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Federal aid will offset school cuts, protect teachers

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“To be candid, due to the instability of the consistency of that funding, I would find it difficult to recommend hiring permanent teaching staff since the dilemma of where to fund them in the future would then face the district,” Klimkiewicz said. “It is more likely that the funds would be expended on content specialists, extra student tutoring, weekend/vacation/or summer student support programs as means of adding more long lasting quality improvements for staff and students. ”

The funds may also be used to add staff in the “very near future” since Nashoba Valley Tech enrollment continues to grow at the rate of 5 percent to 10 percent, Klimkiewicz said.

Maureen Marshal, superintendent of the North Middlesex Regional School District, sounded a similar call to her School Committee members in a memo Aug. 29. While the district will receive $927,000, and at least 10 teachers were laid off this year after larger cuts in 2009, the administrator’s antennae are up as to whether to bank on a one-year allocation, hoping for an economic turnaround in state revenues.

“With that fact in mind, the North Middlesex administration will carefully consider any action regarding the use of this money to fund recurring operational expenditures since using a one-time revenue source to fund ongoing operations will create a structural deficit in future budgets and probably require that positions funded by one-time revenues be eliminated,” Marshal wrote.

The Groton-Dunstable Regional School District will receive 502,962 in the wake of the lay off of 27 employees last year, including teachers, staff and administration. Superintendent Joseph Mastrocola came aboard officially on July 1. While noting the Education Jobs permits many uses, it’s beyond just hiring instructional staff, it’s important to look at how the money could benefit the district over time.

“The key word I’m using to show how we spend this money is judiciously. Next year, ARRA is not going to be there so in essence, again being judicious, anticipating the ARRA isn’t going to be there, alot of school districts are looking how they’ll fill in the gap of ARRA.”

“I can tell you one goal; I’m looking into minimizing our class size and I’m going to take a very keen eye towards this or retooling our budget. I will not be using it for administration,” Mastrocola said. Class sizes at Groton-Dunstable are in the 20s and 30s. His goal, then is “always earmarking money to teaching and learning. How do we get this into their hands so kids touch it?”

Ayer is to receive $193,375. Shirley is to receive a similar sum, $196,470. Ayer School Superintendent George Frost said briefly that no plan has been developed yet on how to allocate Ayer’s allotment. Ayer and Shirley schools are to merge districts in the 2011-12 school year.

Harvard is to receive $101,545. School Committee Chairman Keith Cheveralls said Aug. 24 that the committee was informed of the windfall by Superintendent Thomas Jefferson last week and may give the matter preliminary review at its business meeting Friday, Sept. 3.

“The good news in education just keeps coming,” Gov. Patrick told The Sun on Aug. 25.

The spending plan comes on the heels of Massachusetts learning it has won $250 million in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition.

The money for teacher rehiring was made available to the state through the federal Education Jobs Fund, a $10 billion program that passed Congress in August. It’s designed to restore education jobs for the coming school year. It can be used by districts to hire new teachers, rehire laid-off workers, or prevent future layoffs.

The money is being distributed through the state’s Chapter 70 school-aid formula.

Patrick said that while the state is required to spend the money this year, federal guidelines say local districts can save the funds for next year if they want.

The school money guarantees that every district in the state will receive more state aid than last year, a welcome gift after local aid, including Chapter 70, saw a 4 percent cut in this year’s state budget as revenues continue to rebound slowly from the recession.

Patrick said every district will see at least a $25-per-pupil increase in their local-aid allotment.

“We will again next year be able to fully fund Chapter 70 and for the fourth year in a row fund public schools at the highest level in the history of the Commonwealth,” Patrick said.

The federal money will allow the state to increase its Chapter 70 account by more than $145 million.

The Patrick administration also plans to reallocate about $55 million in other stimulus funds that had been earmarked for school aid to higher education.

Nationwide, 160,000 education jobs are expected to be saved by the funds in the coming school year, with 2,700 of those jobs located in Massachusetts.

Locally, the allocations are as follows:

* Ayer $193,375

* Harvard — $101,545.

* Littleton — $188,471.

* Shirley — $196,470 .

* Groton-Dunstable — $502,962.

* North Middlesex — $927,640.

* Nashoba Valley Tech — $142,232.

Nashoba Publishing staff writer Mary E. Arata contributed to this story.