WEST NEWBURY — Pentucket officials continued to make the case this week for a $35.9 million budget for the regional school district next year.
The proposed budget, in its current draft, represents a 2.5 percent increase over this year’s spending plan and now shows a $501,045 funding gap.
Superintendent Jeff Mulqueen and Business Manager Michael Bergeron led a Power Point presentation on the budget Tuesday night in the 1910 Town Office Building and then fielded questions from the 25 residents and town officials from Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury in attendance.
A similar public presentation was previously made in Groveland; a third session is slated for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Merrimac Public Library.
The School Committee will continue its budget deliberations on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 6:30 p.m. at the high school.
In his presentation, Mulqueen, who took over as superintendent last summer, identified his three top priorities for the district, the first of which aims for students to receive “equal opportunity to reach their dreams.”
To achieve this, Mulqueen, in his new five-year business plan, seeks to gradually reduce or eliminate fees for transportation, musical instruction, athletics, kindergarten and parking in the next five budget cycles. He would stabilize class sizes to the “high teens to lower 20s” within seven years. An expanded early education program piloted at Sweetsir School in Merrimac next year would eventually extend to Groveland and West Newbury.
Mulqueen’s second priority — to see all academic, arts and athletic opportunities remain rigorous and relevant — means the creation of more accelerated learning opportunities, supplemented instruction, electronic curriculum and improved grounds and facilities.
He said one way to accelerate learning is by implementing a “task-based” curriculum initiative over the next few years that would see “students engaged with highly rigorous and relevant learning opportunities.”
Mulqueen defined “rigor” as the standards of curriculum and subjects and “relevance” as the application of those standards to real-life problem solving. He hopes to build on Pentucket’s already strong reputation as a state-wide leader in the application of 21st century skills.