Hanover Public Schools Community Update 5/24/24

Hanover H

Hanover Public Schools is currently working on plans for the 2024-2025 school year now that the outcome of the override is behind us. The time for debate and disagreement is over, and the time for acceptance and collaboration is here. There is a reason why the windshield is larger than the rearview mirror, and we are moving forward. We are damaged, but our students and staff deserve our very best effort and optimism for the future — and that is what they will get. It won't be perfect, but we are not going to fail our students.

We are committed to moving forward to ensure our students and staff have the resources, opportunities, and level of excellence that our community has come to expect from our schools. We will continue to share the most recent and most accurate information available to help everyone understand the magnitude of these challenges, how we will address them, and how people can help.

On Wednesday, May 22, 2024, the School Committee met to review the most recent strategy in response to the $2.7 million budget deficit we are required to close for FY25. These plans are consistent with the information that has been shared publicly for several months. The most up-to-date information can be found in the slide deck we shared on our website, and that meeting can be viewed on HCTV. We are collecting frequently asked questions in order to efficiently target future communications. If you have questions or ideas, please reach out to your child's principal. The real news is challenging enough, and we are intent on preventing rumor and misinformation wherever possible. Please have faith that we understand that people want transparency and facts, and we will share accurate information as often as possible. 

Points of Clarification to Avoid Misinformation

  • High School Athletics: HHS teams are not being cut at any level. However, the School Committee voted to approve a new fee structure. The structure that the Committee approved is Option # 2 on the document, with an additional $50 on top of Tier 1 and Tier 2 sports. So Tier 1 = $350, Tier 2 = $450, and Tier 3 = $725. Tier 3 is hockey only. Tier 2 is football and basketball. All other sports are Tier 1. What do these user fees pay for? User fees are deposited into the Athletic Revolving account, which is used to pay for transportation, referees, balls, nets, uniforms, and other athletic operating expenses. Those expenses have increased significantly over the past several years (this is the first athletic fee increase in almost a decade), and the increase is required to keep pace with rising costs. Coaching stipends are paid from the operating budget. The revolving account has run into the negative the past few years, and it has required the use of operating funds to balance at the close of the year. Fully funding the revolving account preserves operating funds to be used for all other programs so there is a benefit beyond athletics.
  • Transportation Fees: There is a proposal to implement transportation fees for bus ridership K-8 (there is already a bus fee in place at HHS) and a parking fee at HHS. That proposal is posted on our website and will be on the School Committee meeting agenda on June 5th for deliberation and potential action. The posted proposal provides a clear explanation of the process, so I will save space on this message, but any revenue generated from these prospective fees would preserve operating funds to be used for all other programs so there is a benefit beyond transportation. Feedback to School Committee members is welcome.  Adding transportation fees — or any fees — is not something anyone wants to do, but it is a revenue source that many communities rely upon, and we have reached a point that requires this consideration to help offset additional reductions to staff and programming.
  • Position Recalls: We are actively working to recall a small number of teachers and support staff from layoffs. The layoff process relies on seniority and licensure, which requires "cutting" more positions up front to ensure that all collective bargaining requirements are met, the district has the ability to recall positions of highest priority, and so that we have the option to adjust where necessary with any fluctuation in funding projections as the year concludes. A small number of teachers and staff who were notified of layoff will be issued recall letters over the next few days. This information will be communicated at the next School Committee meeting. I want to publicly thank all of our staff who are directly affected by the loss of positions and won't be recalled. Your professionalism and presence during this difficult time has been remarkable. I sincerely wish I could have done something different to prevent this outcome, and I am very sorry. We are deeply grateful for all you have done to support our students in the classroom and in their lives. You have made a difference. 
  • Expectations for Next Year: There will be many more opportunities to share specifics as we move into next year, but I want to be upfront with families and acknowledge the very real concerns of our teachers and staff. We are not an overly resourced district, we are not overstaffed, and we have run on a very lean and efficient budget for years.  As such, every cut has an impact on the workload, time, and mental/physical capacity of our staff. Larger class size means that teachers will have to differentiate instruction and provide accommodations for more students to ensure their success. There will be more grading, more parent/teacher conferences, more emails, more phone calls, more make-up work, more classroom management, more letters of recommendation for college, more IEP meetings, more quiet conversations to check on students, and less support as everyone juggles an increased workload. Please understand that it will take some time to adjust and accept the impact of these changes. You will get everyone's best effort as always, but the high expectations for responsiveness that we have for ourselves, and you have for us, will have to be tempered with some patience and grace as we all move forward. 

The community outreach and support for our teachers and staff has been remarkable and deeply appreciated. There have been countless heartwarming gestures that show you care — thank you. For anyone who wants to celebrate the exceptional accomplishments of our students and staff, please join the HHS Class of 2024 on Friday evening, May 31, 2024, as they graduate and begin the exciting next chapter of their lives. Everyone is welcome to send off this amazing class in style.

Please enjoy a safe and relaxing holiday weekend. On Memorial Day, we honor our veterans by remembering their sacrifice and bravery in service to our great nation. It's a time to reflect on the freedoms we all enjoy, thanks to their unwavering dedication and selflessness. May all who protect our nation and community feel the sincere gratitude we all share on this important day of remembrance.

Sincerely,

Matt Ferron
Superintendent