Outside Review Suggests Haverhill School Budget Process Fixes; Greater Maintenance

Haverhill School Committee member Richard J. Rosa. (WHAV News file photograph.)

School Committee member Richard Rosa said he likes many of the recommendations in a new 80-page outside review of Haverhill Public Schools. (WHAV News photograph.)

An outside financial review of Haverhill Public Schools suggests the city’s budget process isn’t necessarily in line with state law and budget “goals and priorities should be based on school improvement plans.”

Haverhill School Committee members tonight will discuss the report by Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials of Hopkinton. The group, brought in at the behest of School Committee members and Superintendent Margaret Marotta, spent two days in the district and prepared an 80-page report for $7,500.

“In summary, the MASBO team is impressed with the potential throughout the school district to be able to confront some very serious challenges…” authors concluded. They noted lower than state average net school spending level; loss in state education reimbursement because of loss of student due to school choice, average per pupil costs and teacher salaries that are “significantly below the state” and “a very large percentage of high needs and high poverty students.”

Richard Rosa, one of several School Committee members asking for the study, told WHAV, “I’m very glad we had the report done. It presents us with a great opportunity to implement a lot of best practices moving forward.”

The review team said state law typically prohibits outside contracts of more than three years, but the city currently has five-year contracts for food service and busing. It suggests verifying the City Council has authorized longer contracts.

Maintenance, Capital Improvement Plan, Faster Bill Paying Among Recommendations

Other recommendations are the schools only create or adjust jobs with proper approval and budgetary support; provide professional development, coaching or mentoring support to the business manager; pay vendor bills faster than the current average of 45 to 60 days; redirect money for some paraprofessional staffing to hiring more licensed special education staff; consider whether bringing some custodial services back in-house would save money; adopt a capital improvement plan; and increase the size of the maintenance department. On the latter suggestion, the report said, “typical maintenance departments would have twice the number of licensed maintenance workers as is currently employed.”

The review was conducted by former Attleboro School Superintendent Joel H. Lovering, Springfield Schools Financial Data Administrator and former city Budget Director John A. Manzi and Reading Public Schools Director of Finance & Operations Mary C. Delai.