Concord School District adds two more math coaches, approves $100 million budget

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 03-30-2023 4:25 PM

The Concord School Board voted Wednesday night to approve a $100 million budget in the wake of learning gaps that have left students years behind their expected performance levels due to the pitfalls of the pandemic, especially in mathematics. 

School board members pushed to increase the number of full-time math coaches in the budget from three to five, citing the significant growth of students this past year that has helped them catch up to where they should be. 

“We should take this next year to see if this is something we should move to the budget for a math specialist rather than a match coach,” said board member Barb Higgins. “I would like to see us add those two back for another year and take next year to study whether we want to continue with them or not. If we’re making progress, why would we want to take that away from our students?”

Over the last three years, the school district received $18 million in federal funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which was used on various initiatives including hiring six math coaches, an occupational therapist and a director of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice. 

With the funding for these positions expiring, Superintendent Kathleen Murphy recommended making most of the positions permanently funded. The proposed $100 million operating budget for the 2023-2023 school year included funding for three full-time math coaches, the occupational therapist and the diversity director who have already been hired in addition to a public information officer and a facilities manager.

Looking at the budget as a whole, board member Sarah Robinson argued that, for a small tax increase, the board should take advantage of the funding they have available to keep the five math coach positions to keep student achievement moving in the right direction.

After the pandemic, Murphy estimated that some students were two years behind on their math curriculum. But with the help of the math coaches, that gap has whittled down to between a year and six months for most students.  

The coach positions work across the district’s seven schools, meet with teachers, sit in on classes and review lessons. They are intended to help teachers improve their instruction, not work directly with students.

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“What bothers me about this is that they are teaching teachers how to teach math and I’m wondering what more they’re going to teach those teachers,” said board member Bob Cotton. “If they’re working with students that’s one thing, but that’s not what this position is.” 

Both board member Jonathan Weinberg and board president Jim Richards agreed and ultimately the three voted against the motion, which passed anyway by a 6-3 vote. 

Funding all of the proposed positions would cost the school district $570,000, draining its $1 million rainy day fund by 60%, explained business administrator Jack Dunn. 

Ultimately, the board unanimously approved the $100 million budget, which is up 1.4% over last year and will increase school taxes by 4%. 

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