manassas journal messenger 02/07/01


Staff tops school budget topics






     The school board launched into its first budget

work session Tuesday, placing the heaviest focus on staffing.

“The essence of tonight is personnel,” board Vice Chairman

Art Bushnell said.

One area the school division is struggling with is a growing English

as a Second Language population and not enough teachers to accommodate the


Four years ago, Manassas had 230 ESL students. Now it has 679, about

the size of one elementary school, said Mary Helen Smith, assistant superintendent

in charge of instructional services.

“We need additional teachers,” to accommodate those students,

she said. The proposed budget calls for an additional 1.5 positions.

Also proposed are three additional teachers to expand the Learning Disabilities

Inclusion program.

In inclusion classes, special education students learn with other students

in a regular classroom setting. The students are taught by both a classroom

teacher and a special education teacher.

“It’s really a team-taught regular education classroom,” said

Tony Ludovico, associate superintendent for special education.

The budget doesn’t have room for full inclusion, which calls for at

least one inclusion class at each grade level, Ludovico said. Even with

the additional three teachers, the high school and three elementary schools

will fall short, but will be close to full inclusion, he said.

In addition, the board reviewed a number of other positions, including

changing two instructional assistants from part time to full time. The change

adds benefits for the assistants, who work with emotionally disturbed and

mentally retarded students at two schools.

Also proposed is a career center specialist at Osbourn High School,

a teacher to help students at the Johnson Learning Center with reading and

another secretary to support additional enrollment at Osbourn High School.

Interim Superintendent Dianne Mero said that in September, principals

and department heads made recommendations on what was necessary for their

budgets. They were permitted to recommend increases, but only those that

were justified and prioritized, Mero said.

Through that process, the number of requests for new staff was cut down

by two-thirds from the previous year, Mero said.

“We had a little bit better feel where the principals and program

managers thought their priorities were,” she said.

Mero also presented two lists of unfunded requests and enhancements.

One request was for a transition specialist. “The inclusion model

has taken a priority in terms of staff recommendation,” she said.

An athletic trainer, more custodians, a counselor at the Johnson Learning

Center and a health care plan for part-time staff remain unfunded, she said.

The board also learned it will receive a one-time rate reduction from

the Virginia Retirement System. That means a $298,000 savings in expenditures.

Of that savings, $2,593 will be used for nurse salary, $4,200 for special

education and $20,000 for the GED program.

With that part of the savings eaten up, the division is still left with

a $271,207 savings in the proposed $59.6 million budget.

Also, the board discussed presenting its budget to the Manassas City

Council on March 21, instead of March 28 when three board members will be

away at a school board convention. The board is awaiting word from the city

on the request.

· Contact Tiffany Schwab at [email protected]



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