D-Y School Committee Presses Pause on Plan to Lay-Off Social Workers

YARMOUTH – The Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School Committee voted Monday night night to give themselves more time to make a decision regarding the future of the district’s six social workers.

The decision is a likely temporary victory for the hundreds of parents, teachers, and concerned citizens who packed a meeting at Station Avenue Elementary.

In approving a budget of $60,628,195,  many members of the committee acknowledged that this would be a figure unacceptable to district voters.

“If the pressure comes and the support leaves that number is coming down,” said committee member Brian Carey, admitting that selectmen in both towns will require convincing if there is any hope for budgetary support.

So, for the time being, the district’s social workers remain in the budget, in addition to three additional social behavioral professionals.

The majority of speakers at last night’s meeting were district employees, expressing how their feeling in support of their colleagues.

Leah Rockwell is the school psychologist at the Ezra Baker Innovation School. “Can we even measure the value of social work? I believe we can.” she began.

“We can count the number of coats, hats, and mittens that are handed out so that students feel comfortable. We can weigh the backpacks of snacks that are sent home in student backpacks over the weekend so that they are not hungry. We can count the number of student whose attendance has improved or the number of teachers who have left the social worker’s office with new ideas to support student well-being,” she said.

D-Y administrators had begun the process of informing dozens of employees that they will not have a position within the district come next year.

The decision was made to eliminate each of the district’s six social workers, dozens of full-time special education teachers, and another two dozen non-certified classroom aids, teaching assistants, and duty monitors. There will also be one administrator let go.

During both public comment and conversation amongst the board themselves, there was discussion about making deeper cuts to administration in an effort to save classroom employees.

“I think that we’re cutting in the wrong places,” said committee member Brian Sullivan, “I’ll be supportive of this for now because I think that we have to be. But if we don’t get the support at the polls, this is ultimately doomed to fail.”

The cuts, which will require a complete reconstruction of the schools’ special education instruction are an effort to whittle down the district’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget to something more palatable to Dennis and Yarmouth taxpayers.

School officials are working to slice $1.8 million dollars from next year’s expenses, which will still leave the district with a more than 3 percent increase in funding over this year.

The hope had been that school psychologists, adjustment councilors, administrators, and other school employees can pick up some of the slack with the loss of the social workers.

School officials say that while they are disappointed that any cuts are required, they have focused on keeping the district’s general education classroom teachers in order to ensure that class sizes remain manageable.

“The balancing point is always being responsible to the students we serve and taking care of their educational needs and their families and being realistic,” said Assistant Superintendent Ken Jenks, “What is a reasonable budget which both of our towns can support?”

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