SALEM — The school district has built roughly $1 million worth of turnaround programming and initiatives into next year's budget, from hiring assistant principals at the elementary schools to providing extra professional development for teachers and launching a new reading program for non-native and native English speakers.
This ensures change will happen whether or not the district is selected for the $500,000 federal grant it has applied for to help turnaround efforts at Bentley Elementary School, Superintendent Stephen Russell said.
"The fact that Bentley was identified as our Level 4 school (this fall) is only one chapter in the story," Russell said. "Frankly, as we look at all of our schools, none of them are doing as well as we think they can."
In November, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education declared Bentley a Level 4, underperforming school based on scores on the state MCAS exams and gave the School Department three years to turn the school around.
Russell released his proposed budget for the 2012-2013 school year at Monday's School Committee meeting. The board will discuss the budget in several public sessions before the new fiscal year begins July 1.
The proposed budget totals $50,695,000, a 3.8 percent or $1,839,000 increase over this year.
Roughly $1 million of the $1.8 million increase is tied to turnaround initiatives, including a detailed improvement plan for Bentley and the launch of an "innovation school" model at Carlton Elementary, Russell said.
The new model at Carlton, a kindergarten through fifth-grade school of 235 students, will have students in blended grade levels and allow youngsters to move through curriculum at their own rate, Russell said.
The change will mean additional costs for professional development; the hiring of a reading teacher, music and arts staff; and stipends for teachers at a two-week assessment camp for students before the start of the school year.
At Bentley, new positions include a bilingual guidance counselor and extra special education and English as a Second Language staff.
As part of the turnaround plan, Bentley's school day will increase by roughly 40 minutes next year — a change that won't cost much because staff scheduling will be staggered, Russell said.
Competition is stiff for the federal $500,000 school redesign grant the district applied for in April. A decision is expected soon.
A team from Bentley, including Principal Renata McFarland and Mayor Kim Driscoll, interviewed with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education last week.
"One of the pieces we were very clear about is that we are going to be moving forward one way or another," Russell said. "There are some important pieces of the turnaround that need to be funded either way. Unfortunately, the needs of the students can't wait."
Russell's proposed fiscal year 2013 budget also includes new math and language arts coaches, assistant principals at the elementary schools, a lead nurse coordinator for the district and a director of human resources.
Also proposed is staffing increases at the district's Parent Information Center and additional classroom teachers at Bowditch, Witchcraft and Carlton schools, to meet increased enrollment.
If approved, the human resources budget will increase by $65,000, or 94 percent, and expenses for principals will increase by $487,089, or 37 percent, because of the staffing changes. Professional development expenses are slated to increase by $12,395, or 22 percent.
Russell is finishing his 10th month in Salem; this is the first budget both he and new Business Manager Philip Littlehale have crafted in Salem.
The School Committee will hold a public hearing on next year's proposed budget at its June 4 meeting. The board will continue discussion at its June 18 meeting, and the City Council subcommittee on finance will discuss the school budget on June 27.
Details on next year's proposed budget are posted at www.salem.k12.ma.us
Staff writer Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.