Sandwich Schools Face Possible Staff Cuts

SANDWICH – The Sandwich school district will likely need to make staff cuts before the next school year.

Superintendent Pamela Gould discussed the budget before the school committee last week and said up to ten positions may need to be eliminated.

To maintain the status quo the budget would require an increase over four percent and the town is seeking an increase of around 3 percent.

“If that is the direction that the school committee decides to go in we are cutting about $445,000 and I don’t have any place left to go but staff, and that is my concern,” Gould said.

Gould said this is the fourth budget that she has presented with the school district. Each year the town has allowed a 2.5 percent to 3 percent budget increase.

“The hard part for the schools here is that for us to do the cost of business that percentage is just over 4 percent to just stay as is,” she said.

Cutting the budget from around 4 percent to 3 percent or less has happened each year since Gould has held the position.

“We have been streamlining,” Gould said. “We also have declining population. We’ve been able to make those adjustments in the past few years.”

Gould warned the school committee a few years ago that if they continued making cuts at that pace, and with enrollment declines leveling off, that there would not be any “fluff” left to cut.

“We’ve pretty much done all of that,” she said.

Gould said there were also fewer retirement announcements made at the beginning of the current school year, when they are typically made.

“We haven’t had that as much this year,” she said. “We are at a very limited amount.”

The district had been able to cut sections due to student decline in many cases and may not have needed to replace the position.

“Unless I want to make my class sizes really high, I don’t have that luxury anymore,” Gould said. “So even retirements coming in aren’t necessarily helping us to offset that.”

Gould said the town has prided itself on a belief of very low class size. She doesn’t disagree with the belief that low class size is better for the class environment.

“Do I think we can go a little higher? Yes,” Gould said. “Do I think it will be fine? Of course it will.”

Gould said the community needs to make a philosophical decision on class sizes.

“If they want really low class sizes then we have to have that discussion,” she said. “If we can go up a little bit then I can probably manage to lose some [staff.]”

Gould said if current trends continue and enrollment levels off it will make class size increase.

Internal discussions have been held between Gould and the administrative team about what positions are likely to be cut.

“I don’t want to publish that – for a number of reasons,” Gould said.

There is always the possibility of more retirement announcements. Gould said there are also many military families that work for the school district and that station changes may require teachers to leave.

“I don’t ever want to make someone feel that their job might be on the line when if someone retires or leaves us I might not have to do that and have that conversation at all,” Gould said.

Gould said her goal is to have a minimal impact on staffing.

“I don’t want anyone unemployed,” she said. “That is the worst thing you can do for a person. So if we can avoid that we are trying to do that.”

Gould said all positions are being looked at for possible cuts, including administrative positions.

“I am looking at everything,” she said. “I think that is my job.”

Gould said Sandwich is not the only district on Cape Cod in the current situation.

“We are trying to do the best we can for our kids,” she said. “The taxpayers have a decision they have to make and it’s a tough one, and I don’t envy that.”

Gould said the Sandwich School District staff works extremely hard to make sure they provide the best education for its kids.

Budget discussions will continue with the school committee throughout the rest of January. The school committee will then vote on a recommendation to be sent to the board of selectmen.

In February, Gould will meet with selectmen and the finance committee, who will make budget recommendations heading into Town Meeting in the spring.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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