Shelton school board finalizes 22 job cuts, including layoffs and job changes

Photo of Brian Gioiele
The Shelton Board of Education offices.

The Shelton Board of Education offices.

Contributed photo

SHELTON — The Board of Education cut 22 positions - seven through layoffs - while three other positions were made part-time to slash some $3.1 million from its 2020-21 proposed budget.

In all, the Board of Education, during its Zoom meeting Wednesday, cut some $3.2 million to meet the $72,765,000 education budget number approved last week by the Board of Aldermen. That left the board with an extra $203,864, which it plans to hold for potential coronavirus-related reopening costs.

"Not one of us here tonight wanted to take this task on,” said board Chair Kathy Yolish. “By law, we must only spend what we are given by our city fathers who set the fiscal budget each year … this is not what we wanted to do but what we had to do.”

Yolish said she was hopeful that when “tax dollars, federal assistance for education needs during the pandemic, grant money as well as the reimbursable monies come in, the city will provide us with additional funds so that we may restore positions and items that we have had to cut.”

The school board entered the night needing to slash $456,973 to meet the city’s education budget number. But board members also were told they had an additional $455,837 — thanks to $23,000 found in the health savings account, $132,837 from the city’s estimated $6.5 million Educational Cost Sharing grant and $300,000 approved by the Aldermen to cover equipment and technology costs.

The additional funds allowed the board to add back the intermediate school reading consultant, a library media specialist and a part-time Perry Hill School music teacher, which would allow the band program to remain intact.

Those additions meant the board needed to cut closer to $111,000. To meet that number — and be left with extra funds — the Republican-majority school board voted along party lines, 5-4, to eliminate the SIS dean of discipline. The board then voted 5-4, again along party lines, to reduce the athletic director and the athletic director’s secretary positions from full time to part time, which created a $100,000 savings.

The board then voted 8-0 with board member Diana Meyer abstaining to eliminate an intermediate school social studies teacher and a Long Hill School teacher at a grade level yet to be determined.

The board was told a Shelton High language arts teacher has resigned, so the district will move an intermediate school language arts teacher to fill that spot. The SIS language arts position would not be filled. Savings were estimated at $95,000.

The numerous cuts from the intermediate school means that one team would be eliminated, but class sizes are projected to be 23 in grade seven and 25 for grade eight even so.

Board member Amanda Kilmartin, citing the extra funds, pushed for keeping the dean of discipline and keeping the AD full time.

“My concern is that it is easier to cut later than fill the positions later,” said Kilmartin. “I want to make the investment in our people. I know we can’t keep both, but now we can’t keep either.”

The Board of Education had proposed a $75 million budget — an increase of $2.3 million, or 3.19 percent. The request would have maintained present services with money set aside for a new pre-K teacher and curriculum writing.

On June 3, the board agreed to $1.2 million in line item cuts, which included taking $450,000 out of the health insurance budget; $130,210 from professional development; some $100,000 in natural gas and propane fuel cost savings; and $70,750 in electrical, fuel and heating oil savings by closing Perry Hill and the elementary schools after 6 p.m. weekdays and not opening it on weekends.

In all, 16 employees are retiring or resigning, and 15 of those positions will be eliminated, saving more than $1 million. Among the positions are the district-wide school psychologist; an English and a math teacher, all at Shelton High; a SIS music teacher; a Booth Hill School teacher; a Mohegan School PE teacher; and a career and technical education teacher who was shared by the high school and SIS.

The PE teacher will be replaced by a teacher from SIS, and the music teacher will be replaced by a teacher from Perry Hill School. The new pre-K teacher position, proposed in the initial education budget, will be filled by a teacher from Elizabeth Shelton School, so no new funds would be added to fill that position, board members were told.

The board did vote to keep the two part-time security guards, at a combined $42,000.

On June 3, the board voted on six teacher layoffs and elimination of both supervisor positions in the Office of Teaching and Learning, which altogether brings $345,000 in savings.

The board then voted to create a director of curriculum, instruction and data K-12, which would combine the responsibilities of the two now former supervisors. The board authorized Human Resources Director Carole Pannozzo to create a job description and post for applicants immediately.

Among the layoffs are a Shelton High chemistry teacher, an intermediate school art teacher, an intermediate school world languages teacher and a career and technical education teacher who was shared by the high school and SIS.