Superintendent Highlights Safety, Salaries, and Necessary Supports in Draft Budget
Posted January 3, 2023
Washington County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent David Sovine presented his draft FY24 budget to the Washington County Board of Education (WCBOE) during a public work session on Tuesday, January 3, 2023. The draft estimates operating expenses of $347,027,415 for the school system during the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2023 and ending June 30, 2024.
The superintendent’s budget is driven by the following key priorities:
- Addressing increased costs associated with inflation
- Providing a meaningful salary initiative to attract and retain teachers, support staff, and administrators
- Enhancing safety and security, mental health services, and behavior supports
- Meeting the mandates set forth in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation
“I am confident that investing in these areas will contribute to what we want for all of our students: greater and higher outcomes in their academic career, extracurricular activities, and their pursuits beyond graduation,” says Dr. Sovine. “WCPS wants to ensure our students have all they need to grow and succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. These initiatives will provide them with excellent teachers, administrators, and staff; they will learn in an environment where they feel safe and included; and they will have the necessary resources to help overcome barriers to learning.”
The budget addresses current universal challenges like inflation. Estimates indicate WCPS will need an additional $1.88 million to continue to provide necessary services and resources for student learning in FY24. WCPS has seen increased costs in instructional materials, bus purchases and fuel, technology services, and much more.
The educational landscape has been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, educators and school staff are confronted with greater responsibilities and higher demands in their roles. This has contributed to staffing shortages in teacher, administrator, and support personnel positions. Furthermore, WCPS must compete with regional school districts that can offer higher salaries.
“We must do everything we can to retain our high quality staff and to attract the most promising prospective staff,” Dr. Sovine adds. “In the midst of unparalleled changes in education over the last two years, our team has persevered and pulled together for the sake of our students in extraordinary ways. It is imperative that we provide a meaningful salary initiative for our employees in the year ahead.”
SAFETY AND SECURITY, MENTAL HEALTH, AND BEHAVIOR SUPPORTS
Safety and security of students, staff, and visitors in schools is a top priority. In the current school year, WCPS is hiring 19 new school security assistants, who will support safety initiatives in middle and high schools. These individuals are being hired and will begin their training in January before being deployed. It is critical to include these positions in the upcoming fiscal year for the initiative to be successful.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic and the school closure, schools across the nation have experienced mounting challenges in student behavior at all grade levels. The FY24 budget includes positions to support both staff and students in addressing these behaviors, like special education teachers and paraprofessionals, behavior support teachers and paraprofessionals, board certified behavior analysts (BCBA), school counselors, and dropout prevention specialists.
THE BLUEPRINT FOR MARYLAND’S FUTURE
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is currently in the process of implementation. This legislation, which was passed in the 2021 General Assembly session, is intended to drastically transform public education and expand opportunities for all students.
Some new required funding initiatives include:
- WCPS will pay for tuition and textbooks for WCPS students to attend Hagerstown Community College (HCC) or complete HCC courses at their home high school.
- WCPS will pay for Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams if students choose to take them.
- WCPS will hire additional English Learner (EL) teachers to keep pace with a considerable increase in EL student enrollment.
- WCPS will be required to provide funding to our local workforce development board, which is the Western Maryland Consortium. That funding equates to about $62 per student, or $1.3 million.
WCPS staff will now incorporate feedback from Board of Education members to make further revisions to the proposed budget. Through the budget process, the Board of Education will adopt the document as their own. They will then present the budget to the Washington County Board of County Commissioners to seek feedback and request additional funding beyond the required maintenance of effort level.
School system stakeholders and community members will have the opportunity to provide input on the budget during a public hearing, which will be held during the Board of Education’s business meeting on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. The Board of Education must approve a budget by June 30, 2023.
WCPS is the largest employer in Washington County, employing over 3,500 people who support more than 22,000 students.