HARVARD -- The school committee voted to remove a $1.95 million renovation to The Bromfield School science lab on Monday night, despite a poor heating and ventilation system.
The move came after the committee took its fiscal 2015 capital requests to the Capital Planning Committee, returning with the suggestion that such a large debt-related item had a high risk of failing at town meeting.
The committee voted to remove the item from the capital plan, still citing concerns over issues with heat in the building.
"I don't see a way to make this work," said committee Chairman SusanMary Redinger.
The committee's latest budget, presented to the Finance Committee on Saturday, features an overall increase of 0.71 percent, to $11,894,488. Technology received the biggest increase, with Bromfield School taking up the largest portion of the budget at 33 percent.
The committee also voted to increase a wellness and physical education teaching position at Bromfield to full-time for $22,268, following an increase in health and wellness graduation requirements approved last year. Another $25,000 would go to fund a part-time health and wellness teacher at Hildreth Elementary School.
"It would be smart for us to send the right message that this really is a core part of our curriculum," Redinger said.
The extra $47,268 for the two positions would be taken from the Devens fund, money that comes from MassDevelopment to educate Devens students in Harvard.
Seven capital requests will likely be funded by the Capital Stabilization Fund, said committee member Keith Cheveralls.
But a $50,000 request to resurface the front roadway and parking lot at Hildreth Elementary stirred a lot of discussion before Capital Planning. Supporting figures actually revealed that the project would cost about $65,000, and the school committee would need to make up the difference.
"The area of significant discussion was, 'Why is the school committee only doing a repair to the existing area?'" Cheveralls said. "The answer to that was very quick and self-evident -- it's in a terrible state and represents a safety issue. But when capital grabs hold of something like this, what they're looking at is, does it really make sense to spend the $50,000?"
The committee agreed to keep the project, although Redinger said it may not work out unless the school committee is comfortable with the actual cost.
"It definitely needs to happen, but it also is like the library parking lot, where we'd survive another year without it having be a huge problem," she said.
The committee ratified a new three-year contract with the Harvard Teachers Association, increasing stipends for the seven educational department leaders from $5,000 to $5,500 per year. The contract's cost of living adjustment is set at two percent until the 2016-2017 year, which is set at 1.5 percent. The contract also featured a $2,500 incentive for teachers who declare their intent to retire at least two years in advance.
Teachers can now seek a $2,000 reimbursement for an unlimited number of graduate courses approved by the administration. The old contract set a maximum of six credits eligible for reimbursement, which varied depending on private and public colleges. The reimbursement will also increase 2.5 percent each year.
School Improvement Plans for both schools are nearly complete with the year-long goals to redesign community service requirements, diversify teaching styles and more.
The principals at Bromfield and Hildreth Elementary presented the mid-year progress report with support from the committee.
"You're either over-achievers or you set the bar too low, because many of these are 100 percent done," Redinger said. "I think that underscores how much work is getting done."
Cheveralls also noted the amount of work, but asked the principals to look at the bigger picture and measure the success of the previous strategic plan.
"What does all of this mean?" he asked. "What has the strategic plan meant over time and by definition?"
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