, Newburyport, MA

March 10, 2014

Viccaro: FY15 budget talks are occurring

By Greg Phipps

---- — NEWBURYPORT — While the projected budget deficit for the current year continues to stay at $540,800, Superintendent Susan Viccaro and members of the School Committee are making it clear that the financial situation hasn’t impacted the start of budget planning for next fiscal year.

“There have been meetings with building principals and staff, and we’ve talked about enrollment projections and how the building projects will impact (next year’s) budget,” Viccaro said.

She added that FY2015 budget items such as special education, curriculum, transportation, and safety have been discussed at length and are being evaluated for next year’s budget.

Viccaro said one of her goals is to better inform and educate parents and the community about the budget process so people can have an understanding of all that goes into constructing the budget, and how and why decisions are made. She said conducting public informational forums on the budget process would be beneficial for the district.

Vice-chairwoman Cheryl Sweeney agreed that it’s important for the public to understand budget procedures and the work that is being done. Committee member Bruce Menin said it’s also imperative for the committee and the administration to “make sure we are as transparent as we can be” in communicating this information both to the public and amongst each other.

Planning for the PARCC exam

In her superintendent’s report, Viccaro also addressed Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) English Language Arts field tests being conducted this spring. The tests, she said, are simply a trial run — “a test of the test” — and won’t involve any performance scores, data or ratings.

Using a state selection process, students were chosen at random to participate in the field test, she said.

The participating students, according to Viccaro, will also take the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests, currently the assessment used statewide, to ensure consistency in their testing data.

“It is important that the students try their best when taking the (PARCC) assessment because they are playing an important role in the research process that will benefit students and school districts across multiple states,” she said.

The reasons for the field tests are to ensure fairness of the questions, appropriateness for grade level, and to measure the intended skills and content.

“The development of this next-generation computer-based assessment is a multi-state project aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards,” Viccaro said. “PARCC is designed to provide us with a better measure of student growth, achievement, and readiness for the next grade level and, at the high school, for college and career.”

According to information provided by the superintendent, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is supposed to vote on whether to fully adopt PARCC as the state’s new testing system in the fall of 2015.