Westborough School Committee member Bruce Tretter on Wednesday night suggested school officials change "the way that we deliver instruction."
Tretter responded to School Superintendent Marianne O'Connor's recommended 3.67 percent budget increase for next year by saying, "I don’t know what the rest of the town budget is looking like, but I don’t believe that that’s doable."
"The cost of running the schools the way that they are right now, we cannot afford. So, how are we going to deal with that?" asked Tretter, who has served on the school board for 12 years.
Tretter said that “in our global society, there are changes that are being made."
"I’ve been over to a fifth/sixth-grade school. We talk about 25-plus kids. They have 30-plus kids in their classes. And I saw those classes," he said.
Chairman Ilyse Levine-Kanji commended O’Connor and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Daniel Mayer "for being relentlessly positive in the face of our economic time, and our administrators and our teachers. I think they are all working with increased demands and decreased finances.”
Levine-Kanji said she believes people don’t realize an aspect of larger class sizes.
“When we were in school, it was ‘stand and deliver.’ The teacher would stand at the front of the room and give one lesson plan to everyone," she said. Now, there’s “differentiated learning,” in which there are “kids with all different abilities” in the same class, she said.
Board member Jody Hensley said the community’s commitment to its schools is “the reason that people move here.”
“It’s town meeting that ultimately decides whether we can afford the schools we have in Westborough,” she said.
Levine-Kanji said O’Connor could have easily said “we need to add 4.6 positions, and that’s it.”
“We laid off secretaries last year, and Marianne and I had to sit in that room with people crying because they were losing their job, they were losing their livelihood, because we had to cut. We had to fire them because our main goal was keeping teachers in front of kids,” Levine-Kanji said.
The budget drivers include school transportation, and out-of-district placement of special education students, she said.
“I also don’t think that there’s any public school system that is in any different shape than we are,” she said.
Tretter said that “the administration has done an excellent job of putting together a budget that addresses where our school system is now, and the way we’ve been operating."
"But, I think we’re going to have to move in a different direction," he said.