SHREWSBURY, Mass. — For parents, teachers, and others at Wednesday's school budget hearing, the single most pressing issue was overcrowding in Shrewsbury classrooms.
Parent Michelle Duke said that Shrewsbury schools had been on "a downward slope for years."
"Teachers are stretched to the max," she said, adding that overcrowded classes means teachers cannot provide as much personal attention to their students.
Duke said that the town's lack of investment in its schools is reflected by the state's decrease in Chapter 70 funding. "We need to raise taxes," she said. "I know it's not a popular thing to say, but I'll say it … Something needs to be done."
Suzanne Remington said Shrewsbury cannot look to the state to get more money for education. "We need to decide that education is a priority," she said, adding that she would like to see an override in May 2014 to increase the tax rate.
According to Paton School PTO Co-President Lorraine Daignault, many teachers are nearing exhaustion due to class size. She was also concerned that Shrewsbury had gone as far as to have one principal cover both Paton and Beal schools.
School Committee Chair Erin Canzano said her board's goal was to carry on current services and to begin restoration of positions and services cut in previous years.
However, there is a $4 million gap between the superintendent's $54 million school budget recommendation and the town manager's recommendation.
Selectman Jim Kane said it's "not realistic to think the entire gap will be filled," and again called on the school district to come up with a formal budget request, so that the superintendent and town manager could work out a final budget proposal.