Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Superintendent Meets With Parents On Budget

Superintendent of Schools Michael Frechette maintained a self-imposed optimism in talking with parents, most members of the Middletown School Association, about the budget he has presented to the city for approval.  But his optimism was leavened by the dire financial straits faced by the federal and state governments.

"You know the cliff they've been talking about for three years," Frechette said Monday evening at Wesley Elementary School. "This is it."

Frechette explained that the budget presentation was identical to those he has made to the Board of Education budget committee, and to the larger Board of Education.  While the budget calls for a 3.45% or 7.12% increase, depending upon the amount of state ECS grants, he called the budget "status quo."

"This is the third year in a row we've had the same budget," Frechette explained as he talked about a budget which he noted only contains increases for health benefits and mandated salary increases.

Frechette emphasized that although the budget has been flat for three years, it has not hampered achievements in the school district that he says are held in high esteem at the state level.

"Our district improvement plan has been used as a state model," Frechette said.  "We are the only district on the list of those who needed improvement who is in safe harbor.  Every one of our subgroups made adequate yearly progress.  And we made all these improvements, and closed the budget gap with no increase in budget."

Frechette also noted that the Malloy administration has looked at Middletown as a model for school reform in Connecticut.

With all the positives comes the reality of budget hardships from the federal to the municipal level, and Frechette declined to indicate where cuts might be made if the district's budget is not accepted by the city.

"It's my job to lobby and to advocate for this budget," Frechette said in an answer to a parent who wondered where cuts might be made.

"If 88% of the budget is salaries," Associate Superintendent Barbara Senges said.  "Then it's pretty easy to determine."

With federal stimulus funds unlikely, the $2.4 million which found its way to the city in stimulus grants (which were also deducted from CES state grants), currently fund 44 teacher positions.

Leah Meyer, a Lawrence School parent complimented the administration on improved rigor in classroom study, and urged the administration to continue emphasizing improvements at all costs.

"If you could make it even more rigorous that would be better," Meyer said.  "Because that's what keeps people in town.  That's what keeps people from sending their kids to private schools."


martel said...

Was inclusion of the "Easy Fiction" sign in the picture for this story a deliberate attempt at humor?

Anonymous said...

I sympathize with those facing cuts in salary or elimination of their position and with those in power who must make these difficult decisions. However, it's hard for me to believe that solutions like those of some top-notch businesses and organizations--all-around cuts in salary--have not been discussed. In this type of solution, everyone suffers a little from a decrease in salary and no one's position is cut.

Despite the general disappointment of a decrease in salary, the organization has the benefit of remaining intact and knowing that the students will still get full support of teaching and other staff, which is what schools are there for. Isn't it? General levels of morale might even increase for being part of a more creative solution.

I would opt for across-the-board paycuts any day rather than cutting out people and services that are vital to the learning and nurturing process for our youth. And then, if such a decision was made, I would rejoice and take pride in being a part of resolving a beastly and potentially devisive situation in a fair and even-handed manner.

Anonymous said...

To Anon. 1:26--the teacher's union would rather have dozens of untenured teachers lose their jobs than have a dime cut from their salaries.

Anonymous said...

To Anon2:

Pathetic isn't it? All or nothing, lose-lose.... not very smart way to make choices.

As a one-time educator, I feel we can and should do better. But the Unions would need to reinvent themselves as reasonable humans with a future, instead of clinging to the past. Can they? Will they? Only time will tell.


Anonymous said...

In the picture see three people being paid to sit there and I guess there might be three more who were parents. Wow. So much for parent involvement.