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Frosh Sports, TAG Teachers Cut, but 2nd Grade Teachers Returned

Two school board members plan on asking the town for more funds later this year.

To meet a 2.375 increase, the school board made good on its cuts in sports and the gifted program, while maintaining class sizes with four second-grade teachers and keeping reading specialists.

More will have to be cut if the board must adhere to a lower increase of 1.11 percent.

This was the harsh reality played out at Wednesday evening’s Board of Education meeting as the Board of Education cut $2.55 million and made trade-offs required to get down to the First Selectman’s approved $87 million request. The meeting took place in the board's Long Hill Administration Building.

Board member Steve Wright described the panel's task as a “Hobson’s choice,” a take-it-or-leave it with no attractive option.

The board accepted cuts recommended by the administration, with the exceptions that they “bought back” the four teachers needed to hold second-grade class size at today’s level and retained the middle school reading teachers by eliminating the TAG program, tapping a final federal stimulus account and sweeping balances from the adult education, drivers’ ed and summer school accounts.

The board eliminated freshman sports – boys and girls volleyball, basketball, lacrosse and soccer, and field hockey, baseball, softball and football. Sophomore football and girls ice hockey, a club sport, were also cut, while junior varsity cheerleading remains.

The impact of this cut is that freshmen can still play sports, but not on teams that will have separate schedules, and so may find themselves with far less game playing time.

The cuts swept out computer para-professionals and interns in all six elementary schools, a speech/language teacher, five teachers, five secretaries and two custodians.

All told, some three dozen line items were reduced, including professional development and teacher training, library and classroom books, classroom and office supplies, plus repair and maintenance items, among others.

Board members Loretta Chory, Lisa Labella, Tom Kelly and Wright spoke in support of the TAG program.  But all saw a greater benefit is holding class size, and so were forced to let TAG go.

Labella noted that TAG is one of the programs that distinguishes Trumbull’s schools and makes the community attractive to young families. She called TAG important more for its “social-emotional support than for what it delivers academically.”

Kelly added that “around July 1 I will ask the Board of Finance for a supplemental for the two TAG teachers.”  Wright offered to be a quick second.

The Wednesday meeting, however, may have been only round one. Still ahead is resolving the Town Council’s seizure of $1.075 million in Health Insurance funding, an alleged usurping of school board authority, education lawyer Tom Mooney said. 

The education board will hold a special meeting on May 10 to address the matter.  If the town replaces the funds and removes its contingency by that time, last night’s budget is next year’s budget.

Otherwise, additional cuts will have to be made to drop the budget to $85.9 million, and virtually necessitate closing an elementary school. The board will also determine whether to pursue legal action to establish its sole authority under state statute to make line item allocations to its budget.

Concerned Parent May 11, 2011 at 12:42 PM
Jose: To be fair, no one really knows that they are all needed either. It's not a very easy thing to measure, and of course people on both sides of the argument swear that we need more/less administrative and social service staff, so who really knows? I know when I went to THS I only had a principal, a house principal, a nurse, and a guidance counselor. Maybe a Dean of Students? If so, I don't remember one. When someone got in trouble they went to the house principal, when they got sick they went to the nurse, and for everything else (ranging from college choices to social problems) they went to the guidance counselor or worked on it with their parents. Do we really need assistant deans and intervention specialists? This was something that the guidance counselors and parents handled when I was in school. I am not saying these services are not needed, and this is a different time, but many people may draw back to their own youth and feel that our government-run programs continue to grow, and people may wonder if their will be a bathroom monitor, a tantrum specialist, a self-defense para-professional, a dean of bullies, and a locker coordinator added in the future.
Concerned Parent May 11, 2011 at 12:42 PM
{continued} I have no doubt that all of the professionals and administrators in the system take their jobs very seriously, but my guess is that some fear that positions are not added out of necessity, but simply to appease a lobbying group or a small group of squeaky wheels. I am on the side of supporting education financially, so do not take me wrong, but I certainly see no harm in questioning the criticality of some of the administrative and social positions. Checks and balances are a good thing, and we should neither attack nor defend them blindly.
Jose May 11, 2011 at 10:32 PM
While nicely worded, you are still making references to the past..."when I was in school." It's totally irrelevant to the present or the future. The posts that I challenged were from minds that are not interested in being informed or enlightened. They only serve to undermine any strategy to move our education system forward at our children's and community's expense. So of course, they should be attacked!
Roy Fuchs May 12, 2011 at 02:20 AM
Michael, with regard to your search for facts about administrators, most of the last 20 years' budget books are available in the reference area at the Trumbull Library. Second, a growing portion of system expenses are due to unfunded mandates, including IDEA (the basic special education law), No Child Left Behind, and a long list of others - all of which can be found in the PTA Council's ABC's of the Education Budget (http://www.trumbullps.org/budgets/TCG10.pdf) And we face a others in the future, including stiffer graduation standards for students entering high school in 2014. In addition, our district has made a commitment to provide non-mandated reading and math specialists, psychologists, occupational and physical therapists and similar support staff and services in and outside the classroom for students whose educational performance should benefit from them. And more such students enter our system each year. These are not special ed students, but they are personally or educationally needy. With regard to special education, Trumbull has a smaller percentage of these students than many similar districts, and now does more in-house education, at a lower cost than was its practice even ten years ago. On the other side of the ledger, pay-to-participate for athletics, the high school musical and elementary band and orchestra lays off a system cost onto families whose children enroll in these activities. And these fees will rise for the next school year.
CTPati May 12, 2011 at 10:07 PM
Jose, obviously a self-interested school employee who wants Trumbull taxpayers to pay MORE to employees in his position, blasts others who post under a screen name. What hubris!! Tues. at 9:44 p.m. he posted "You have to wonder who SHK and Dave Wilsoon are"...and Weds. at 6:32 p.m. he added "So of course, they should be attacked!" (I write "obviously..." because of following many of Jose's comments, it seems that he is a school administrator or counselor who works in Westport or some other more affluent community, because they can afford to pay more.)

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