An Opportunity To Meet The New School Superintendent

Summer’s fast drawing to a close and thoughts are turning to the new school year. With that in mind, parents with kids in the public school should definitely take advantage of an opportunity to meet our new superintendent, John Phelan.

Superintendent John Phelan

Superintendent Phelan will be hosting a coffee to get introduced to residents and hear their concerns on Monday afternoon at 4:30.

Superintendent Phelan has been holding coffees with interested citizens all summer long – the most recent was this morning. There’s one more this month: on Monday afternoon, August 18 from 4:30 to 6:00 in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at the School Administration building.

Superintendent Phelan comes to Belmont after 25 years as a principal and teacher for over 25 years in the Boston and Milton Public Schools. Our new Superintendent organized the coffees as a forum to listen to parents, as well as community members. He’ll be using them to help get up to speed on the issues of concern to community members and also to formulate a plan for the district going forward.

If you can’t make Monday’s coffee, there are supposed to be more scheduled in September. Alternatively, you can make an appointment to meet with Superintendent Phelan individually. Please call Cathy Grant at 617-993-5401 to schedule an appointment.

I look forward to seeing you at the next Monday afternoon!

Tonight: Show Your Support For The Belmont Community Path!

This is just a note to all the folks out there who support the Belmont Community Path that there’s a very important meeting tonight (Monday, June 9) at 7:00 PM in the Board of Selectmen’s Room in Belmont Town Hall.

path-fork

 

The Community Path Advisory Committee (CPAC) will make its final presentation to the Board of Selectmen. The meeting starts at 7:00 and CPAC will make its presentation around 7:20 PM.

This will be the last chance to show your support for the Path before the Selectmen make their decision. We need your support!

Some background:

At the meeting, the Belmont Community Path Advisory Committee will review the various options for constructing a path extending from the existing trailhead of the Brighton Street to Alewife path through Belmont Center and Waverley and out to the Waltham border. The Committee was created by the BOS almost two years ago to study the feasibility of a path through Belmont. It will present its recommendations to the BOS. The Belmont Community Path will be a segment of the Mass Central Rail Trail (MCRT). The Path would link up with the existing Fitchburg Cutoff Path, which terminates at Brighton Street and extend to the border with Waltham.

By connecting to the MCRT, the Belmont Community Path will provide links to many shared use paths and trail networks.

The report is the product of two years’ work and more than 39 public hearings and surveys. The Community Path will be a tremendous addition to Belmont – but it needs our support.

I’ll see you there! In the meantime, you can read CPAC’s final report or look at proposed routes for the path that the Committee considered during its two years of work here.

BudgetFest: Belmont Town Meeting Live Blog – June 2nd

I’m here at Belmont’s annual Town Meeting. This is actually the fourth (fifth?) session this year – but it’s the big one. In the next couple nights we’re voting on the town’s $~95m budget, funding both our public schools and everything else: public safety, town government, roads, recreation. You name it.

Right now, Michael Libenson, the Warrant Committee’s current Chairman is reviewing Belmont’s overall budget. Big take aways: not a bad budget year. A greater contribution from the State in the form of Chapter 70 funding (around $700,000 more than anticipated) allowed most town and school programs to be level funded for FY 2015.

The bigger picture is murky, however. As Mr. Libenson rightly pointed out: almost all of Belmont’s revenues come from property taxes (something like 80%). That figure is pinned at 2.5% growth annually, while everything else – pensions, salaries, operating costs – goes up by much more than 2.5%. In the long term: that puts pressure on the budget that can only be addressed with additional sources of revenue (i.e. commercial development, fees, etc.) or an increase in residential property taxes.

At the same time, Belmont faces significant capital budget pressures, including the need for substantial renovations at Belmont High, the Library, the Police Station, the Underwood Pool (voted in one of our earlier sessions) and – of course- improvements to roads and sidewalks.

Right now we’re voting on mostly non-controversial items related to expenditures for employee retirement, etc. Now we’re voting on Public Safety budget (Police and Fire) which is $12,825,722.

Update: 8:39 PM

Joanna Swift just raised a good question about funding for the school safety officer at BHS. Namely: that position, which was restored with $60,000 in unallocated funds, was not a top priority of the School Department, but  - actually – 12 on a list of 13 positions they would have asked for given a choice, including a ELL teacher, additional guidance counselors for BHS and additional FTEs (full time teachers) to manage a large 5th grade cohort. Long and short: school safety officer has lots of support on the Board of Selectmen and, obviously, within the public safety community. Also: don’t mess with students’ safety. The public safety budget (including the public safety officer) is approved unanimously.

Update: 8:44 PM

Laurie Slap of Belmont School Committee is updating us on the BPS proposed budget – up 4.1% this year. We’re expecting 115 new students in FY 15. Attendance is up 5% in the last two years and 6% in the 8 years before that. Looking ahead: by 2025, enrollment in the Town’s schools will increase by around 500 students. Options?

+ Modular classrooms
+ Making a renovated BHS 7-12? 8-12?
There’s lots of feedback on the school budget – a couple folks got up and protested the escalating fees for parents, which are taxes (by another name). Thanks to Sara Masucci, Chris Kochem, Anne Mahon, and others for getting up and speaking. I asked Laurie to detail some of the areas where budget constraints and not pedagogical needs are driving decisions about what we do and do not offer to our kids. Laurie