School and city officials, in hopes of healing a rift developed over recent budgetary woes, are planning to meet next week.
The Board of Education, at its meeting Wednesday, March 27, will be presenting its proposed budget to the Board of Apportionment & Taxation on Wednesday, April 10, at 7 p.m. at City Hall as part of the regular budget process.
Sure to be discussed will be budget issues which arose in January, when Clermont & Associates, LLP, the city’s independent auditor, informed local leaders of a $3,170,300 accumulated loss in five special-revenue accounts maintained by the Board of Education. These amounts have since been paid from city-side funds.
Since then, the school board has proposed a 2019-20 budget that eliminates 14 teachers and an assistant principal. More cuts are expected, if Mayor Mark Lauretti’s budget, which flat-funded the Board of Education, is passed as proposed.
“We’re not in a doom-and-gloom mode … but clearly, it’s not in happy-days-are-here-again, either,” said Board of Education Vice Chairman Thomas Minotti. “We’ll need to think outside the box and look at things with impact that we can do [from a budgetary standpoint] that will have the least impact on students.”
Minotti identified three areas of concern that impact the school system’s finances. This year, there has been an uptick in the number of teachers going on medical leave — resulting in the hiring of more long-term substitutes. Another increase has been noted in the transportation costs for special education students, particularly when they are bused to schools in other towns.
Shelton has also experienced a surge in special-education enrollment. Special-ed students all require specialized services and some are placed in specialized schools well outside Shelton’s boundaries.
A special committee charged with exploring Cooperative Educational Services (CES) partnerships presented information on CES’s new Eastern Fairfield County Child Diagnostic Center.
“This would be for K-3 students experiencing significant learning and behavioral challenges,” said school board member Kathy Yolish.
Yolish went on to explain that participating districts can reserve a designated number of seats at the center, at a cost of $59,000 per student/seat. That prospect drew gasps and groans from the audience, and no action was proposed or taken.
“There is a bit of sticker shock to this,” said school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet. “But it is probably less than what is typical in a special-needs placement.”
In a related development, the Boston-based Barr Foundation recently named Shelton as a finalist for the creation of a regional center for at-risk high school students. The center would be funded by a grant from the foundation, which develops creative curricula and job-shadowing programs at these centers. In so doing, it helps at-risk students to stay on track to graduate from high school.
Among other measures discussed, the board approved gifts totaling $7,000 to Shelton High School’s baseball program. Those monies include $5,000 from the city of Shelton as well as a donation of $2,000 from Powerade, the beverage brand.
Board members also gave their thumbs up to extending the district’s Voluntary Retirement Incentive Plan. Employees now have until June to apply for this program.
Finally, the board gave special recognition to Amy Yost, principal of Sunnyside Elementary School. Yost was one of two finalists for the state’s Principal of the Year award. The program is sponsored each year by the Connecticut Association of Schools and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). Outstanding principals are chosen at the elementary, middle and high school levels.