Update from Supt. McDonough to Central Office staff
Superintendent McDonough sent this message to all BPS central office staff on Tuesday, Feb. 4:
Dear BPS Central Office Staff,
I would like to share with you an update on our budget development process for next year, as well as the process we will be engaging in as a district in the coming weeks.
This Wednesday, February 5th, as required by state statute, we will present our preliminary FY15 budget proposal to the Boston School Committee. Ideally, we would present a balanced budget for the School Committee to review and provide feedback on, using it as their foundation for a month-long series of community budget hearings that culminate in their vote on an FY15 budget on Wednesday, March 26th.
Unfortunately we are not able to present a balanced budget to the School Committee this week. Our expected appropriation for next year is $973.3 million, an increase of approximately $36 million from the FY14 budget. We are grateful to Mayor Walsh for increasing the City’s appropriation to our schools by nearly four percent at a time when other City departments are required to take a budget cut. This increase demonstrates the Mayor’s commitment to providing a quality education to every child in the City of Boston. However, the City is not in a position to fully fund every dollar of increasing costs, or replace every dollar of external revenue we are losing.
As a District we face a challenge of approximately $60 million in rising costs and $32 million in declining state and federal revenue. We must also make strategic new investments in the areas we know are critical to improving the quality of education, such as in transitioning to Common Core academic standards and new technologies, strengthening our Office of Human Capital, implementing our new, more equitable school choice system, deepening our dual language opportunities, expanding inclusive settings, ensuring access to our nationally-acclaimed early education programs, and offering as many extended learning time and out-of-school learning opportunities as possible.
Our core belief is that great teachers and school leaders, when equipped with the right tools and professional support, will make positive differences in students’ lives and eliminate achievement gaps. When we commit to these new investments and also account for rising costs and reductions in external funds, we face a budget challenge next year that is more than $100 million.
This challenge is about much more than balancing the budget. It is about rethinking our entire approach to education so we can align ourselves in a way that is smarter, sharper, more effective and much more coherent.
Just last week we announced that our drop-out rate has fallen to its lowest level since at least 1977 and our graduation rate is at the highest level it has been since we starting tracking it. These ongoing successes are the result of focused, well-aligned efforts that have connected highly-talented teachers, specialists, administrative staff and community partners. No single department, school or initiative can take credit for them. We rise and we fall together. This is an opportunity for us to rethink every aspect of our work so everything we do is clearly defined, clearly organized and highly effective.
In other words, simply balancing the budget is not our objective. This is an opportunity to make the Boston Public Schools much stronger.
With this mission in mind our team has identified strategic realignments and cost savings that have narrowed our budget challenge to $19 million. This is a large number and we still have work to do, and I also have an obligation to you. I respect your talent, your commitment and your intentionality in supporting student success. Just as we have done at some of our schools, absent a final resolution to the budget, I need to inform all central office staff that at this time I cannot guarantee your employment beyond June 30. This extends to all central office employees, including my entire leadership team and me. We felt that the only equitable and transparent way to do this was to treat everyone the same. In the short term we will be making these decisions with an eye toward the FY15 budget. In the longer term, we will be working closely with Mayor Walsh and his team on a performance audit of every aspect of our schools to ensure best practices are in place at every level of our organization. I welcome this support.
We will be engaging in a process over the next month that will bring clarity and we will provide you with more certainty in the weeks ahead. In the interim, you need to be aware of the potential changes and plan accordingly. We wish to provide you with as much time, information and support as possible to ensure that you have access to every professional opportunity available both inside and outside our District.
This is difficult. This is tough. But, it is also necessary. We, as we do with schools each year, are now calling on each of you to rethink our notions of service, of support, and of accountability. I know that we are up to this challenge. The budget process offers us an annual opportunity to reconsider the status quo and make better sense of how we accomplish the work of teaching and learning in every school. Our approach over the next several weeks will allow us to move forward, to strengthen our schools and ensure success for every student now and into the future.
John P. McDonough