Somerville school superintendent could get $10k for 'innovation' spending

by Danielle McLean

School Committee members are mulling a plan that would give Somerville School’s incoming superintendent $10,000 to use at her discretion for innovative purposes.

The plan was introduced by Ward 2 School Committee member Dan Futrell and could be included in the superintendent’s fiscal 2016 budget proposal this spring. Futrell told the Journal if approved, new superintendent Mary Skipper would be allowed to use the $10,000 to purchase one-time “innovative” tools or initiatives without getting school committee approval.

“This is about creating a culture that continues to support innovation and new ideas,” Futrell said. “I’m excited that this might really spur new ideas that are kind of outside the box. Let’s be okay with trying something outside the box and having a formal mechanism to drive that.”

Skipper, currently the network superintendent of Boston Public Schools, signed a four-year contract with the city in December. She will replace the retiring Tony Pierantozzi on July 6.

Futrell said the funds would be used for any “out of the box” purchase or program that Skipper believes will improve student learning.

To receive the funds, Skipper would present to the school committee the purchase or program she intends to pursue and the targeted outcomes she hopes it would achieve. At the end of the year she would explain to the committee if the program or purchase was successful and met its targeted goals. If it did, the school committee would discuss adding it to the budget the following year.

School Committee Chairman Adam Sweeting told the Journal he is unsure if he would support Futrell’s proposal.

“I want to see it in the context of the budget and where we are. But on the surface it’s a really interesting idea,” Sweeting said.

Futrell said he came up with the idea after reading about another school district implementing a low-cost program that sends text messages to its high school students reminding them about college and scholarship application dates. He said that district saw improved college and scholarship acceptances that year.

“Whether or not [the cell phone program] is right for our community I don’t know. But I would sure like to have a mechanism that would allow for that,” he said.

Follow Danielle McLean on Twitter @DMcLeanWL or email her at dmclean@wickedlocal.com.

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