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Arts are safe, but budget cuts still loom

Students+and+community+members+demonstrate+for+a+fully+funded+budget.+
Students and community members demonstrate for a fully funded budget.

Mayor Greg Verga addressed more than 100 students, parents, teachers and community members, who gathered for the “Save the Arts” rally at Gloucester High School last night, telling demonstrators there will be “no cuts to the arts.”

This demonstration, preceding last night’s School Committee meeting, came in response to a recent budget proposal from Superintendent Ben Lummis, that proposed cutting 41 positions to close a $3.1 million funding gap. The cuts targeted Tier II Intervention, special education services,  specialists and electives at both O’Maley Innovation Middle School and Gloucester High School. The electives targeted include art and music classes, a new vocational program, as well as business and physical education classes.

Arts are safe

Before the school committee meeting, Verga used a bullhorn to announce to the chanting crowd that an additional $1.75 million will be allocated to fund art and music programs, so those electives and specialists will not be cuts. The increase came from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) as well as an operating budget increase from $1.5 million to $1.75. 

At the rally, a large group of students, staff, and other community members showed up to support the arts programs throughout the district. 

“The arts programs are the reason I come to school everyday,” said Sophomore Phoebe Hone. “I want future students to have the same opportunities I did.” 

Jessica Guest, whose son attends GHS, said the band room and theater are the places her son feels most connected. “This is not just an elective,” she said. “This is a career path for him.” 

At the budget meeting after the rally, the oral communications portion lasted almost 2 hours, with attendees voicing their support for the arts, as well as commending Mayor Verga for finding the funding. 

Still on the chopping block

At the meeting, Lummis presented his updated FY25 budget plan that includes 2.1 million in cuts. Targeted areas for cuts include Tier II interventions, Special Education staff, reductions in services funded by ESSER, other specialists and electives, and staff in one core academic area.   

The timeline for notifying staff regarding their employment stays the same, with the week of April 29th being the week that staff will be notified of their position being cut, laid off, or changed in assignment. 

Lummis also highlighted long term concerns for the future, including the rising costs of special education, and future increases on operating budgets. 

The School Committee plans to vote on the Public Hearing Budget on May 8th, followed by a Public Hearing on May 22nd at the scheduled School Committee Meeting.

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About the Contributor
SOFIA ORLANDO
SOFIA ORLANDO, Editor in Chief
Sofia Orlando is a senior at GHS and is Editor in Chief for The Gillnetter. She is a member of the National Honors Society (NHS) and has won awards for her accomplishments regarding world history and journalism. In her free time, Sofia can be found baking, hanging out with friends and family, walking around town, or watching any of her favorite movies. She also has a fraternal twin sister! You can contact her with any questions or story ideas at: [email protected]

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