Possible Cuts at Belmont High outlined in Principal’s Letter

Editor’s Note: Reposting this letter from BHS Principal Michael Harvey about what failure to pass a Proposition 2 1/2 Override will mean, practically, at Belmont High. For those of you who haven’t already received it: it makes for a sobering read. Among the highlights: close to 12 full time teachers and deep cuts that will eliminate course offerings for 9-12 graders, including electives in Biology, Chemistry, Geometry, Art and Music instruction. Write your Selectmen now and demand an override be put before Belmont voters that is large enough to balance the town’s budget and stop these endless and divisive cuts that are undermining the quality of life in town and ruining a hard fought, well earned reputation for educational excellence!

Ralph Jones (Chair): Ralph.Jones@cadmusgroup.com
Angelo Firenze: angelo@angelofirenze.com
Mark Paolillo:  mpaolillo@belmont-ma.gov



Dear Friends,

Over the past seven years that I have been associated with the Belmont Public Schools, I have witnessed the gap between the high expectations for program offerings and the revenue available to pay for them grow annually.  In each succeeding budget cycle, I’ve watched the community employ a combination of “one-time” solutions, such as the use of funds from revolving accounts or the transfer of “free cash,” coupled with reductions in services that were palatable to the community, such as losses in clerical and custodial positions, deferred maintenance, and implementation of “Users’ Fees,” in order to bridge the gap.  While these solutions allowed us to operate as “normally” as possible from year to year, they did not address the underlying structural problem that our non-discretionary costs are outpacing the annual increases in revenue that the schools receive under Proposition 2 1/2.

Last month, Superintendent Entwistle presented three budget scenarios to the School Committee for next year, Fiscal Year 2012 (FY ‘12).  The first scenario outlined a “Mission Critical” Budget.  This budget proposal restored for FY ‘12 many programs that have been cut or intentionally underfunded over the past several years.  In order to implement this budget, funding to the schools would need to increase by approximately $2.9 million over FY ‘11, to a total of $43,526,480.  The second budget scenario presented represented a “Level Services” budget.  In this scenario, the Belmont Public Schools would continue to offer our current FY ‘11 programs.  Given the non-discretionary increases that must be built into the FY ’12 budget, such as contractual obligations, health care, insurance, out of district special education tuitions, and utilities and the loss of “one-time” federal stimulus grant monies provided to the district in FY ‘11, the town’s funding of the schools will have to increase an additional $1.9 million to 42,652,566 in order to provide the same services as today.  A third scenario, the “Available Revenue” budget, represents the funding that is currently projected to be available for the schools, or $40,574,854.  The gap between the Available Revenue Budget and our program needs has become so great that we cannot continue to offer the same level of service that the community has come to expect.

In order to meet the reduced dollar amounts projected in the Available Revenue Budget for FY ‘12, the “regular day” program at Belmont High School will see cuts that approach $550,000.  This figure does not include reductions that will also be made to athletic and extra-curricular programs at BHS.  Prior reductions in the areas of support staff, equipment, maintenance and instructional materials made over the past several years and the sheer size of this year’s shortfall have left us with little option other than to focus our reductions on programs that provide direct services to students.  The chart below outlines our current thinking regarding the reductions in terms of the loss of positions to both teaching and support staff.  Cuts to teaching staff will affect academic areas across the building, totaling a loss of 10.85 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions.  For the purposes of budgeting, every .2 is equivalent to one full-year course section.  Five sections are therefore equivalent to a 1.0, or a full-time teaching position.   The loss of 10.85 positions translates to a 15.5% reduction in the total number of teachers at Belmont High School.  Other reductions include the replacement of our professional librarian with a “monitor,” the elimination of one professional aide position, and reductions in teaching supplies.

Teaching Staff Reduction FTE Change Amount
1.  Reduce English .8 FTE -0.8 -$36000
2.  Reduce Math 1.2 FTE -1.2 -$54000
3.  Reduce Science 3.85 FTE -3.85 -$173250
4.  Reduce Social Studies 2.0 FTE -2 -$90000
5. Reduce Foreign Language 2.8 FTE -2.8 -$126000
6.  Reduce Music .2 FTE -0.2 -$9000.00
Total -10.85 -$488250
Other Reductions
Eliminate BHS Librarian -1.00 -$45000
Add Library Monitor 1.00 $18000
1 Aide Position -1.00 -$22500
Teaching Supplies -$8300
Grand Total -11.85 -$546050

*Amounts are based on $45,000 for 1.0 FTE per classroom teacher (Master’s Degree, Step 3 salary minus cost of unemployment benefits) and $22,500 per professional aide.

The reductions outlined in this chart will substantially alter the programs that we will be able to offer.  In English and Mathematics, our overall class sizes will increase, and sections that are currently dedicated to providing students with remedial services will be eliminated.  This increase in class size and the loss of extra support will also necessitate that the English Department’s Senior Thesis Project be suspended from the list of graduation requirements at Belmont High School.

These cuts will also substantially change our Science Program.  The reduction of 3.85 FTE in Science will be accomplished by adding a fifth section to each remaining science teacher’s current four course load.  Adding this section will mean that all science classes will be reduced by one, twenty-five minute “mod” per week.  Because of the reduction in learning time, Science classes will be restructured so they contain fewer laboratory experiences.  The addition of a fifth section to science teachers’ schedules will also mean the elimination of our Freshman Advisory Class that was implemented this year.

Staff reductions in Social Studies, Foreign Language, and Music will dramatically alter the variety of elective courses we will be able to offer.  In Social Studies, the reduction of two teaching positions will be reflected in the elimination of ten sections, nine of which will be elective courses.  The reduction of 2.8 FTE in Foreign Language will be accomplished through the elimination of all language courses above “Level IV,” including Advanced Placement offerings in French, Latin and Spanish.  In Music, a one section reduction will be accomplished through the combination of multiples levels of Choral Classes.

Reductions to the “non-teaching” side of our program will be no less dramatic. The elimination of our Professional Librarian Position will mean the end of the lending of books and the provision of reference support.  It will also mean Belmont High School will no longer be eligible to offer many of the free online databases that are currently available to students through the school’s website.  This elimination of our library program will also place our accreditation status with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges into jeopardy.

In order to ensure that all students are fully scheduled and meet our remaining graduation requirements, we will also need to restructure the sequence of courses that students may choose for their schedule.  In the new system, students will follow the sequence of courses outlined in the table below.  In order to maintain acceptable class sizes and to ensure that there are sufficient elective seats, we will need to change several current practices.  One change will be to discontinue the practice of allowing students to take two courses in a given discipline simultaneously.  In order to ensure that all students will have access to a more limited number of Advanced Placement offerings, no student will be allowed to enroll in more than three AP courses in a given school year.  Finally, elective offerings in Social Studies will be limited to seniors only.

Grade 9

(One Elective Choice)

Grade 10

(One Elective Choice)

Grade 11

(One Elective Choice)

Grade 12

(Two Elective Choices)

English 9 (CP & H) English 10 (CP & H) English 11(CP & H) English 12 (CP, H, & AP)
Geometry (CP & H) Algebra II (CP & H) Pre-Calculus (CP & H) Math IV (current choices)
Physics (CP & H) Chemistry (CP & H) Biology (CP, H, & AP) Science IV (current choices)
World History (CP & H) American History (CP, H, & AP) Modern World History (CP, H, & AP) Elective 1 (Art/Music/For. Lang. IV/Social Studies)
Foreign Language (Lvl 2, CP & H) Foreign Language (Lvl 3, CP & H) Elective 1 (Art/Music/For. Lang. IV) Elective 2 (Art/Music/For. Lang. IV/Social Studies)
Wellness I Phys. Ed.-2 Credits (Electives/Athletics/Contract) Positive Decisions (1/4 year Phys. Ed. course) & 1 other PE Credit Phys Ed.-2 Credits (Electives/Athletics/Contract)
Elective 1 (Art Level 1 or Music) Elective 1 (Art Level 1 or 2 or Music)

I will be presenting this plan along with a list of changes to our credit and graduation requirements that need to be approved by the School Committee at its March 1st meeting.  I will also be participating with the district’s entire administrative team in our annual budget overview meeting on Saturday, March 5th.  I encourage you to watch these meetings yourself, either live or on Belmont Community Access TV, to learn about the changes to the district that are being contemplated in the Available Funds Budget scenario, and to make your opinions known regarding the direction of these changes to your elected officials.

As all budgets are a reflection of the current state of reality at a specific moment in time, I fully expect there will be changes to the Belmont Public School’s FY ’12 budget between now and the end of “budget season” in early June.  I will do my best to keep you informed of any changes that occur as a result of new budget scenarios to our plans for next year.



Michael Harvey, Ed.D.


Belmont High School

221 Concord Ave.

Belmont, MA 02478