City Council Signs Off on $106 Million Haverhill School Budget; Plan to Meet Grade-Level Goals

Haverhill School Superintendent Margaret Marotta. (WHAV News file photograph.)

The Haverhill City Council gave its approval last night to the school department’s spending plan for the upcoming school year.

School Superintendent Margaret Marotta presented the $106 million budget at a special City Council meeting. It represents an increase of $8 million over the current year, but also includes a one-time payment of $7.6 million from the federal government. Marotta told councilors that despite the pandemic, or because of it, schools made many technological improvements using computers last year. Now, she added, it is time to focus on the students themselves.

“That’s good for our school system but for our kids, it was a difficult year and clearly our kids suffered and need additional supports and the budget that we’ve put together is all about putting into place additional supports for our kids,” she explained.

Those supports include equal resources across all of Haverhill’s public schools, smaller class sizes, math and English language interventionists and social and emotional support personnel. The superintendent’s plan calls for an additional 70 employees to be added to the payroll including an associate principal at the high school and an assistant facilities director.

Marotta said one of the challenges educators face next year is presenting a curriculum to students whose education this year was less than ideal.

“One of the things we’re focusing on is that we continue to expose kids to grade level curriculum. Don’t sort of move back to you’re in fifth grade, but we’re going to teach you the fourth grade curriculum because you lost fourth grade last year. Really pushing that we need to keep teaching the grade level curriculum and fill in the gaps,” she said.

Previously, Mayor James J. Fiorentini expressed concern over the budget’s use of one-time federal money to create long-term positions. He questioned what happens to those positions when the money was no longer coming in. City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan said he understands the mayor’s position, but…

“I understand the mayor’s concern, but I still support it. I’m totally willing to take the risk with creating all those positions and worrying about it in two years. I just think this is too important not to invest into the schools. I totally support it. The need is greater than the worry of how we’re going to pay for it three years from now,” he said.

Councilors, who typically are limited to making cuts, approved the proposal, subject to final review, by a vote of 8-0 with Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien absent. The budget is scheduled for a final vote June 10.

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