By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The annual building of the budget has begun for the North Andover schools.
The principals presented various “identified needs:” Items they said are necessary to carry out their mission but are not — as of yet, anyway — included in the budget presented by Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson.
Coincidentally, the School Committee also heard state Reps. James Lyons, R-Andover, and Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, as well as state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, talk about the push they’re making for more aid to cities and towns.
Last week, Hutchinson presented a spending plan totaling $39,991,881 for the fiscal year that will begin July 1. That plan, 4.46 percent higher than the budget for the current fiscal year, will provide students the same services they are now receiving, he said.
School Committee Chairwoman Laurie Burzlaff said that amount will enable the schools to “get by,” but it won’t bring about improvements to local education.
Town Manager Andrew Maylor has recommended a school budget of $39,720,523, an increase of 3.75 percent. Maylor supports a 3.75 percent increase for all town departments.
Maylor’s and Hutchinson’s numbers are now $271,358 apart. During the past few years, the manager, selectmen and School Committee have come to agreement on the budget before the annual Town Meeting.
School Business Administrator James Mealey said the next step in the process will be a “prioritized list of reductions,” which Hutchinson will probably present to the School Committee before the end of the month.
Mealey noted the committee has the power to vote to include in the budget any of the needs identified by the principals — and to eliminate other items that members deem less necessary.
Greg Landry, principal of Atkinson School, said a large number of his students have special needs and require extra help. His suggestion? Extend the school day for children who require more time to learn.
School Committee member Christine Allen asked Landry what the teachers at his school think of the idea. He admitted he hadn’t told them about it yet.
School Committee member Brian Gross pointed out the idea will need the backing of the teachers’ union before it can go forward.
Mary McCarthy, principal of Franklin School, and Edward Foster, leader of Sargent School, both said their enrollments are rising and they need assistant principals. Franklin has 541 students while Sargent serves 551 children.
McCarthy assured the committee that she and her staff are “using every bit of space appropriately.”
Kittredge School Principal Richard Cushing said his school’s biggest need is for a gymnasium. Money was approved by last year’s Town Meeting for the design of the gym and the School Building Committee is working with architect Thomas Peterman on readying a proposal for this year’s Town Meeting.
Kittredge is the only school in North Andover that does not have a gymnasium. Town leaders’ support for a gym at his school is “very much appreciated,” Cushing said.
Thomson School Principal Lorene Marx said she would like more literacy support programs at her school, while Mary Lou Connors, director of the Early Childhood Center, said she’d like to be able to hire a part-time speech and language pathologist.
North Andover Middle School Principal Joan McQuade was not able to attend last night’s meeting, so Mealey passed along her wish list: more technical support and math intervention.
“The high school is in a very good place,” North Andover High Principal Carla Scuzzarella said. NAHS, however, needs two more full-time teachers, of special education and computer science, as well as a part-time Spanish instructor, she said.