Friday, November 7, 2008
Badalament fields CCHS parent questions, sees budget challenges
CCHS Principal Peter Badalament’s November 3 Parent Coffee gave him the opportunity to extol the success of a recent student-run assembly on diversity at which several students spoke of their difficulties fitting in at CCHS. In addition, a discussion was held on school dances and what limits should be set on behavior. Badalament also relayed some information on preliminary budget discussions, and fielded questions from parents concerned that the library needs to be open after school.
Badalament said the student-run assembly was praised by one long-time teacher as “The best we ever had.” Tolerance for diversity is “an issue we haven’t discussed as a school community in a long time.” After an incident at a school dance, students planned the assembly to raise awareness of “what it’s like to not exactly fit in here.” Five students spoke of what it’s like to attend CCHS with a disability, as a METCO student, with a different sexual orientation, and as a stereotyped jock. “There was no adult to speechify, and the kids did a fabulous job with it.” In the audience, “not a pin dropped. There was no texting or chatting with neighbors.”
Parents at the coffee noted their students had brought home stories from the assembly to discuss at dinner. “It’s amazing,” said one. “Kids are hungering to see themselves outside the labels.” Badalament said several students expressed disappointment there was no opportunity for input from the audience. He said other assemblies will be planned, and he has been approached by one student who wants to speak of his struggles overcoming drug and alcohol addiction. The annual survey of student risk behavior is being completed and may provide some direction for programs. Discussion of the survey will take place at a later Principal’s Coffee.
Dances are “much safer than ten years ago” when Badalament was an assistant principal. “There’s far less drugs and alcohol,” he noted, than in the days when dances had do be shut down and reinstated. Now a concern is grinding, “the only way to describe how they dance” by rubbing against each other. Although egregious instances are broken up, Badalament noted enforcement of no grinding rules is “virtually impossible unless you’re going to go out with a ruler and stand between two students.” In addition, students often form beehives to make it difficult to supervise.
Some parents reported their students are uncomfortable with the dances, but, said one, “you’re sort of a nerd” if you refuse to grind. Another said students are interested in other forms of dance, but don’t know how to do them. Could a DJ come and teach dancing? It was noted the Carlisle Physical Education departments would teach students a line dance, and at school events even the non-dancers would jump in when “Old Cotton Joe” came on. Would something like that work in high school? Badalament welcomed the ideas, and said he will approach the student senate. He observed that “ruling by fiat” is often less effective than finding a way for students to help solve the problem.
Preliminary budget discussions have taken place for FY10 and, according to Badalament, “it’s really going to be a struggle to maintain level service.” As salaries, health care, and energy are rising, a 5.9% increase is needed for the school to offer the same programs next year as this. However, the Concord Finance Committee has issued a guideline of 4%, which would mean a $474,000 shortfall. “That’s a fairly substantial amount of money for us,” said Badalament, especially as the past two years, budgets have necessitated cuts in supplies and materials, a process he called “death by a thousand cuts.” The Regional School Committee has not taken a position, but Badalament is prepared for “some substantial cuts in personnel.”
In response to a question, Badalament said the high school is still growing. Ten students were added this year, and ten to 15 additional are expected next year. It is hard to predict because more parents seem to be opting for public rather than private school, possibly as a result of the tough economy. However, Badalament noted CCHS has maintained a favorable teacher student ratio. The teacher’s contract limits a single teacher’s load to 90 students or four classes, where many other high schools allow up to five classes per teacher. In a tough budget year the superintendent could request a rise to a 95 student load, but that would mean the loss of some FTEs and possible layoffs.
Could volunteers support expanded library hours?
One parent expressed disappointment that the budget situation probably means the library cannot be kept open after school. Badalament agreed. “There are nine or ten items already forwarded” that he would like to add to the budget, but “I don’t expect any will come to pass.” Currently, the school library closes at 3 p.m. and students waiting for after-school activities are sent to the cafeteria where most waste their time talking. One parent wondered where students can go to study or use computers. Badalament was stumped, and noted that unless a teacher is willing to stay and supervise, there really is nowhere. Maybe the radio station? This is a tough situation because scheduling after-school activities is “very, very difficult,” said Badalament, and results in “some very odd times.” Fencing, for example, doesn’t begin until 4:30 p.m., and other activities begin at 6 p.m.
A parent noted she would like opportunities to be made available for parent volunteers. Parents want to volunteer at the library, but there are not enough staff hours to provide supervision. Often, students are used as TAs, limiting the need for parent volunteers. Badalament was encouraged to investigate other opportunities.
Other items were discussed, including the possibility of parents donating additional microwaves to relieve the backup on the only one now available to students, policies for teacher availability outside class and why there is a need for bathroom passes. Badalament recommended the program on Wednesday to be offered by his brother John Badalament, author of the Modern Dad’s Handbook, but noted, “I had nothing to do with his coming” as he was brought in by the Peabody Middle School.
The next Parent Coffee will provide information on the school library and some innovative programs currently being undertaken by new librarian Robin Cicchetti. Badalament noted she has purchased inexpensive video cameras to encourage students to make their own movies, and has boosted readership with newer technologies and materials, including graphic novels. That coffee will be held December 1. ∆
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