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THE SAUGUS ADVOCATE
– Friday, March 17, 2017
Page 2
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increase in out-of-district costs
related to Special Education.
“Wehadtwokidsmoving indur-
ing Christmas break that drove
our costs up,” the superinten-
dent said.
One of those cases involved a
17-year-oldstudentnowinares-
idential facility who accounted
for close to half of that amount
($253,788). The school district
mightbeexpectedtopayfor that
student’seducationuntilheis22.
An increase in English lan-
guage learners has created “a
wholesetofneeds for theschool
district,”DeRuosi said.
“You’re looking at 23 different
languages spoken in thehouse-
hold … For a town like Saugus,
that’s abigtransition,”thesuper-
intendent said.
The increasing needs of low
income families has also taken
its toll.“Poverty right nowisdec-
imating multiple districts – not
justSaugus.…About40percent
of kids coming to the district re-
quiremoreneeds,”DeRuosi said.
Charter schools hurt
district
The exodus of students from
Saugus Public Schools to char-
ter schools “alarmed me the
most,” DeRuosi said. Charter
school enrollment increased
from 96 students in October of
2012 to 165 students last Octo-
ber.“That’s a redflag forme,”the
superintendent said.
“We want to keep these kids
in the district,” he said, noting
that charter schoolshavedrawn
severalmilliondollarsaway from
theschool districtwhile they“do
not compete with us on a level
playing field.”
Charterschoolscanbeselective
inthestudents theyaccept,while
Saugus Public Schools provides
educationforstudentsatall learn-
ing levels – many who would be
rejectedby charter schools.
“Theyareour students,”DePat-
to interjected.
“They are our taxpayers’ chil-
dren,”he said, adding he would
support anyone trying toget an
education.
DeRuosi acknowledged that
town residents have a choice of
where they want to send their
children to school. “My job is to
build a better product,”he said.
Taking steps to be
efficient
DeRuosi said the School De-
partment has become more ef-
ficient at eliminating unneces-
sary costs in several areas since
he took charge last July 1. He
calledthedecisionbytheSchool
Committeetooutsource its food
services program to a private
company, effective next year, “a
huge efficiency” that will elim-
inate the annual loss of about
$110,000-a-year.
Previously, student debt aver-
aged $11,000 to $12,000. Cur-
rently, it averages $3,000. The
SchoolDepartment isnowfocus-
ing on how to improve student
participation in the food service
program, according to DeRuosi.
Hesaidhealsohas takensteps
to eliminate deficits in the Ath-
letic Department budget. But
while the School Department
makes strides to become more
efficient, its efforts are ham-
peredbycircumstancesbeyond
the district’s control.
“Thestateand federal govern-
ment need to step up and fund
publiceducation…It can’t keep
fallingon the backs of cities and
towns,”DeRuosi said.
Without the support, pub-
lic education is on the brink of
collapse, according to DeRuo-
si. With changing demograph-
ics, Saugus has become“amini-
urban” community that “needs
some help,”he said.
Getting part-timers off
health insurance
Finance Committee Member
SteveDiVirgiliobroached the is-
sue of reducing the number of
part-time School Department
employees who qualify for the
town’s health insurance. People
working20hoursaweekcanget
health insurance that costs the
town $20,000-a-year, DiVirgilio
said. By reducing the part-time
hours to under 20 hours a week
for 50 employees, the town can
save a million dollars, DiVirgilio
estimated. “It’s not politically
popular,”he added.
But DeRuosi insisted that
wouldn’t be an issue for him, as
BUDGET
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BUDGET
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