as they have considered how to give students the best education possible within the financial restraints, while also dealing with public safety and public health concerns.

However, regardless of supporting the budget proposal, school committee member Sean Kelly brought up the fact that Westford spends a per-pupil amount that is significantly lower than surrounding towns, lending to the question of what the town may value. Kelly stated that in the future, he would like to see any money or funds go towards the reading interventionists.

“There are two sets of decisions that are being made, at least in my eyes. There are enrollment-based reductions. And, then, there are the other non-enrollment-based reductions. […] The [reduction of] reading interventionists, at least for me, that’s a tough one. And I know I articulated this, but I [have] concerns about there being folks or students who are behind because of COVID, and again, I guess, the numbers don’t say that, but I still have a concern about it,” Kelly said. 

All school committee members expressed their concern for the reduction of reading interventionists and mentioned community discussions in the future about various options to provide additional funding such as using overrides for the budget.

“We need to consider long-term as to what we as community value for moving forward and that’s something that is only going to happen, I think, as people get more engaged in town-wide discussions, engage with Select Board, school committee, show up for town meetings […]. So, things won’t change unless people start to have these harder conversations,” Clear said.

The next school committee meeting will be March 14.