New Britain City Journal

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School Board Budget Waits for New Super

The Board of Education is looking to adopt cuts, but will wait until the new superintendent arrives on July1 before making any specific changes.

According to Sharon Beloin-Saavedra, 13 elementary positions need to be cut and two new kindergarten classes need to be added.

“Redesigning our schools will entail conversations over the summer with Mr. Cooper,” said Saavedra. “Overall this budget will cut 54 positions and cut $7 million in non-personnel line items.”

The school board is facing a $10 million gap to maintain current services and programs.

“The city has approved an additional $500,000 which will save 5-6 teaching positions. The State has approved a conditional increase of $2.65 million (we will need to submit a plan to the State on how we would like to spend those additional dollars – they can approve or reject our plan),” said Saavedra. “We began with a $13 million gap but with those two increases, we are now at a $10 million gap. The gap is from loss of concessions (add back this year’s savings into next year’s budget, increases in contractual obligations (5 new employee contracts – three are currently being negotiated) and increases to other operational expenses as well as reduced grant funding.”

“We will go with Plan “C” which is to make the numerical cuts across the board, but wait for Mr. Cooper to arrive in town before making any strong decisions regarding the restructuring of our school system,” said Erin Stewart, school board member. “I firmly believe it’s the right thing to do.”

The board made this decision Monday night unanimously following 50 speakers of parents, teachers and students speaking against other proposed plans which included sending about 600 students to other school’s then they attend now.

Parents’ number one message was not to bounce students from school to school and wait until Cooper arrives.

Whether it was Lincoln, Gaffney or other schools, parents said their students were proud of their schools and wanted to stay were they belonged.

Rha-Sheen Brown, alderman and parent, said “we all desire the same thing. It takes tough decisions.”

He said he was worried about moving students around. He said as a foster child he moved around and staying in one school offers stability. He said he missed out on friends by moving and many siblings in New Britain would go to different schools if school redistricting was approved. He wanted more schools like HALS and to stop 32 kids in a classroom.

Theresa Staranchak, president of the New Britain Federation of Paraprofessionals, said paraprofessionals know each and every student and have developed a relationship built on consistency and reliability.

“This relationship will surely be broken if students are moved throughout the City each time a budget is changed,” Staranchak said. “We therefore urge you not to uproot students. Please allow us to build and not tear down.”

“Children are not furniture,” said Robin Washburn, parent of a Gaffney student. “You can’t just move them around.”

James Jones, a teacher from Slade who grew up in New Britain, said he has faith in the school system and asked the public to have faith as well.

“Every one of our kids matter in New Britain,” said Nancy Serra, Jefferson School principal. “We have quality kids across our district.”

“We always look to prioritize classroom teachers and to minimize the impact on class size. We must also look at programs and analyze student to school building assignments in an effort to equalize class size throughout our district,” said Saavedra. “We are in an economic era of cuts and reductions. This is our reality on a national level. How to best spend our limited resources to maximize student services and have a positive impact on student achievement? This is the basis for all budget conversations.”