Cost Reduction at Hanover High School

By Rachel Margolis
Like many other schools, Hanover High School—along with the rest of the Dresden School District—has been facing some financial uncertainty of late. The most substantial loss is the $500,000 in revenues from Dartmouth that were included in this year’s budget but will not be available next year, forcing the schools to reevaluate their budgets to meet this new constraint. Last May, the Dresden School Board authorized the ad hoc Dresden Cost Reduction Committee to find a solution to the problem. Its goal, as outlined in its mission statement, is to “work to identify areas of possible savings at the Richmond Middle School and Hanover High School,” and it will aim to “recommend cost reductions that do not compromise the quality of the programs offered in Dresden Schools.” The committee has brainstormed a variety of ideas, ranging from increasing class sizes to replacing textbooks with Kindles. Any cost-cutting measures approved by the School Board will take effect for the 2011-2012 school year.

This past Monday I spoke with Principal Gillespie about how new budget cuts might impact Hanover High students directly. The Dresden Cost Reduction Committee, she explained, has requested that the high school identify courses and programs that could be reduced to eliminate 2 and 4 FTEs, or full-time equivalent teachers. This does not mean that two or four teachers would be entirely out of work in these scenarios; rather, because the typical teacher teaches five classes, the total number of classes taught would be reduced by ten if 2 FTEs were eliminated and twenty if 4 FTEs were eliminated. In other words, the same number of teachers would teach fewer classes.
The Dresden Cost Reduction Committee has estimated that limiting electives at the high school could save around $124,000, so elective offerings would be among the first to be cut from the curriculum. Classes with low enrollment would likely be cancelled. Non-mandatory science, social studies, and math courses would be cut or limited to smaller numbers of students; for example, a student wishing to take a science elective would not be able to if all the classes were full, and no student would be allowed to take a second science elective unless everyone who wanted to take a first one had been fit into a class, regardless of whether or not it was his or her first choice.
Similarly, while students already taking multiple foreign languages would be permitted to continue studying them, an incoming student would not be allowed to pick up a language unless there was a class with room. Even then, the class with a vacancy might not be studying his or her preferred language. In extreme situations, whole languages may cease to be offered, starting with the German program.
According to Ms. Gillespie, these budget cuts would impact virtually every department in the school, including music, practical arts, and athletics. Co-curriculars like clubs and the Footlighters would also be affected. She emphasized, however, that while she has helped to identify areas that could be reduced to cut costs, as the Dresden Cost Reduction Committee mandated, she does not necessarily advocate doing so.
“These are not my recommendations,” she said. “This is not what I want for the education program.”
The committee welcomes any cost-reducing ideas from members of the Dresden community at large, and a public forum will be held on the subject on Thursday, September 30th at 7:00 PM in the HHS auditorium.

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