Commentary: Education Budget Update

As the new superintendent of the Shelton Public Schools, I want to express my gratitude to all of those individuals involved in making the annual budget cycle a “no drama” process – especially the Mayor and the members of the Board of Education, as well as all of the administrators, teachers and parents who contributed to the development of a solid budget request. Our request of $71,117,230 (2.37%) is lower than last year’s in both amount and percentage of increase. It is focused on meeting the increasingly complex needs of our student populations. While the Mayor has proposed a reduced amount, it will allow us to accomplish much of what is needed. That is appreciated.

We have identified staffing needs primarily in response to several areas of special needs many of our students face. Traditionally, special education was for a very small group of students; but, throughout the nation, and in our state, there is an increased challenge to meet the complex needs of children with autism, behavioral issues and learning disabilities.

In a different way, English Language Learners have unique learning challenges. Those needs are growing! Our budget request includes new, trained staff to ensure we provide a legally mandated “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) for all students.

Nearly 250 Shelton students are formally designated English Language Learners (ELLs) based on required assessments. Shelton has dozens of students in each of the following language groups:  Portuguese, Polish and Spanish –as well as many others who speak Arabic, Albanian, Urdu and more languages at home. Effective teaching of ELLs requires special certification and training. We are preparing all of our students to compete and collaborate in a challenging global society.

Our Technology team is very cost conscious when making purchases. We often buy used computers “off lease” at reduced prices. We stretch the life of our technology by re-purposing it when possible. Like any equipment, computers, projection units and servers, etc. have a life cycle. Much of the technology our students and their teachers use is now well past its prime. We cannot cover major capital expenses in our operating budget and look to the City for support in helping us to prepare our students for their post-school lives, which will be increasingly infused with technology tools. The Mayor has expressed interest in working with us on this.

We fully understand that an important aspect of Shelton’s success is that it is a “low cost, low tax” environment. With that in mind, our proposed budget was based on balancing the needs of our students and the financial burdens taxpayers confront.

We appreciate the partnership with the Mayor and other city officials in assisting us to find savings in utilities and other areas. We, too, strive to find savings in many areas, such as noted above.

Knowing that we add value and vitality to the culture of the community, the Shelton school district can take pride in its accomplishments. Our budget request and the Mayor’s subsequent recommendation to the Board of Aldermen will allow us to continue the tradition of excellence and to serve all of our students with quality programs and the 21st Century tools they need. We want to prepare our students for a rapidly changing world. We want to contribute to the success of Shelton!

We look forward to our upcoming presentation to the Board of Apportionment and Taxation at City Hall on April 6 at 7 p.m.

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