I am usually a fiscal conservative, especially on the matter of municipal budgets, so when Barnstable proposed a $2 million increase in its school budget, I took a careful look.
I liked what I saw.
Barnstable's budget includes technology upgrades that help students compete better and help the district itself rank better in the ongoing school competition race. More importantly, the budget includes significant staffing and service increases for Hyannis West Elementary School.
Cape Cod Today has been sharply critical of Barnstable's handling of Hyannis West, a de-facto segregated school where most of the town's low income, English-learner population attends through third grade. Students at the school score far lower than others in the town. In fact, according to metrics provided in the Annenberg Institute for School Reforms 2010 study, some 43 percent of Hyannis West's third graders will still be struggling to read well when theyأre in the ninth grade.
When we interviewed Barnstableأs Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Mary Czajkowski last month she told us she had a plan to help Hyannis West. From what we see in the budget, she kept her promise. That is pleasing.
By reducing class size at Hyannis West and increasing staff, the district would bring to bear the resources necessary to support the district's neediest population of students. By their plan to build an early learning center in a few years, the school committee and superintendent offer a means to prevent many of the village children from being already two years behind when they arrive for first grade.
As we said in our article of February 21st, this is a critical time for Barnstable Public Schools. No district is more vulnerable than Barnstable in the competition between school districts. A demonstration of public support for the school district is absolutely essential if Barnstable is to compete with a resurgent Dennis-Yarmouth school district, other school choice destinations, extant charter schools and the specter of a K-5 charter school in their back yard.
The entire Barnstable school community should be commended for their work on this budget. This is a crucial budget at a critical time. It deserves the town's full support.