The Board of Education (BOE) has reduced its budget by $150,000 through the elimination of the full-time equivalents of one teacher at Brookfield High School (BHS) and one secretarial position in the district and delaying the hiring of a new administrator for one month this summer.
BOE Chairman Ray DiStephan said following Tuesday’s special meeting that the bargaining units for the secretaries, teachers, custodians and administrators collectively notified the school district last week that they were “not in agreement” with a proposal to take up to 1.5 furlough days during professional development time to produce savings.
He said the four bargaining units did not provide feedback regarding why they made the decision, but noted that they are “not obligated to give a reason.”
DiStephan said three of those unions made concessions in recent contract negotiations.
The BOE had delayed action at its regular meeting June 1 regarding the $150,000 reduction so that it could receive a decision from the bargaining units.
DiStephan had first proposed the furloughs May 18, one night after the Board of Finance (BOF) cut $150,000 from the plan in response to the defeat of the municipal budget in the May 14 referendum.
The school district will have a $36,150,000 appropriation for the fiscal year that starts next month, which represents a 2.06 percent increase over current spending.
The administration had revised an earlier recommendation to eliminate the full-time equivalent of a secretary’s position by proposing that a similar reduction be made in the custodial staff.
Art Colley, the business and technology director for the school district, said Dan Schatzle, the supervisor for the buildings, had said his staff could adequately perform its duties with the full-time equivalent of one less custodian.
BOE Vice Chairman Rob Gianazza objected to any reductions in the custodial staff at BHS, which added classroom space three years ago as part of a renovation of the school.
Instead, the BOE reduced the secretarial staff by the full-time equivalent of one position, which the administration had proposed in an earlier set of recommendations.
DiStephan said in an interview that he believes the administration will “take pieces” from existing secretarial positions to make the reduction.
The reduction of the full-time equivalent of a teaching position at BHS would encompass a .6 world languages position and a .4 English position, both of which would be accomplished through attrition.
The BOE rejected on a 3-2 vote a recommendation by Gianazza to eliminate an assistant principal’s position at either Whisconier Middle School (WMS) or Huckleberry Hill Elementary School (HHES).
Gianazza said one of the remaining assistant principals at those two schools, both of which are currently undergoing a decline in enrollment, could rotate through those two buildings and at Center Elementary School (CES).
Superintendent Anthony Bivona expressed concern that a reduction in assistant principals might, among other things, delay response time to parents who have concerns about their children’s studies.
He said the assistant principals also do some of the classroom observations that are used to evaluate the teachers that they help supervise.
BOE member Victor Katz said he believes that the school district needs to maintain its current administrative staffing.
BOE Secretary Jane Miller said she was “not comfortable” with eliminating an administrator in one of the schools.
Katz, Miller and DiStephan opposed the motion and Gianazza and BOE member Harry Shaker supported it.
DiStephan said the other savings would come from delaying the hiring of one administrative position until around August 1.
The BOE took a similar position two years ago when it was hiring new principals for HHES and CES.
DiStephan said that since BHS Principal Bryan Luizzi is expected to start his duties at principal at New Canaan High School July 1, the district might delay the start date for his successor.
He said three candidates from the district have applied for the position, so if one of them is appointed as the new BHS principal their current position could remain vacant for about a month to accumulate about $18,000 in savings between salaries and fringe benefits.
DiStephan said since there were only 13 candidates for the BHS principal’s position there is a chance that the BOE might delay action “to look for more candidates,” however, he said it is likely that a decision on the new BHS principal would be made later this month.
On another topic, Gianazza inquired about the possibility of closing the portable classroom at HHES, which would net savings, however, Colley said that would be difficult since additional teachers are being reallocated to HHES for the next school year to help lower class sizes and those classrooms are needed.
He said they also are used for after-school activities.