Budget cuts shake up LHS

Olivia LeClaire, Guest Writer

Imagine walking into your high school and finding your favorite teacher gone, your classes crowded, and your school’s facilities in disrepair. We often hear about budget cuts in the news across the country, but we never expect it to happen right under our noses. 

School budget cuts have become a common occurrence in recent years, with many high schools struggling to provide adequate resources for their students. Unfortunately, the Ludlow Public Schools system is no exception. Due to the town-voted budget, the administration has been forced to make more cuts that are predicted to significantly impact its students’ education. 

The anticipated budget cuts have created many anxiety-provoking speculations amongst students, parents, and staff. Driven by curiosity, I have decided to investigate the matter, learn the specifics, and recognize the potential impact the changes are going to have.  

Here’s What I Found

To get more information, I have reached out to the superintendent of Ludlow Public Schools, teachers, and the students. 

The proposed fiscal year 2024 reductions remove 1.57 million dollars from the original proposed service budget. This results in a loss of twenty-point-seven (20.7) full-time equivalency teaching and staff positions. Six and a half (6.5) of those positions are being eliminated at Ludlow High School.  The positions lost at LHS are two science teachers, two special inclusion teachers, one nurse, one French teacher, one secretary, and a partial librarian. 

Lost in Translation

One of the most significant cuts that the Ludlow school system has proposed is the near elimination of foreign language programs. These programs are essential to many students who want to leave the school with a seal of biliteracy. Foreign language courses not only provide students with a second language but also leave the students with improved communication skills, superior cultural knowledge, and a broader understanding of the world. 

The budget cuts from last year eliminated Portuguese classes from the middle school. This year, the proposed cuts include the elimination of French in middle school and a significant reduction of the program in LHS. Tammy Cook, who has been teaching French at LHS for the past 18 years, believes that “the larger plan is to just let foreign languages gradually die out.” She says, “We don’t have a huge language program to begin with, but to take away four positions equates to an entirely different program.”

With the departure of another teacher, the LHS French Department will be managed by only one professional. Consequently, this individual will assume the responsibility of teaching all levels of French, resulting in a significantly demanding schedule. Unfortunately, unpreparedness in this situation will lead to a considerable amount of time lost in lesson preparation. Not only is class time lost, but students will not receive as much one-on-one attention as they are used to.  

As a student, I am concerned about the loss of some very great teachers. More importantly, how effective can the teachers who stay be faced with this higher workload? Madam Cook agrees, “It is going to affect everyone who remains.”

Lost Books, Lost Opportunities

Everyone at LHS knows that Jamison Hedin is more than just a “regular” librarian. I have benefited from her literary advice, help with database utilization, computer issue assistance, and much more. Ms. Hedin supports the entire school. 

Proposed plans seek to split her time between middle school and high school. Some of her work will be delegated to para-professionals. My main concern is if the students will have the same support from someone inexperienced and unprepared for the job. Ms. Hedin shares my concerns. She worries about missing technology, items, or books. More importantly, a lack of qualified support will affect the students. In her typical wisdom, she adds: “Tough decisions are being made but sometimes there are farther-reaching consequences.”

Science on the Chopping Block

As someone who is planning on pursuing an education in health sciences, I am mostly concerned about the proposed elimination of two science teachers. Classes in science are both very difficult to learn and teach. A loss of two full-time positions will much impose the entire science department. 

These plans will result in fewer classes and larger class sizes. The department is apprehensive that these larger classes might pose safety issues for laboratory activities once the student count reaches twenty-four, as stated by Mrs. Sands. Additionally, she mentions that prepping a larger class and lab will be more time-consuming. I worry that the teachers will become overwhelmed by the workload and that students will suffer the consequences. 

Unmasking the Unfairness

In order to grasp the injustice faced by the staff members, it is essential to delve into the background of the situation. With the loss of the French  Program in the middle school and the departure of Monsieur Tending, only one teacher will remain to oversee the entire program. Contrary to expectations, Madam Cook, a well-loved teacher at LHS for eighteen years, will likely not be assuming this role. The most distressing aspect is that Madam Etkin, who will assume the role, is set to retire four months into the upcoming school year, thereby leaving the position vacant. This situation will undoubtedly trigger a state of tension regarding the selection of a suitable candidate for the increasingly demanding position. 

It is to my knowledge that Madam Cook, the superintendent, and the administration board have all been in contact about a possible solution to this situation. Regrettably, no action has been taken thus far. It is crucial to find a means to address this injustice. Madam Cook voices her perspective,  “I am not seeing a lot of creativity in the thought process for how we can work this out.”

Madam Cook’s experience as department head makes her the most viable candidate for the upcoming increased workload. It is truly a shame that these budget cuts put her in this position.

We simply cannot afford to lose a qualified candidate. These repercussions for our future education are too significant to ignore. 

Building a Fragile Foundation

My mother, an assistant professor at American International College Nursing Program, is very concerned about the proposed budget reduction. She is most concerned about the reductions in the science department. The nursing curriculum is heavily science and math based, and she believes that “a strong educational foundation is imperative to student’s success.” She suspects that students will be underprepared to enter college and struggle while trying to achieve their degree. 

Many of my classmates echo my concerns about the future of education. One student expressed, “I wouldn’t be surprised if future generations at LHS would perform worse or feel less prepared after graduation if these cuts continue.”

Another student questions the priorities of the townspeople, “The education programs in Ludlow are becoming irrelevant to its residents. Why can’t we be offered the best education opportunities? What better use could the money be put to?”

My fellow classmates are right to question and stand up for their education. They are the future, and they will be responsible for making decisions that affect the entire world.

Although I acknowledge that the proposed budget cuts may be necessary due to the recent high inflation and the struggling economy, we should remember that investing in education is investing in future generations. As a community, we need to pause and reflect on our priorities. It is the properly-educated future generation who can do great things for the town and great things for the world.