|Family Resource Center director Amy Waterman|
makes a plea to preserve the school-based
Middletown was viewed as a city that suffered the least of many in the state cuts, but the loss of several hundred thousand dollars in grants for programs that serve the city students and families most in need has proved disastrous for a program which provides school readiness and fights the effects of poverty.
Newly-elected Board member Sean King called it "a terrible pill we're swallowing with this adjustment."
"At this time, the adjustments made by the administration minimize, as much as possible, the impact of those cuts," King said.
"It's one of the most emotional decisions I've had to make in the last two years," Board chair Chris Drake said. "This is not something we enjoy doing. When campaigning we always talk about being able to make difficult decisions. Welcome to difficult decision land."
The Board of Education, by law, had to deliver a finished budget to the city in May. The city passed the budget shortly thereafter. However, the State, which should have passed a budget in June, did not actually make a budget decision until the end of October, and that budget was filled with drastic cuts for Connecticut cities and schools.
What's more, the new Superintendent Michael Conner, began his term at the beginning of November just as several new members were elected to the Board, all dealing with an inherited budget based on expectations that proved inaccurate because state legislators refused to make difficult decisions on a timely basis.
The Board passed a financial mitigation plan for the loss of Alliance Grant funds which includes savings by not hiring six classroom interventionists, scratching the Ministerial Alliance, not filling positions for two home visitors and cutting the tenure of twenty-two classroom interventionists who will be asked to leave their positions on May 2 instead of the mid-June end of school.
These cuts allowed the Board of Ed to preserve some of the programs that address the needs of the most at-risk students, but at a curtailed level.
Grants coordinator Natalie Forbes presented options for trimming the Family Resource Center budget. The two Family Resource Centers provided integral services for students and families at Farm Hill School and Macdonough Elementary.
"The families and children absolutely have a need for these services," Forbes said. But she indicated that the $100,000 was not enough even to pay for the salary and services at Macdonough. As a result, program director Amy Waterman will lose her job, and will be offered a position as a classroom teacher in one of the city's schools.
|Grants Coordinator Natalie Forbes describes the dire options.|
"It has served as the bridge that so many students need for successful entry to school," Waterman said. "In a district with so many vulnerable families, this should be one of our priorities."
In the end, the Board of Education voted for a Family Resource Center which would preserve the FRC at Farm Hill school, and would hire a family resource specialist to work part time at a satellite program at Macdonough. The Macdonough program would be augmented by a home visitor preserved in the Alliance Grant mitigation plan.
No one on the Board offered consideration of petitioning the Common Council and the mayor to backfill the approximately $60,000 needed to preserved the Family Resource Center, or the approximately $400,000 needed to avoid the cuts necessitated by the Alliance Grant cuts. The city has a $24 million "rainy day" fund.
In fact, Conner warned that the current cuts are only an indication of cuts to come as the state struggles with revenue shortfalls. With a $400 million dollar shortfall already indicated for this budget year in the state, Conner suggested that more cuts were possible.
"We're probably going to have to come back in 60 to 90 days to come up with another mitigation plan," Conner said.