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Special Master: New London School Funding Levels Are Unsustainable [VIDEO]

As district enters its fifth year at level funding, 46.5 positions are cut as part of an effort to close a $3.8 million budget gap

The have shed 46.5 jobs as part of its effort to close a $3.8 million budget gap for the 2013 fiscal year, and a special master appointed to the district warned that the district cannot sustain further flat funding.

The district is entering its fifth year with a budget of approximately $39.8 million. Dr. Steven Adamowski, a special master appointed to the district by the Connecticut Department of Education, said at a budget workshop on Thursday that New London now has the “shameful distinction” of being the district with the longest duration of level funding; the Bridgeport school district went four years without a budget increase.

The City Council approved an $809,000 increase and successfully recommended that the assume the costs of the district’s business office as part of the 2013 budget process. However, both decisions were later nullified.

“You will either be the board that shuts the lights out in the district or the one who turns it around,” Adamowski told members of the Board of Education.

Changes for 2013

School administrators estimate that it would cost $3.8 million more to run the schools at their current capacity than the budgeted amount. Dr. Nicholas Fischer, superintendent of New London Public Schools, said the majority of the increase has to do with two percent contractual salary raises as well as the increased cost to run programs.

“Eighty-three cents on every dollar we spend is people,” he said.

The 46.5 cuts are being made to a district workforce of about 420 people. The positions include 23 teachers, eight teachers’ aides, four secretaries, and three administrative positions. Fischer said only one teacher had to be laid off, since several teachers at risk of losing their jobs departed the district.

“You’ve got to remember that each year there’s about a 10 percent turnover in staff,” he said.

The 2013 fiscal year will also see a rearrangement in the administrative structure of the district to better reflect the goals the district is trying to meet. The positions that were cut were the director of bilingual education, supervisor of instruction and assessment, and literacy supervisor. A director of student services will assume responsibilities from these positions, including oversight of the special education, gifted and talented, and English Language Learners classes.

The district will create a new position of chief officer for talent and human resources. The assistant superintendent’s position will transition to a role of executive director of instruction, assessment, and professional development.

Adamowski said the positions address deficiencies in the district, including a lack of a personnel office. He said the district is also at risk of losing funding due to “serious violations of state and federal law” cited by the United States Civil Rights Office, and that a person in the director of student services role should be able to mitigate these issues. No one has yet been hired for these two positions.

Interim Assistant Superintendent Katherine Ericson said the district stands to receive $809,000 in Alliance District funds from the state under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s education reform bill. These include $428,971 toward closing the achievement gap, $120,000 toward additional learning time, and $110,000 toward effective instruction.

Adamowski concerns

Adamowski raised several concerns about the future of the district, including whether can be kept up.

“You lost a tremendous amount of your most talented teachers,” he said. “Once they got their pink slips, they were not willing to sit around and wait for the conclusion of New London budget machinations.”

Adamowski also said the district has been “cannibalizing itself from within” to pay contractual agreements under labor agreements, since the funding has not been appropriated for them. He said the Board of Education needs to meet with the City Council and Mayor Daryl Finizio to work out a funding plan for the 2014 fiscal year prior to the start of that budget process.

“I can tell you that the operation of the district is not going to be sustainable with a sixth year of no new increase,” said Adamowski. “This is going to require the board working with the council very early on—in January, February—having some agreement with the council and the mayor over how the schools are going to be funded, if they are going to remain under local control in the future.”

Adamowski said one possibility is the establishment of a finance and audit committee to have closer interaction with the municipal government on the school budget. The city is obligated to fund the district at a minimum level of the prior fiscal year's budget, and the 2013 school budget will not be the subject of a .

2013 school budget history

The Board of Education voted 5-2 on March 13 to ask the City Council for a 2013 appropriation of over the 2012 fiscal year budget of about $39.8 million. The board said this increase would be necessary to maintain the current level of services in the district. Mayor Daryl Finizio to the school budget, or $41,011,927.

On April 17, the council’s Finance Committee , with the additional $809,000 anticipated from new Education Cost Sharing funds in Malloy’s education reform bill. The committee also recommended that the board approve a budget change that would have the Finance Department assume the district’s business office expenses of approximately $540,000, intending to free those funds for salaries and programs.

The board’s Finance Committee in a 2-1 vote on April 25 due to concerns that it has not been fully vetted, but the in a 5-2 vote a day later. The board on May 24, with a vote to rescind it failing 2-4.

Adamowski said on July 2 that the decisions on both the ECS funding and funds transfer were made in error and that . Adamowski said the ECS funding cannot be included in the regular budget because it will not be available until Fischer submits a one-year form plan for the district, while a planning committee should oversee the process of any consolidation of city and school finances over a three-year period.

The Board of Education will vote on the adjustments to the 2013 fiscal year budget at its next regular meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Aug. 23 at the .

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Luis Smart August 19, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Alan you are so damn good all the pressure is off me and others we will never be as wonderful as you. If you think that you are the only one privy to the desires of those wishing to make a run then you are more delusional than I could have imagined. Too many people flapping their gums about what they want to see and what the aspirations are.
Alan Green, Jr. August 19, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Sorry, I know this sounds sanctimonious but I can't help myself.... Dam_, in some circles, and depending on how it's used, is considered a swear word. Not one most parents would want to teach their children to day. Dam is not. In case you've forgotten. Flapping their gums. Now there's imagery I can embrace. Thanks again! Enjoy the day.
Luis Smart August 19, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Alan you are a trip. I patiently await the day when your rose colored glasses get broken and you see the world before you as it really is. There seems to be a real possibility of potential with you and a few other of the Daryl supporters. I have had some great dialog with some that have become as the song says "Wide Awake"! Someday you may be able to shout those words "I'm Wide Awake". I'm wide awake I'm wide awake I'm wide awake Yeah, I was in the dark I was falling hard With an open heart I'm wide awake How did I read the stars so wrong
Alan Green, Jr. August 19, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Thanks, Luis. But I can't remember the last time I had an actual real-life conversation with anyone as mean spirited as you. But, who knows, I've been known to sing with all sorts of people I might not have otherwise spoken with - but that's usually been in church. If it makes you feel any better, your song put me to sleep, but after nap time, I somehow don't feel much like engaging. Just not worth it. Yawn.
Alan Green, Jr. August 19, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Thomas - I like that idea in principle. But it might sound a little better if we didn't call them 'hired help'... Just because they're living outside the city doesn't mean they don't have a vested interest in seeing the city thrive.

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