School Committee decision prioritizes quick rehiring of teachers



The Brookline School Committee met virtually through Zoom to discuss the 2020-2021 projected budget shortfall.

The Brookline School Committee (BSC) convened at 6:30 p.m. on June 4 to discuss proposed plans to alleviate the town’s budget shortfall. During this meeting, the BSC rejected a portion of Interim Superintendent Ben Lummis’ proposed budget plan that called for the elimination of 30.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions.

The committee voted to approve cuts to central administration and to eliminate teachers’ universal 2 percent pay raises, saving the district $2.2 million. The final budget request of $118 million was sent to the Town Meeting for approval. The BSC meeting also contained a public forum where members of the Brookline community were able to share their opinions regarding the recent layoffs of over 360 educators, which the BSC reiterated were mostly temporary cuts made in the interest of flexibility.

The meeting began with Lummis explaining that, since April 2020, there has been a 3.5 percent reduction in the town’s recommended budget for the year. He proposed a plan to eliminate central office positions and reduce expenditures town-wide and in the Brookline Public Schools (BPS). Lummis also proposed permanently cutting approximately $2 million from the K-8 schools and $1.23 million from the high school.

These cuts included reductions in the Career and Technology Education (CTE), Health and Fitness, K-5 world language and Performing Arts departments. Lummis claimed that all departments will be staffed in the fall, but that classes will be less material-intensive to accommodate for the fact that there will be fewer teachers. Lummis’s proposed budget plan would save the district a projected $4.97 million.

Against Lummis’ proposed staff cuts, Vice-Chair Suzanne Federspiel said that all laid-off teachers should be brought back as soon as possible. She affirmed that she was not ready to vote on staff cuts and wanted to wait for an increase in town revenue before voting on a budget. BSC members Jennifer Monopoli and Helen Charlupski concurred, noting that cuts should be made in other areas.

“We need to find a way to bring our people back, and I respect that everyone wants to know what’s going to happen. We don’t want to lose valuable teachers, especially if we don’t have to,” Charlupski said.

Charlupski then proposed eliminating teachers’ salary increases, which are 2 percent across the board. According to Charlupski, this reduction will save the town $2.2 million and allow the administration to recall a majority of the teachers it had laid off, rendering some of the 30 layoffs under Lummis’ proposed budget unnecessary.

Charlupski’s motion passed with seven votes in favor and none in opposition. Chair Julie Schreiner-Oldham abstained.

“The budget gap is now $500,000. The School Committee directed that all additional areas of cuts be identified in non-personnel line items to the extent possible,” the BSC wrote in an official letter to the Brookline community. “With this direction from the School Committee, the Superintendent can now bring back as many staff as possible, as quickly as possible. We expect that the district will begin to send these recall letters to teachers early next week.”