By Superintendent Stephen Zadravec
The fiscal 2020 School Department proposed budget is $49,750,427, non-inclusive of any collective bargaining contingency, which represents a 3.5 percent increase over fiscal 2019. This budget maintains our existing programs, and allows us to address some priority areas related to School Board goals. Most notably, the budget contains multiple measures designed to address goals of equity and opportunity in the Portsmouth schools. The School Board’s goal on equity focuses on building supports to ensure all students have access to our most rigorous learning opportunities. The fiscal 2020 budget includes:
- A math interventionist position at Portsmouth Middle School. Our data shows a gap in performance between students on free and reduced lunch compared to those who aren’t, as well as a gap in performance for our special education population. This position will help leverage established times for intervention to help close those gaps.
- Additional counseling and behavioral support at the elementary level, with a focus on social emotional learning and behavioral interventions. Our schools continue to expand ways to support all students with a focus on academics as well as social emotional learning, while increasingly utilizing trauma informed approaches.
- The School Board had established a study committee to research the feasibility and possible benefits of building an elementary world language program. That committee presented a proposed program to the Board that would ultimately include three positions at the elementary level. Using a phased in approach to the program, the Board has included one of the three positions in the fiscal 2020 budget. This would allow expansion of world language instruction to one or two grade levels in the 2019-2020 school year.
- Plans to sustain three notable positions requested in fiscal 2019. The first of these positions is a student assistance counselor at Portsmouth High School. This position has been funded for five years with a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services and plays a key role in the prevention of drug and alcohol use among students as well as counseling support to students engaging in substance abuse.
- The second of these positions is the Farm to School Program Coordinator. The Portsmouth School Department received a competitive grant through the United States Department of Agriculture to support a robust farm to school program, including school gardens at all schools as well as integrated thematic units at all levels.
- Sustains funding for a family outreach specialist, which is a position key to the Board’s goal of expanding opportunities for preschool to families who struggle financially by engaging and connecting with community preschool partners.
Overall, the fiscal 2020 budget allows us to continue high-quality programming while moving forward with district goals and priorities. The School Board continues a strategic focus on aligning budget requests with specific goals and targeted improvements in our schools.