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Wilson’s budget increases for 2019

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Wilson’s budget for the 2019 fiscal year increased by $3 million, from $15.7 million in 2018 to $18.7 million. A higher enrollment projection and a push from DCPS to increase general education and operation staff account for the rise in funding. New positions for the next school year include an additional teacher for both the math and science departments, two new ELL teachers, two new special education teachers, and a board-certified behavioral analyst, among many others.

Last year’s budget accounted for 1,745 students, when in reality Wilson’s enrollment hovered around 1,880. This deficit is significant because a large portion of the budget is per pupil funding. “It’s not an advantage, we didn’t get a come-up, we just got a fair budget,” said Principal Kimberly Martin. Other factors leading to the budget increase include the recent boost in teacher salary and more required positions from DCPS.

DCPS mandates most of the money that flows to new positions, resulting in much less money left over for the administration to allocate how they see fit. “I imagined I was going to hire two math teachers, two biology teachers, two social studies teachers and that class sizes would go down and kids would have more flexibility with scheduling and we’d add electives,” Martin said.  “And then I found out that all of it except for about $600,000 was already spent.” Martin was very frustrated by a number of the DCPS personnel requirements, especially positions whose role in the function of the school remains unclear.

One such position is the Board-Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA). “I’ve never met a person that’s BCBA, I didn’t know what that meant. And there’s another one too,” she said. “So I contacted my instructional supervisor, she was like, ‘I don’t know what those are, I’ve never heard of them.’ I didn’t know what to do, I wanted to get rid of them, because they’re very expensive positions, and if I don’t know what they’re going to do it makes no sense for them to be there.”

DCPS does not consult school administrations before the initial allocations are released, but it does provide an opportunity for principals to petition for adjustments called technical assistance. Technical assistance meetings are held in a central office building, and allow for DCPS principals to meet with officials and request changes in the allocation of their respective budgets.

“Picture walking into this giant room, and there are tables set up and they say things like ‘physical education,’ ‘counselors,’ ‘tech,’” Martin said. “It’s the most hostile environment because we’re all angry. It’s quite a scene.”

At this year’s technical assistance, Martin petitioned to have the BCBA position, among others, removed from the budget so funds could be reallocated towards general education teachers. Her request was not granted.

“I walk over to the social worker person and I say ‘please, let me have only four social workers and take one of my social workers away. Please’” she recalled. “‘No, sorry Principal Martin,’ And I say ‘Look, you gave me five and a half, can I at least get rid of the half? Part-time people never work in a school this big. ‘Okay, we’ll let you have the half.’”

After this conversation, Martin still had to write a petition for each of her proposed changes, including how she plans to redirect the money. These written outlines are subject to further approval and scrutiny, and can still be denied even after she gets verbal confirmation. Martin submitted 10 petitions, four of which were denied.

The changes that Martin hopes to make to the initial DCPS budget for Wilson include a consideration for how they could benefit the school. “I do think that eight counselors is better than six, but I also think that 35 kids in an AP class is too much,” she said. “So since I know I can’t have everything, I was hoping to have six guidance counselors and take those two salaries and put them back into general education teachers.”

Manager of Strategy and Logistics Brandon Hall agrees with Martin that a reorganization of staff salaries could benefit the school. “I would love to increase the teacher population so that we could have fewer students in each class,” Hall said, continuing that dedicating a higher percentage of the budget towards staff that works outside of the classroom would help the school’s overall function. “Things would run more smoothly and we could be more effective when it comes to systems in the building.”

One area of the non-personnel budget that did increase was funding for custodial supplies, which grew by $10,000. When asked, Martin said she thought the extra money was due in part to The Beacon’s investigation into Wilson’s bathroom issues. Hall was slightly more skeptical of The Beacon’s impact, and though he expressed satisfaction with the progress towards adequate funding, he said he estimates that around $80-100,000 would be required to cover Wilson’s bathroom and cleaning needs to the fullest extent.

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Wilson’s budget increases for 2019