At the start of each year, the school’s department heads must solve problems that arise from AHS’s increased enrollment and stagnant budget.
The department heads each play a delicate balancing act with their funding. The per-pupil expenditure in Andover is $13,863, slightly above the state average of $13,636. Every section of AHS has a unique set of needs. Thus, different departments spend their money in different places.
English department head Ms. Whalen said, “My budget has gone down in recent years, while the number of students has only gone up. The biggest problem for the English department is, ironically enough, a lack of books. Replacing texts is quite expensive, and we are desperate for copies of classics like Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.”
According to Whalen, this shortage of books will be exacerbated by the addition of two new English classes: Survey of American Literature and Survey of British Literature. All juniors, beginning with the Class of 2016, must take one of these Survey courses, as opposed to the eight options presented to the Class of 2015.
Furthermore, the new system for junior English classes will not allow English teachers to start books at varying times. Currently, one teacher may begin Of Mice and Men at the start of the semester, while another might cover the same novel at the semester’s end. Staggering lessons in this fashion allows for more mileage out of a small supply of texts.
Whalen noted, “The curriculum of [the new survey] courses will be in chronological order. This means that teachers will all be teaching the same novel at the same time — which means we need many more copies.”
Though concerned with the school’s book supply, Whalen appreciated the recent technological developments at AHS, such as the MacBook carts, which she referred to as “a step in the right direction, despite the fact that we have one cart for nineteen teachers.”
The science department, headed by Mr. Sanborn, has the largest budget in the school. According to Sanborn, more money is allocated to the science department due to its higher operating costs.
Labs are present in virtually all science courses, and require equipment, chemicals, and other materials to complete. As such, the science budget has increased slightly to offset the cost of some new expenses, such as the cats used for dissection in the course Human Anatomy & Physiology.
Despite their relatively ample budget, there still is not much money left over for various improvements, like new microscopes for biology classes. Sanborn noted, “We have what we need, but we don’t have everything that we want — and we never will.”
Sanborn was also concerned with keeping new technology in working condition. The cost of replacing a printer, power cord, or projector is not explicitly covered in the science budget, and he noted, “These are expenses that are going to be present in every department. If costs like this increase, and the budget doesn’t… Well, the money has to come from somewhere.”
Sanborn, too, maligned the cost of books. With several new classes of AP Physics and AP Chemistry, he estimated that the required texts would cost $4,000 to $5,000. He was also reluctant to invest the money into physical copies of books due to plans in the district to move to a more digital platform.
Furthermore, many of the textbooks in use in AP sciences are used, meaning teachers did not receive the six-year online licenses that are included with new copies. Sanborn concluded, “The next few years will be a transition period from paper to digital, but I don’t know where we’ll land.”
When asked about the condition of texts at AHS, Jason Grosz, junior, asserted, “I buy my own copies of the books for English classes. Interpret that as you please.”
However, Grosz thinks that an increased budget wouldn’t necessarily provide a cure-all for every problem at AHS. Grosz noted, “If you analyze the relative budgets and expenditures of school districts across the state, there is no trend indicating that increased spending yields higher quality education.”
By Dylan Zhang