Friday, October 11, 2002
School seeks new business manager
Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson and others in the school administrative team are interviewing candidates for the school business manager position vacated by Eileen Riley, who left Carlisle last Friday. Fox-Melanson said she hopes the school finds someone soon; however they haven't received many resumes because people who might apply for the position already have jobs this school year. Once the school has found a qualified candidate they will make a recommendation to the Carlisle School Committee.
New contracts to be negotiated
Some of the issues the new business manager will face include the budget impact of a new teacher contract and a new bus contract this year. The Carlisle School Committee (CSC) and the Carlisle Teachers Association will soon begin negotiations on the teachers' contract. The previous two-year contract included a 3% salary increase last year (FY02) and a 4% increase this year (FY03) for both teachers and non-contractual school employees.
Several teachers are expected to leave the school with early retirement benefits over the next few years, prompted by a state early-retirement program for teachers. These retirement costs should decline over time and, "in theory," the school could save money by replacing those who retire with teachers who start at a lower salary level, said Fox-Melanson.
The school bus contract with Bedford Charter also expires at the end of this school year. Bedford is the only company that bids for the Carlisle bus contract, which is considered too small for larger bus companies to make it financially worthwhile. With the present economy, the school is hopeful that other bus companies, such as Laidlaw, will now be interested in bidding. While Concord owns its own buses, the Carlisle School has no plans to do the same. "The up-front costs of purchasing buses and maintaining them are enormous," says Fox-Melanson, "We don't want to be in the bus business."
Business manager responsibilities
A school business managers is required to be certified by the state of Massachusetts under the state Education Reform Act. They must have experience working in a school environment and in a business management position.
Responsible for all aspects of the school budget, the business manager attends school committee meetings that address budgetary issues and also sits on the school building committee. The school building committee is currently working with engineers on design and permitting for the wastewater treatment plant now required to replace the existing septic system, which has been in technical failure under Title 5 regulations for several years. The committee expects to seek construction funds for the wastewater treatment plant at a winter Town Meeting.
The building committee is also overseeing a second school feasibility study, approved by Town Meeting, to analyze building sites for a possible second school and alternatively, to look into ways to expand the existing school to accommodate increasing enrollments.
Riley was responsible for technology administration at the school and oversaw the Waters Corporation grant for the systems thinking project at the school. The business manager is also the school's representative at town finance team meetings held every other week to increase communication among town boards including the Carlisle Fincom, the board of selectmen, the town accountant, town administrator, and the board of assessors.
As business manager, Riley administered this year's budget-driven fee programs that asked parents to pay $350 for full-day kindergarten on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and $375 for bus service for seventh- and eighth-grade students. The fee system worked well said Riley, "People realized the budget was difficult and things were tight."
The school lunch program is also managed by the business manager who oversees the school cafeteria manager. Larger towns and cities often receive significant subsidies from the state for school lunches, but Carlisle, with its small population and income demographics, receives minimal state funds.
The school administration works hard to make dollars stretch, whether purchasing food and milk for the cafeteria or supplies for classrooms, said Riley. They work with teachers to make things available, including general supplies such as paper and pencils and curriculum supplies such as texts. Teachers also have a small budget for classroom supplies such as paper towels, film developing and other small purchases. Elementary teachers receive a maximum of $200 for classroom supplies per year, but many dip into their own pockets to buy extra supplies for their class.
'The budget needs
to be transparent.'
Riley, who often explained the financial standpoint of the school to the FinCom, the selectmen, and to Town Meeting, believes the school business accounts should be open to discussion. "People need to know the numbers reflect what's happening at the school and they are accurate," she said. "People have to have a level of trust in the school's numbers and they need to know what the money is being spent on. They need to ask questions. The budget needs to be transparent."
'A one-woman treasury of information and ideas'
School building committee member Christy Barbee said of Riley last week, "I've always appreciated how balanced Eileen has been in explaining the school's financial issues...She's a one-woman treasury of information and ideas." Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson said Riley contributed a great deal to the Carlisle School system.
Riley said she enjoyed working with others at the school for the education of the students here. "I enjoyed using my talents to support public education and the curriculum. People here are great and we have a great administrative team."
Riley was school business manager in Carlisle since 1994, her first job as a business manager. A former high school business teacher with an MBA, she is certified by the state for both business manager and superintendent positions. She has accepted a new position as business manager for the Georgetown Public Schools near the North Shore. "It's been my lifetime goal to live and work near the ocean," she said. Georgetown is a larger school system with about 1,400 students including a high school, compared to Carlisle's approximately 860 students.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito