Correction: An earlier version of this story used an incorrect first name for one of the speakers before the School Committee. WHAV regrets the error.
No residents opposed the approved $89 million school budget during a public hearing Thursday night, but most appealed for more spending.
Haverhill School Committee members heard calls for the city to increase per-pupil spending, better recruit Spanish-speaking teachers and improve building maintenance. Joanna Dix of the Haverhill Education Coalition told members this year’s $4.8 million school budget increase does little more than cover inflation.
Dix pointed to a national study linking school maintenance to student achievement. She said 14 full-time maintenance staff would place Haverhill in the middle of a national scale—categorized as “casual inattention.” Level three on a scale of five is when poor school tidiness becomes a distraction, Dix noted. She added, Haverhill has only five custodial and maintenance staff, placing it below the category of “unkempt neglect” achieved with an average of nine full-time employees.
Parent Helen Zbitnoff told the committee she worries the new Hunking School isn’t following a maintenance plan. “We can’t allow the new building to fall into disarray,” she said.
School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti agreed, calling Haverhill’s per-student spending “offensive.” He said the city is spending between $12,000 to $13,000 per student, but the number should be around $18,000. Getting to that level, he said, requires Haverhill spending $5 million more each year for the next five years. Magliocchetti added, he has learned of the correlation between household income and math and science scores. Raising household income, he said, depends on the city improving its business outreach efforts.
Haverhill Latino Coalition’s Ismael Matias said Haverhill must do a better job recruiting Spanish speakers. He noted about half of lower grade students and 37 percent of high school students are of Latino heritage. Despite the numbers of students, there is only one Latino teacher per 500 students. School Superintendent Margaret Marotta agreed.
“We’d love to have more teachers that look like our students in our classrooms and more people from our community working in our schools,” she said.
Marotta and Mayor James Fiorentini responded the city has tried to recruit at local job fairs, such as one sponsored by the Mount Washington Alliance. Matias, however, said the city must look outside—at area colleges and even as far away as New York and New Jersey. Recruiting far away, he warned, requires raising local salaries as an inducement to relocate.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini and school Superintendent Margaret Marotta responded the city has tried to recruit at local job fairs, such as one sponsored by the Mount Washington Alliance. Matias, however, said the city must look outside—at area colleges and even as far away as New York and New Jersey. Recruiting far away, he warned, will require raising local salaries as an inducement to relocate.
Parent Kathy Kaczor was critical of Marotta’s so-called “rightsizing” plan that will shift St. James School away from special education and to reuse as a middle school. The plan calls for the Haverhill Alternative School to move to Bradford’s Greenleaf School. Kaczor, however, said Greenleaf—which dates back before the Town of Bradford merged with Haverhill—should have been closed as promised when the new Hunking School was built. Member Scott W. Wood Jr. used the opportunity to note he voted against the rightsizing plan. He called the move “disruptive.” Kaczor also said was also critical of the administration of Nettle School, saying she removed her son from that school in favor of a private school.