Correction: A previous version of this article misattributed Andover School Committee Chair Tracey Spruce’s quotes to a district spokesperson. Andover News regrets the error.

The president of the union that represents Andover Public Schools’ teachers called a proposal to cut as many as 36 full-time positions “incomprehensible” and Town Manager Andrew Flanagan’s recommended school budget “irresponsible.”

“It’s incomprehensible that the superintendent would consider presenting a budget that cuts any student facing positions, or that the school committee -who are elected to advocate for the schools the students and community deserves – would willingly bind themselves to Town Manager Flanagan’s irresponsible restraints on the school budget,” Andover Education President Matt Bach said Wednesday.

The Andover School Committee began discussing the 2024-25 budget last week and suggested it would need to cut between 31 and 36 full-time positions to close $2.7 million budget gap it attributed to the new contract the district signed with AEA after a three-day strike in November.

Andover School Committee Chair Tracey Spruce said the potential layoffs would be based, in part, on declining enrollment in the district.

“It is responsible and good practice to periodically review the alignment between student enrollment and staffing levels,” Spruce said Wednesday. “When deciding how to address the $2.7 million deficit, it would be irresponsible for the School Committee to ignore the nearly 12% decrease in student enrollment over the past decade.

Flanagan said the recommended budget “balances the needs of the entire community and has always prioritized the needs of the school department.” This year’s school budget, Flanagan said, is going up 3.75 percent, even though annual increases for other Town departments are usually capped at 2.75 percent.

“Providing the school department with an increase in excess of 3.75% would put the budget out of balance and compromise our ability to meet the overall needs of the community,” Flanagan said. “We have always been transparent about these realities.”

Layoffs are far from certain; the school system’s budget will be debated in a series of public sessions leading up to final approval by Annual Town Meeting in April. The district could also avoid some of the layoffs by not replacing employees who retire and making non-personnel spending cuts in other area.

“Although the union leadership makes much of the size of the Superintendent’s administrative team, that team is key to the district’s ability to address some significant gaps identified by DESE in its June 2022 comprehensive report of the district,” Spruce said.

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