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Board of Education Approves 4.56 Percent Increase Request

The proposal focuses heavily on technology, including installing Wifi in all Town Schools. Right now there are pockets of wireless access.

The Board of Education will forward a request for 4.56 percent increase for the 2013-2014 budget to First Selectman Tim Herbst.

The amended budget, which must be presented to Herbst by next week, includes Wifi for all schools and an additional guidance counselor for Trumbull High School.

The proposed total is $95,517,481. The board debated for about 90 minutes.

Board Chairman Steve Wright moved to have Wifi installed in all schools instead of in "pockets."

He said it was for security and for "quick and most expeditious catching up," referring to the district's plan to upgrade its aged technology.

The board worked out a way to keep the increase to the proposal low, staying close to the previously proposed 4.5 percent.

The district's computers are six to 10 years old, and a report recently recommended that the school upgrade its technology.

A student representative praised the change because students used Wifi for many of their academic programs. Also, standardized tests will be given on computers soon.

"I think we're going to see that [technology] gap close," Wright said.

Regarding the guidance counselor, parents and staff have said the caseloads for THS counselors are too high and the job more complex than it used to be. The cost, $75,000, will be found in the budget, officials said.

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School Security

One proposed change that did not pass, but would not have affected the bottom line, came from member Tom Kelly, who proposed moving $375,000 from the teacher salary account into a security and safety account.

He said the teacher salary account contained funds that were not used in the past. They could be used for security in light of the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"I want to make sure we have some money to protect our schools," Kelly said.

District officials said it was a gamble not to keep those funds in the salary account, but added they agreed security must be a top issue.

"We don't have flexibility" in the salary account without that money, Schools Supt. Ralph Iassogna said.

Wright said the town should be first consulted regarding the use of unspent money.

Vice Chairwoman Deborah Herbst praised Kelly for his motion, which was not acted on.

"It is a very important issue," she said, later adding, "You should feel confident that Trumbull schools are safe."

Board member Rosemary Seaman suggested keeping the money where it is. But, if it remains unspent later in the school year, the school board could consult with the town about spending it on security.

She said the town was not likely to oppose such a request. 

Board member Michael Ward suggested allocating money in the 2014-2015 budget for security.

Iassogna noted that school officials will be attending a school security conference soon.

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