State budget cuts shouldn’t impact Wright-Tech reopening

HARTFORD– State legislators were assured Thursday that the $1,172,000 cut in the Technical High Schools under the budget cuts ordered by Gov. Dannel Malloy shouldn’t keep Wright-Tech in Stamford from reopening in 2014.

 Pat Ciccione, superintendent of the state’s Technical High School system until she leaves in January to become superintendent of schools in Westbrook, said the school is still on track to open. Wright Tech was closed in 2009 as a state budget cutting measure and is undergoing an extensive renovation.

 She said it would be money wasted if the state didn’t move forward to reopen the school very well underway. Still, Ciccione told a joint committee of the legislature’s Education, Higher Education and Labor committees that “we have to look at everything.”

She admitted she isn’t sure where the state rescission cuts will come from, but said she will try to stay away from instruction. “It will be hard,” she said. “We are already five months into the school year. We already operate as lean as we can.”

 It is quite possible special electives will disappear. Sports also could be sacrificed, she said, adding that she knows that would not be popular.

 The annual review of the technical high school system came one day after Malloy announced the cuts. Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, who also addressed the committees, also wasn’t prepared to say what will be cut.

 “It won’t be possible to isolate the impact entirely but we will make a great effort to do so,” he said. “These schools already run on a thin margin.”

The technical high school system serves 10,750 high school students and 450 adult students in 30 trades. This year, the system, which had been governed by the state Board of Education, got a new 11 member board of its own.

 The board started meeting this month and is chaired by Robert Trefry, who spent a year as chairman of the state-appointed Bridgeport school board. He surrendered that role in September when the state Supreme Court ordered that an elected school board be put back in place.

 Trefry said the new board is working on a strategic plan and is looking at admissions policies to address complaints that too many students are excluded from the schools. It also is working to be more responsive to the business community who want more students graduating with hi-tech manufacturing skills.

Linda Lambeck