Schools may hire teachers, clerks

Increased enrollment could lead to the hiring of additional faculty and staff in the East Windsor Regional School District.

By: David Pescatore
   HIGHTSTOWN — More students equal more money.
   That was the message at Monday’s Board of Education meeting as district Business Administrator David Shafter delivered presentations on many areas of the proposed 2004-2005 school budget.
   Hightstown High School would gain three teachers to handle an estimated 55 extra students. The additional faculty would cost the district $205,022 in wages and benefits.
   Enrollment at the four elementary schools is expected rise by 70 students, while officials anticipate 14 more students at the Melvin H. Kreps Middle School.
   According to staffing projections, each of the district’s six schools would gain a clerk. The new employees would work 10 months per year and cost the district $36,154 each, for a total of $216,924.
   Interim Superintendent James Sheerin said that the district would be seeking bilingual clerks to assist with the diverse student population.
   "There are many different languages in the district," he said. "We are not just looking for one particular language."
   One of the largest chunks of the total budget, almost $7.7 million, a 32-percent increase from last year, would be dedicated to tuition of students sent out of the district.
   The district is expecting an additional 49 students to be sent elsewhere for special services next year, bringing the total to 224. Tuition for some programs can cost between $20,000 and $50,000 per year, compared to the district average of $11,318.
   One of the district’s goals, according to Diane Collins, director of student services, is to bring as many students as possible back to the district.
   "Some have very severe disabilities, but we could bring back a lot more," she said.
   The actual impact on the budget is scheduled to be mitigated by applying $800,000 in federal funding toward the total cost, reducing it to less than $7 million.
   Mr. Shafter said that the district previously applied federal funds toward salaries for Child Study Team members, a move that required the district to pay into Social Security and pension funds. This way, the district pays the salaries and the state picks up the other expenses, saving the district 12 percent on those employees.
   "Hopefully," Mr. Shafter said, "our enrollment projections don’t hold and we can bring some of these kids back."
   One encouraging report came from Suzanne Harkness, the district’s coordinator of evaluation, grants, and community services, who said that standardized testing costs would be reduced by nearly 25 percent to $63,000.
   "I have good news, I’m saving you money," she announced.
   The savings are the result of the state paying for third-grade testing. The state already pays for grades four, eight and 11.
   Mr. Shafter said that he hopes to have a total budget amount prepared by the end of the month, depending on when the state releases the amount of its contribution.