Brookline School Committee addresses logistics of new warrant articles

The+Brookline+School+Committee+%28BSC%29+discussed+new+warrant+articles+presented+by+community+members+and+plans+to+finalize+the+FY22+budget

GRAPHIC BY ELSIE MCKENDRY

The Brookline School Committee (BSC) discussed new warrant articles presented by community members and plans to finalize the FY22 budget

The Brookline School Committee (BSC) convened virtually via Zoom on Apr. 15 at 6 p.m. to discuss a series of warrant articles presented by community members and to provide specific updates about the current revolving budget and plans for the 2022 Fiscal Year (FY22).

The meeting opened with a brief statement from the student representative to the BSC, junior Claire Gallion, regarding the switch from the remote and hybrid learning models to the in-person learning model at the high school. Gallion presented a slideshow depicting students in their classrooms and how the administration has helped student morale and motivation throughout the transition.

Professor of Environmental Management at Harvard Business School Michael Toffel presented Warrant Article 3.21, which describes the continuation of sharing meeting agendas and information to the public in a transparent manner.

Toffel said the warrant article would help community members take a more active role in BSC and subcommittee meetings.

“This is a simple proposal to ensure that the public has equal access to the agenda packet documentation as the members of these public bodies. So when you show up to a meeting of the school committee or advisory, you have a place to go to prepare yourself for the discussion if you want to make public comments,” Toffel said. “And if you arrive in the middle of a meeting and there talking about some documents, you have a place to go to access those documents.”

BSC member David Pearlman provided a brief description to the committee after Toffel’s remarks and signaled to vote. The BSC voted unanimously in support of passing the article.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the BSC’s transition into their remote model for meetings, the Brookline Interactive Group (BIG) has broadcasted the majority of the meetings via their YouTube livestream.

BIG Board Chair Daniel Saltzman and BIG media affiliate Bonnie Bastien presented a slideshow presentation advocating for Warrant Article 40. The article would include a new subcommittee involving the BSC and BIG as well as increased communication between the town and the agency.

Saltzman said the BIG’s role in the community is much more than town politics while showing a slide depicting the BIG’s allocations of broadcasting.

“You can see that the programming is really only a quarter government content. Our programming touches all aspects of community life in Brookline,” Saltzman said. “You can see there’s faith-based content, community, content, civic, life children’s sports music. There’s so much.”

Saltzman said the creation of a new subcommittee could help with the organization’s funding and their crucial relationships with cable companies.

“We want the town to recognize BIG’s essential work through a more formalized long-term partnership,” Saltzman said. “We want to do this by creating a community media committee to aid in identifying potential stable funding mechanisms for big to review cable licensing and leverage opportunities such as grants of location to cable companies.”

Saltzman said the COVID-19 pandemic challenged BIG in finding new sources of funding while trying to keep the demand sustainable.

“We had a 200 percent increase in community demand for big services. And that same to a 200 percent rise in costs was operating remotely,” Saltzman said. “While our ability to get new sources of funding was halted, we had to increase by three times the amount of services we were providing while the cost to provide those services was increasing three times.”

The BSC voted unanimously in support of passing the article. Alongside Warrant Articles 3.21 and 40, there were some other articles that were presented and voted on throughout the meeting.

Interim Principal of the Brookline Early Education Program (BEEP) Dr. Regina Watts presented a slideshow presentation demonstrating how BEEP is be under more stress this year compared to others and called for appropriate funding and support from the BSC.

The BSC voted unanimously in support of passing this article. There were two other warrant articles presented, but the committee members deemed them to be out of their jurisdiction or not an appropriate time to vote and pushed them back to a future date.

Deputy Superintendent for Administration and Finance Mary Ellen Normen ended the meeting describing the BSC’s and the Finance Subcommittee’s efforts to finalize the next FY22 budget.

Normen said the BSC is still trying to make the budget of next year’s programs and personnel finalized.

“The school department is continuing to work on our budget for FY22. We are continuing to reconcile our personnel accounts and enrollments and next time on the agenda, there’ll be an enrollment report,” Normen said.