DERRY — The school board added two positions back into the district's proposed and now amended $93.1 million operating budget after hearing from a long line of educators and parents who didn't want to see the jobs cut.
At a public hearing on Jan. 18 on the proposed district school numbers for next year, board members reinstated two district home/school coordinator positions that had been cut from the budget.
Those jobs, held by district staff members Lee Holder and Alicia Triplett, were deemed essential and valuable by all who spoke out in support of what they do for children and their families.
The budget numbers will now be moved to the district's annual deliberative session for consideration on Saturday, Feb. 6. Voters will cast ballots on the budget at the polls March 9.
The two home/school jobs were among several proposed to be cut from the district's budget. The others include a district librarian position, ESOL assistants and one elementary classroom teacher.
In her budget presentation, district Business Administrator Jane Simard said the proposed numbers were planned and studied for months, due to the hard work of administrations, staff, and the volunteer Fiscal Advisory Committee.
And decisions were made, Simard added, to make sure students continued to receive the best education while also keeping a fiscally responsible budget in mind.
"(We consider) what is the best budget for the following year?" Simard said, adding the budget process starts early and there is a lot of good work involved.
As of Oct. 1, Derry's enrollment totaled approximately 3,052 in grades kindergarten through grade eight.
A majority of the budget is made up of salaries and benefits, Simard said, and Pinkerton Academy's proposed number for Derry's high school students is also included.
Pinkerton's proposed number for next year, including general and special education, is approximately $29 million. Derry is projected to send 1,646 students to Pinkerton.
But hearing about the possibility of having the two home/school coordinator jobs cut from next year's budget got many at the recent public hearing concerned.
That included longtime staff members and families who spoke out about what would happen if the district lost both Holder and Triplett.
Jake Filip, a longtime physical education teacher in the district, said he would even gladly give up his own budget to support keeping the two employed.
"Take my budget for the next 20 years if you have to," Filip said, urging the board to reconsider the decision. "We have people who know our kids now. They know the people. Make the right decision."
Others spoke out, saying there is a pandemic going on and these jobs are needed now more than ever.
"This is a global pandemic," said educator Meg Morse-Barry. "We need not to be cutting these kinds of positions."
Parent Joe Turner told the board that Triplett was valuable to him and his two sons when they needed it most, offering support and connections to resources.
"I couldn't imagine without the home/school coordinator where my family would be," he said.
Both Triplett and Holder spoke at the recent meeting, saying their jobs are important when it comes to support for students and families, in school and at home.
Holder said families during these challenging times are facing issues like job loss, not enough food, childcare concerns and medical needs.
She called her role "crucial" when it comes to making those connections with families who need help.
For Triplett, a 21-year district staff veteran, it's about continuing the work she feels is greatly needed.
"Please reconsider cutting these resources at a time when it's vitally needed for our kids and our families," she said.
In the end, board members voted to reinstate the jobs into the budget. One one school board member, Lynn Perkins, voted against the measure.
Board member Brenda Willis said many hard decisions had to be made planning next year's budget and the original decision to cut those jobs was one of them. She led the motion to reinstate the positions.
The deliberative session on Feb. 6 begins at 10 a.m. at West Running Brook Middle School gymnasium. There will be socially-distanced seating for those attending in person, and also an alternative location for those who arrive and prefer not to wear a mask.