Burr announces he’ll step down as superintendent, blames budget woes

School Supt. Freeman Burr unexpectedly announced Wednesday night he would resign as school superintendent at the end of the calendar year.

Burr said a “frustrating” budget process in Shelton was the main reason for his decision, with the Board of Education (BOE) receiving only 40% of its requested budget increase requests during the past five years.

Specifically, he said the BOE has asked for a total of $12.6 million in increases during the past five budget cycles and only received $4.8 million.

He said during the same time period, the city’s fund balance (or accumulated budget surpluses) has continued to grow.

“Clearly the city has fared better than our students” as well as our teachers, Burr said, when announcing his decision at the May 27 BOE meeting.

He described this year’s budget process as being “exceedingly frustrating.” He said “much planning” went into the school system’s budget proposal, with a requested increase that will surely be trimmed significantly by the time the 2015-16 budget is finalized on Thursday night.

'Given the wealth of this town'

“Given the wealth of this town ... the budget process should not be this difficult,” Burr said.

"Deep down," he said, "I loath” the idea of having to go through another budget process in Shelton.

Burr has expressed frustration as the lack of meetings with Mayor Mark Lauretti and aldermanic leaders on the budget this year.
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Mayor Lauretti rejects Burr's budget reasoning; click below:
In the past week, that pace has picked up. Burr said Wednesday night that meetings on the budget involving the mayor had taken place May 22 and May 26. He said he also spoke to the mayor by phone on budget matters on May 27.

The superintendent summed up the outcome of these recent conservations by saying, “There has not been any progress.”

Aldermanic budget vote Thursday

The Board of Aldermen is expected to vote on the city budget on Thursday night, including the BOE allocation. The BOE has requested a $4.2 million increase (or 5%) but Lauretti has recommended a $1.5 million increase (or 2.2%).

The aldermen are likely to pass a school funding amount more in line with the mayor’s recommendation than the BOE’s request.

Surprised the audience

Burr’s announcement appeared to shock many people in the audience at the BOE meeting, although school board members appeared to be aware the announcement was coming.
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Burr finalized decision over Memorial Day weekend; click below:
When discussing his decision at the meeting, Burr also cited the retirement and death of other longtime Shelton school administrators in recent years and the general need for leadership change in organizations after so many years to keep them vibrant and healthy.

He said he has been contemplating leaving his position in Shelton for almost two years, and is uncertain if he will retire or pursue employment in the education field elsewhere.

Been superintendent since 2009

Burr became superintendent of the Shelton public schools  in August 2009. His last day in Shelton will be Dec. 31.

Like most school superintendents in Connecticut, Burr has a “rolling” three-year contract that is renewed annually so three years always remains on it. His current employment contract was set to expire in 2017.

Burr began his education career as a teacher and has worked more than 35 years as a certified teacher and school administrator in Connecticut schools.

Finding a successor

Toward the end of the May 27 BOE meeting, board members voted to hire the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education to assist in the process of hiring a new superintendent. CABE is a private, nonprofit organization that advocates for, and provides services to, local school boards.

Burr said he hopes the next superintendent “will bear much better” and have "better luck" with “city fathers” when dealing with future budgets in Shelton.

“In fact, I will pray for that,” he said.