Grim projections on school funding in ’10

Forced to reduce School Dept. spending by $2.8m in the next school year, Belmont’s public school system would be forced to make drastic cuts to staffing, materials and programming in 2010, according to a presentation by current Superintendent Dr. Pat Aubin and finance director Gerry Missal. The School Committee was reviewing two proposals for FY 2010 as part of a longer meeting in which the group addressed a number of issues, including proposals for a new Wellington Elementary school. A best-case scenario in which the town’s schools were level-funded from the current school year, with a projected 3.5% increase in salaries and salary scale steps, and flat spending in other areas. But the Committee also reviewed an “Available Revenue” scenario in which an additional $2.8m in cuts would be necessary, should the town fail to enact a Proposition 2 1/2 override to patch an estimated $5m structural budget deficit.

School Committee weighs budget, other issues

After a long hiatus that included the Thanksgiving holiday and a trip to Moscow, I’m back and sitting in on Tuesday evening’s omnibus School Committee meeting, at which a number of issues are being tackled, including plans for a new Wellington elementary school, policy changes involving e-mail and job postings, and capital requests for the town’s schools looking out to FY 2012 and beyond. There isn’t much to report on the Wellington project. Gerry Missal provided an overview of the latest (but not final) blueprints for new school. Representatives from Jonathan Levi Architects were in the audience and answered questions about the design. Audience members had questions about the security of the new facility and about whether it would address the current building’s woeful heating and cooling problems. (If you were wondering: “yes” the new building is designed to maximize energy efficiency and natural lighting, unlike the current structure.)

Former School Committee member Kathy Miller consulted with the School Committee as it works to revise its current policies — I could give you the gory details here, but you might just fall asleep and drool into your keyboard, so I’ll spare you.

Ken Kramer, Belmont Public School Director of Student Services is now briefing the SC on the Belmont Public Schools process for identifying and providing services to students with special needs. The BPS has a number of initiatives for 2008 and 2009, which include more staff training and the development of a consistent procedure, district wide, to serve students with special needs, work with teachers and identify behavioral problems. Among other things, the BPS needs to identify the different types of interventions it is using district-wide, assessment and monitoring of those interventions, etc.. Basically, the current system varies from student to student, and building to building. Responses to Intervention (RTIs) need to be standardized.

It’s also worth noting that a Special Ed Focus Group has been formed for BHS. The group is made up of parents and SPED educators and will have its first meeting on December 16th. The group will be working on ways to better deliver SPED services at BHS.

Rash of break-ins hits Belmont, Arlington

A rash of break-ins has broken out across Belmont and Arlington in recent weeks in what Belmont PD investigators think is an organized and professional operation carried out by one or two groups of criminals.

Data provided to BloggingBelmont by the Belmont PD shows ten break-ins in Belmont between September 29 and November 18, almost all in neighborhoods adjacent to Route 2. Another eight break ins have been reported just across the town line in Arlington in the same period. At least five of those break-ins occurred when occupants were at home, according to the BPD data.

The thieves have been taking mostly cash and jewelry, and Belmont Police investigators believe that there is a clear pattern to the break-ins and that the same group of criminals is responsible for most of them. No arrests have been made, to date, but a suspect has been identified in one case, according to the Belmont PD data.

The thieves appear to be targeting homes that are not occupied, or where elderly residents live. They have been entering by tearing through window screens, often using tools available on site, or by stepping through unlocked doors. However, in a handful of the cases, the thieves have entered through unlocked second story windows with the assistance of the homeowner’s ladder or that of a neighbor. BPD investigators believe the thieves are being dropped off in the targeted areas, then travel to the target home, possibly on bicycle, before being retrieved later in the evening with the loot.

More worrying: the thieves appear to be growing more bold: breaking in during daylight hours and targeting homes that they don’t know to be vacant. In at least one case, BPD tells us, a homeowner encountered a man in the home, who then fled.The Belmont PD is increasing patrols of affected neighborhoods and is recommending steps to help prevent break ins. Among them: lighting back yards and cutting back trees and shrubs that could provide cover, keeping an eye out for suspicious activity and even initiating neighborhood watch groups to do the rounds. Contact the BPD if you notice anything suspicious in your neighborhood!