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City Council Dems to BOE and School Superintendent: “Find more budget cuts, avoid teacher layoffs”

Cross post from HatCtyBLOG

Raising concerns with the proposed school program cuts, yesterday, a letter drafted by the City Council Democratic Caucus was sent to the members of the Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools.

Stating that “the proposed cuts to the classroom and student programs are unnecessary to balance the board of education budget,” the letter list a number of suggestions to achieve cost savings in order to lesson the impact to the students, which starts with administrator concessions.

While the superintendent, his cabinet staff and school administrators demand raises, other teachers and administrators have stated both privately and publicly that they will voluntarily giveback or accept freezes of previously promised salary increases in order to print teacher layoffs and protect the delivery of services to our students. This seems to contradict statements by the Superintendent and BOE to City Council members that teachers simply were not willing to negotiate contract concessions in order to protect our students. In fact last year teachers took a pay freeze for the first half of the year and only a half percent raise for the remainder of the year. however, last year the school administrators union fought the BOE and were given raises, some as high as nine percent. And this year the administrators have not agreed to make concessions.

The letter also states a number of suggestions raised to them by concerned teachers, parents and administrators.

  • Having media specialists work in at leadst two buildings as other specialists do. This would eliminate at least seven positions saving approx. 300,000 without reducing services. Other specialists such as those in gym and art already work two schools.
  • A the High School there is a principal, associate principal, and four assistant principals totaling in excess of 650,000 in salaries. Eliminating one or two positions would save hundreds of thousands of dollars over five years.
  • Substitute teachers are currently paid a full day per diem salary even for a half day of work and instead should be paid only for the amount of time they actually work.
  • Para-professionals should work two or three days a week.
  • at least one member of The Danbury Enhancement Collaboration Committee (TDEC) works half day and get paid a teacher’s salary to do TDEC paperwork instead of covering another school which we understand had to hire another math specialist. TDEC paperwork should not take away from substantive instruction time.
  • Each elementary school has a reading specialist/coach, and depending on how they are utilized by the principal they may have little to no contact with students often serving as a coach to teachers. Math specialists are divided half time between schools therefore it would seem logical that elementary school reading specialists could cover two schools as is already done at the middle school level

Finally, the letter addressed concerns raised by residents regarding the closing of Mill Ridge Intermediate School.

In addition to the budget issues many in ur community are concerned with the proposed closing of Mill Ridge Intermediate School (MRI) and busing of fourth and fifth grade students to King Street Intermediate while putting third grade students in Mill Ridge Primary. According to school personnel we spoke with, this decision was made by a committee comprised of carefully selected administrators, BOE members, and parents, but no teachers were invited to participate and they want answers.

Teachers and parents have stated that the proposed closing and busing of students will be a detriment to students and the Mill Ridge community at large. We recognize that the closing the achievement gap is a primary concern of all of the educators and maintaining MRI as a community school is necessary to do so. MRI is part of the neighborhood community providing open family nights for families to come read and ask questions about school and schoolwork as well as after school tutoring that for many children is only possible because they can walk home.

Parents of students at MRI and King Street School are concerned with a lack of answers to the questions they have posed to the Superintendent. The proposed busing would combine nine King Street classes with eight Mil Ridge classes leaving little room to grow. With seventeen classrooms filled they are concerned with the availability of rooms for other classes such as art, music, and special education. Other concerns include bus routes, length of rides, and student pick up locations. Parents have said that the ambiguous and changing responses are unacceptable. They are not paying taxes to send their children on a long bus ride, to an overcrowded school that cannot meet their needs

This morning, I interviewed city council Minority Leader Tom Saadi and talked to him about the letter sent by members of the Democratic caucus.

You can read the letter addressed to the Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools below: