From The Board of Education

Board of Education News


The Madison Board of Education publishes a monthly column on topics of interest to the community, from the Board's perspective. We welcome your comments, questions and topics you would like us to cover.

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The Board of Education’s annual operating budget makes up more than 70% of the town’s total budget.  Budget planning is primarily guided by the actual work and vision of the district, including the strategic plan and instructional agenda.

The formal process to develop, review, and finalize this budget spans more than 8 months of every year, from initial discussions in September through public hearings in March and April, to a final referendum in May for a full town vote.  Throughout this process there are many opportunities for the public to learn more about how we arrive at this budget and to ask questions, all with the goal of transparency, clarity, and an understanding of where, how and why this money is being spent.

The process for the 2019-2020 operating budget officially began in September with administrators meeting to discuss budget needs for the following year, and developing a budget timeline, or calendar.  This year’s budget calendar was adopted by the Board of Education (BOE) Finance Committee on October 23, 2018. 

An important part of the planning process is the adoption of the Budget Assumptions created by the administration that identifies budget priorities prior to the final development of the actual budget recommendation. This guiding document allows everyone in our community to review the budget priorities before the BOE begins deliberation.  The BOE discussed and reviewed these assumptions during public board meetings held in October and November, and formally adopted them on December 4, 2018.

Following the adoption of the Budget Assumptions, each district administrator is responsible for their local budget recommendation. For example, Mr. Salutari, DHHS Principal, submits the budget for the high school, and Dr. Battaglia, Director of Special Education, submits the budget for the special education program. Once these “local” budgets are proposed, the central office administrators organize all this information and convene a budget retreat during the month of December to determine their final budget recommendation.  Administrators then reviewed this budget with the BOE Finance Committee during their public committee meetings on December 12 and 18, 2018.

Enrollment projections are another important factor in the budget planning process since BOE class size policy impacts the numbers of teachers needed. Birth rates from five years prior provide a base for projecting  kindergarten enrollment, and for grades 1-12 we roll up the actual student numbers from the current year and include any new students  into our schools over the summer.

The two most volatile areas in the budget are health care for employees and special education for students. Health care totals over 15% of the total budget, and since we are self-insured, our costs are almost exclusively based on the number and cost of actual claims.  In past years we have seen significant fluctuations in health care costs, ranging from a 20% increase over one year, and then a flat budget last year. The district does have a “stop loss” policy, and a reserve fund with the town is maintained per Board of Finance regulation to protect from extreme claims. The special education budget is responsive to the needs of our most at-risk and disabled learners. As a result, based on frequent changes in student need, funds within the special education budget can fluctuate widely, posing challenges to financial planning.  The special education budget accounts for nearly 20% of the overall Board of Education comprehensive budget.  

Please visit the Board of Education website for more information on the budget and these upcoming public meetings:

  • January 2 and January 8, 2019: Public budget workshops 
  • January 8 and January 22, 2019: BOE Budget Discussion and Vote
  • February 5 and February 20, 2019: Approved BOE Budget goes to Boards of Selectmen and Finance 
  • March 6 and April 10, 2019: Final public budget hearings
  • May 14, 2019: Town referendum

 

 

One of the five standing committees of the Madison Board of Education is the Curriculum and Student Development committee. The innovative classes, programs, and educational experiences our students enjoy are a product of the hard work of our teachers and administrators who develop Madison’s curriculum and bring it to the committee for review and comment prior to adoption.

Our district ranks 9th in Connecticut in math on the SAT, and 10th in reading and writing. Our students get into great colleges and universities, with 24% of all applications to the most competitive colleges accepted and 68% of applications to highly competitive colleges accepted. Few Connecticut towns outside Fairfield county have these results. 

Our students at Daniel Hand High School (DHHS) filled 620 Advanced Placement course seats last year, and of those who took AP tests, nearly 80% earned a score that is the equivalent of a passing college grade. In our Early College Experience/UCONN program, 95% of the students enrolled earned UCONN credit, totaling 463 individual UConn courses. Students who participate in these programs are learning at a high level and getting ahead in college while they’re still in high school.

Last year we also began innovative Independent Study courses that allow students to design their own academic experience. Teachers guide students as they explore their interests, conduct research, build projects, and anything else they can dream of, ultimately presenting to a panel of real-world experts for feedback, which models a collegiate or professional experience.

At DHHS, a trimester model is used, which is predominantly seen in highly regarded private high schools, enabling students to follow personal passions and interests. Many college-level and elective offerings are available. Students are studying Spanish, French, Latin, and Mandarin. They choose from Social Studies electives like Sports and American Culture, or the Modern Middle East. They take multi-year TV studio courses and enjoy broad arts offerings like digital animation, movie making, and clay and innovative forms. Science electives include Biotechnology, Marine Science, and Infectious Diseases. And we’re very proud that the Technology and Engineering Education program was selected as the 2019 CTEEA high school program of the year.

Many supports are also available to our students to help them succeed and lead a balanced lifestyle, guided by the District's commitment to the whole child. Most courses have small class sizes, allowing for significant teacher attention to each student. As students navigate their personal goals, they enjoy a low guidance counselor to student ratio. And math and language arts learning labs are open every period of the school day to provide additional on-demand supports to students.

At Daniel Hand, there is truly something for everyone, and that extends to extracurricular activities as well. Nearly 80% of the student body participates on an athletic team. We have competitive teams in robotics as well as e-sports, and there are over 80 clubs across a wide variety of interests. The arts scene is thriving at Hand with regional award winning student artists, a theater program which includes over 100 students, and the nationally-recognized  show choir, Vibe. These content-rich curricular and co-curricular experiences help us meet our district vision – that we will develop joyful and passionate learners by fostering every student’s diverse talents and abilities. 

To learn more about the many educational opportunities at the high school please visit the district curriculum website.

MPS Curriculum

 

Is $100,000,000 too much to spend on Madison schools for repair and maintenance over the next ten years?

Recently, the three Boards of Madison have, based on a suggestion from the Board of Finance, created a Tri-Board School Facilities Working Group composed of two representatives from each Board: Selectmen, Finance, and Education. The purpose of this working group is to work collaboratively across the three primary Boards to identify additional options for the BOE beyond the proposed 10+ year capital maintenance plan currently with an estimated cost of one hundred million dollars. These additional options would provide potential solutions to the issue of aging school facilities and the associated mounting maintenance and safety/security projects.

The goal of the working group is to identify, for public consideration, three to four options that are fiscally responsible, accommodate long-term enrollment trends, and consider the needs of the 21st century learning environment. Fiscal responsibility requires not only meeting the facility needs for continuing to provide a top-quality education but also recognizing the need to fund other town facility projects. Options must be sensitive to the fact that roughly 95% of town revenues are derived from property taxes which depend on property values.

Residents of Madison have for many years benefited from having a highly regarded school district. The high quality of education provided by our school programs has produced good citizens for our community and made Madison attractive to homebuyers. 

The key elements of a good learning program are the curriculum and the educational professionals who implement it. One look at the curriculum documents on our district website illustrates an unparalleled instructional program that prepares students for the challenges of the 21st century. Our district vision focuses on critical thinking, problem solving, and the skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly global and technologically advanced society. On the most recent SAT our district is without peer in the region.  In fact, Madison students performed in the top 10 districts in the entire state on the SAT. Among the most recent graduating class, nearly 70% of applications to highly competitive colleges and universities were accepted. One in four were accepted to the most competitive colleges. 

While teachers and curriculum are the key elements, facilities do matter. Well-lighted schools with good air quality, controlled climate, and appropriate acoustics facilitate the work of our educational professionals. Equally important are safe and developmentally appropriate play spaces, as academic and social-emotional learning are inextricably linked. Appropriate spaces for unstructured play support the education of the whole child. 

The Tri-Board School Facilities Working Group holds regular public meetings and encourages public participation and engagement. The working group has already received one proposal from a community group of parents and we welcome others.  The recent defeat of the referendum aimed at meeting facility needs through the construction of new schools indicates the importance of keeping the community informed of the facts and the rationale of any presented option. The Board of Education believes that as a community we can work together to find the right solution for our schools and our town.

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