Brookfield Superintendent Anthony Bivona has proposed a $37,146,266 education budget for the next fiscal year that would add a 10th kindergarten teacher at (CES) for and reallocate resources so that there would be two more teachers at (HHES) to help lower class sizes.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Board of Education (BOE) Chairman Ray DiStephan said after Bivona and the school district’s Finance and Technology Director, Art Colley, formally presented the package, which would be a 2.76 percent increase over current spending, to the BOE Wednesday at its regular meeting.
The BOE voted 4-3 last month, during the final meeting of the previous term, to adopt the full-day kindergarten program, but some members said they wanted to add at least one more kindergarten teacher so that the class sizes would be lower than the current 21 students per teacher.
DiStephan said that will be more important, since under the incoming model, teachers won’t have the small groups of students that they have had under the current extended day program.
He said he was pleased that CES Principal Carrie Kilian told the BOE that school monitors would be used for recess so that teachers could send half of their class to the playground while the other half of the class could get instruction in a smaller group from the teacher before they went on their recess.
DiStephan said that would provide time for smaller group instruction.
Bivona has proposed reallocating a teacher from (WMS) and eliminating a .5 remedial reading teacher at both CES and HHES so that the two additional classroom teachers could be added at HHES.
said she was concerned about losing the remedial positions, since it could have long-term implications if elementary school students don’t get the proper support during their early years.
“I’m concerned about losing those positions or any position that might impact students,” DiStephan said. “However, I’m going to trust the judgment of the administration because they know the schools better than anyone.”
BOE member Harry Shaker said although the proposed 2.76 percent spending increase is the lowest proposal in Bivona’s budget presentations over the last five years, it still is higher than the 2.5 percent spending increase that was in on the proposed municipal budget.
DiStephan said he’s not sure if residents would be more supportive of a higher spending increase for the fiscal year that will start in July.
“This week there was some good economic news,” he said. “However, people are still tense about the economy, despite the upward trends.”
DiStephan said the package is a good starting point, since the increase is relatively low, which reflects, among other thing, recent
This fall, the teachers agreed to a three-year contract with a freeze on general wages, modest step increases and considerable savings on their health-care coverage.
Colley said the contract, which will take effect in July, will have the teachers paying a higher percentage of their health care costs “than in the corporate world.”
The agreement on the health care portion of the contract would reportedly save the school district about $600,000 annually.
“I don’t want that savings to be overlooked as we discuss the budget over the coming months,” DiStephan said.
Colley said Bivona was able to submit a modest increase even though the school district faces an 8.55 percent reduction in grant money.
He said it has lost “more than $500,000 in grants over the last three years.”
Bivona told the BOE that his proposal also would add a sixth grade world language teacher to continue the Spanish program at WMS. A fifth grade world languages teacher was added during the current academic year.
The package also would launch the second year of the technology initiative at (BHS), in which and receives instruction on how to best use it and how to follow proper digital citizenship.
DiStephan said he is “undecided” about the superintendent’s plan to hire a maintenance mechanic “to address the current shortfall of facilities maintenance personnel.”
“I’d like to learn more about that one,” he said in an interview. “It makes sense on a lot of levels instead of contracting out for a lot of those services.”
“It’s just that I’m not sure it’s something that we want to do now or at some point in the future,” DiStephan said.
Bivona’s proposal also seeks $474,500 in long-range capital planning, which, among other things, would further repair the roofs at HHES and BHS.
Colley said once that work is completed the school district can consider using regenerative energy technologies at those buildings.
The BOE will continue its discussions on the superintendent’s package during its regular meeting January 4 and will hold a public hearing January 11 at 7 p.m. in the BHS media center.
The BOE tentatively plans to adopt its proposal January 18 and then send it to First Selectman Bill Davidson by January 31.