The chair noted that the committee would be discussing the school department’s proposed budget increase and strategic plan, stating that the goal was to get more information and not to convince each other. She then turned it over to Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Homan to present.
Overview of Strategic Plan
Dr. Holman provided an overview of the strategic plan development process from April to December 2022. She explained that the plan was created by a group of 60 community stakeholders to develop the vision, mission, and strategic priorities. A smaller group of 25 then drafted the focused initiatives and action plans.
The strategic plan contains four key priorities:
- Equity and Excellence
- Valuing All Staff
- Finance and Operations
- Community and Family Engagement
Each priority contains three focused initiatives to be implemented over the next five years. Dr. Homan walked through each priority area, the focused initiatives, and the budget impact for each initiative over the five years.
Discussion of Salary Competitiveness
The Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations presented data showing that teacher salaries in Arlington lag behind the average of comparable towns by 5-10%. He noted that salary differences impact hiring, retention, and negotiations. He stated that recent settlements in nearby towns have exceeded 2% annual raises, putting pressure on Arlington to increase compensation to remain competitive.
Committee members asked questions about the strategic plan, including:
- Rationale for increasing salaries when budget is already growing
- Whether higher salaries will actually improve retention
- Details on implementation teams
- Metrics to evaluate effectiveness of past and future investments
- Alignment with capital planning needs
- Impact of slower rollout of initiatives on closing achievement gaps
Dr. Homan and the assistant superintendent provided responses, emphasizing the need for competitive compensation to attract, retain, and negotiate with high quality staff in order to meet strategic goals. They acknowledged that slower implementation would delay outcomes but is an option if funding is constrained.
The chair thanked the school officials for the presentation and discussion. She noted there may be follow-up requests for data ahead of the committee’s next meeting. Dr. Homan welcomed any additional questions to help provide context on the numbers.