The following is a press release from the Framingham Public Schools. It is published as received as a community service.
FRAMINGHAM – Tonight the Framingham School Committee voted 9-0 in support of Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay’s recommendation for Central Office staff to continue working remotely at this time and, as a result, will no longer pursue extending the Framingham Public Schools (FPS) lease at the Perini Building when the current lease expires at the end of June.
This move, concurrently with two additional cost cutting measures combined to total $832,500, received the support of the School Committee before the Superintendent’s appearance before the City Council Finance Subcommittee tonight.
“In the middle of this public health and economic crisis, we must focus on directing scarce financial resources towards the classrooms,” said Superintendent Tremblay. “This one move will protect multiple educator positions from budget cuts. While it is uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and honestly unfathomable, we have done what none of us would have ever believed possible over the last few months. Even if we had years to prepare for the fully-remote operation that we now have in place, we never would have realized the same success had we not been driven to innovate out of necessity. This decision was not easily made as it will impact the working lives of more than 60 staff members who work at the Central Office, but it is the right decision to save school positions.”
“I credit Dr. Tremblay and all Central Office staff for making a striking yet necessary move to prioritize students and educators,” said Adam Freudberg, Chair of the Framingham School Committee, District 4. “The School Committee thanks all staff for the remarkable efforts they have undertaken during this pandemic. We are now asking them to do a bit more than normal as we continue to focus on any and all cost saving measures to keep direct support for children as our collective top priority.”
The Framingham Public Schools Central Office has been located at the Perini Building on Mt. Wayte Avenue since 2016.
Previously, staff were located at the now King Elementary School but vacated that facility when it became an elementary school to support enrollment growth. The current lease expires at the end of June, and the Mayor, City Council, and School Committee were in the process of considering a lease extension.
A proposed lease for $512,500 was in the FPS proposed budget, and is now removed.
Additionally, $220,000 for the hiring of two Assistant Director positions in the Office of Teaching and Learning, and $100,000 for a reduction of paper and copier leases throughout the district were removed by the School Committee.
This total reduction of $832,500 is now a new cost cutting factor along with the previously made FPS presentation on $3.3 million in planned reductions. Together, this additional information is now offered by the School Committee to the City Council for consideration during their planned budget deliberations tonight and in the weeks ahead.
During the meeting, Tremblay reported that this difficult suggestion was proposed in order to save educator jobs during a time of scarce available resources and to seize this as an opportunity to conduct business differently – more safely and more efficiently. He noted that while many of the FPS offices have forward-facing responsibilities and direct interactions with staff and families, the time away from the office has proven that FPS can and should do business differently and with greater efficiency and at a lower operating cost.
FPS leaders are exploring temporary options within school buildings if and when in-person meetings are necessary, and will use the near future to take a hard look at the amount of office space that FPS truly needs when public health requirements are adjusted towards pre-COVID rules.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines are all recommending at this time to keep staff teleworking for as long as possible and then to bring staff back on a staggered basis to ensure the safety and well-being of all employees. During the time of continued remote work, any Central Office staff member, upon request, will have structured access to enter school buildings for scanning, photocopying, and office supplies.
Additionally, during the meeting thank yous were offered to the Perini Corporation, who throughout the terms of the lease have been a wonderful landlord and supporter of education in Framingham. Dr. Tremblay also noted the meaningful collaboration between Mayor Spicer and City Councilors who have offered feedback throughout the budget process.
The current FPS budget, under consideration by City leaders, results in at least a $3.3 million level services shortfall. This gap exists after all new initiatives and spending plans have been postponed. Level service increases are driven by year-to-year drivers.
Next fiscal year, FPS has carefully planned for projected increases in enrollment (more than 220 new students over last school year), contractual obligations for educators, new special education expenditures required by law, and, moreover, increased social, emotional, behavioral, and public health initiatives to plan for a return from months of closure due to COVID-19.
This shortfall does not yet include any additional spending to potentially be required by public health officials in order to return to school safely. Last week, the Framingham School Committee passed a resolution calling on increased federal government support for public education. The resolution highlights the immense instructional challenge of unfinished learning that many students will face coming out of this school year and the need to prioritize federal funding for education support.
Any funding allocated by the federal government to the Framingham Public Schools (FPS) would provide critical additional resources, thereby helping support the health and safety of the students, teachers, staff, and the larger community.