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New Boston School Board Slashes $8 Million From Budget

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In its first major action, the new, mayorally appointed Boston School Committee has slashed $8 million from its budget in an effort to close a gap between what the school system had planned to spend and the amount allocated to it by Mayor Raymond L. Flynn.

The committee had been faced with cutting $16 million from its $395 million budget, but after a meeting this month with Superintendent Lois Hamson-Jones, Mr. Flynn indicated that he would be satisfied with reductions of only half that amount.

Parents and education advocates had feared that the city's preschool program would be eliminated in the budget reductions, but it was spared after the Mayor relaxed his demands.

The reductions made by the new school-committee members at a raucous meeting Jan. 15 nevertheless represent the most severe budget reductions in Boston in the past two years.

The committee's actions will result in the lay off of 260 teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, secretaries and clerks, and other support personnel.

About 60 of those laid off are expected to be classroom teachers, although the final number of teachers who will lose their jobs is expected to be higher, because administrators whose jobs are eliminated have the right to "bump. nontenured teachers.

The bulk of the administrative positions to be cut are department heads in the city's high schools. Most educators in such jobs have "fallback rights" that will give them teaching spots.

The school committee voted to spare the Boston Preparatory Program-which serves students who have dropped out of regular high schools--after protests from the audience.

A 'Confusing' Meeting

But the committee members' decision to go along with the bulk of Ms. Harrisen-Jones's recommendations provoked denunciations from the parents, teachers, administrators, and others who packed the meeting room to argue against the cuts.

Paula Georges, the executive director of the Citywide Educational Coalition, said the meeting was "confusing" because school-committee members did not sit on the elevated dais at the front of the room.

People in the audience had a difficult time hearing committee members as they took votes, Ms. Georges said, which contributed to the crowd's frustration with the proceedings.

In addition, she said, many people requested that the school committee delay its vote until the community had had time to consider the superintendent's recommendations.

"At this point, people are faulting them on their process and not having particularly effective meetings," Ms. Georges said. "The meeting was really out of control."

School activists will continue to scrutinize the new appointed body, she said.

"They have to win confidence, and in the first two meetings they have had, they have not done that," Ms. Georges said. "I think time is beginning to run out on whether it can be seen as a viable body."

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