Time: 4:47 PM
Due to the education budget crisis, my inbox is filled with messages from upset teachers and parents who have questions and are looking for information regarding what's going on.
Since I attended a number of the budget workshops at the board of ed and city council, I'm going to post all the video footage I shot at these events. If all goes as planned, I'll have everything posted by Sunday, which should give concerned parents and teachers enough time to absorbed the information in advance of Monday's city budget public hearing.
Check HatCityBLOG often for updates. If there is something you need in particular (video clip, documents, help finding articles/posts), feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Skype at ctblogger2007.
Education budget solutions should not involve digging into students pockets
Time: 8:45 AM
Danbury educators certainly are faced with a troubling dilemma -- how to rectify a budget that is $2 million less than requested. But that gap must not be resolved on the backs of students.
Among the remedies being considered seriously by education leaders is charging an extracurricular fee of $60 per student at Danbury High School.
This is wrong, and we strongly implore the Board of Education and education leaders to look elsewhere for funds or savings.
Danbury students must not be penalized for wanting to participate in extracurricular activities. At times, these very activities -- such as a football team or a drama club -- could be an incentive to keep a student in school.
The board is grappling with budget realities: It had requested $116.1 million -- about $4.2 million more than the present year. But Mayor Mark Boughton recommended an increase of only $2 million, which, as he said, is better than last year when no increase was approved.
Remedies now being considered by the board are grim indeed. The elimination of 45.1 positions -- more than half of them teachers -- is among the proposals.
The budget process is not over yet. Educators have made their case to the education subcommittee of the City Council, and the full council needs to consider the budget.
We beseech Danbury educators to keep searching for other ways to make up the difference. Do not start charging students who want to participate in extracurricular activities at Danbury High School.
As I stated last night on TV, as the Board of Education and City Council butt heads, the people who suffer most are the one's who shouldn't be penalized. The collection of 60,000 dollars is a drop in the bucket when your talking about a school budget that's over 100,000,000 dollars.
When you take into consideration that principals who received a NINE percent raise last year are looking for another raise this year, I'm sure the BOE can find a better way to fund extracurricular activities than digging into kid's pockets.
LOCAL ACCESS VIDEO: Danbury Live/ 2010 Education budget workshop
Time: 10:33 PM
EDUCATION FLASHBACK: Nine percent raise?
Time: 3:19 PM
The bad blood between the City Council and the Board of Ed (as well as Mayor Boughton new found line-in-the-sand attitude over the education budget) has been brewing for about the last year.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of proper media coverage, unless you attended the meetings and witness the back and forth in person, there is a good chance that the deteriorating relationship between these elected officials have gone on mostly under the radar.
I've been on-hand to videotape a majority of the back and forth between the BOE and City Council over the last year and have reported on most of the activities on my blog.
Here's one example of an issue that irritated the Minority leader of the council, sparked outrage among residents and teachers, and mostly went unreported in the local mainstream media.
Back in 2009, during a meeting between the common council and board of education regarding the teacher's contract, Minority leader Tom Saadi expressed his concerns regarding the salaries of administrators in the school system, specifically, the pay increase to two principals who, due to arbitration, were set to receive a nine percent pay increase. Needless to say that the teachers in attendance didn't take this revelation in a positive manner.
This following write-up was originally posted on February 26 2009:
Common Council meeting 02.17.09
I've received a GREAT amount of emails from residents and teachers who are alarmed (and pissed off) to find out that two principals (Broadview and Roger's Park Middle School) are scheduled to receive a NINE percent raise while teachers are scheduled to be laid off under their contract that was approved by the Board of Education but later rejected by the Common Council. Many whom I talked to were stunned to learn about this information and wonder how something like this could happen in this current economic climate (NOTE: The Board of Education (BOE) voted against the administration contract).
ONLY for the purpose of this post, I will stick to the revelation of the raise by Minority Leader Tom Saadi during last week's meeting as opposed to getting into the details/origins of the pay increase (at this time). Here's video footage of what transpired between Saadi, Danbury School Finance Director Elio Longo and BOE chairwoman Susan Podhajski when he brought this topic up. For point of reference, take note of President Joe Cavo's attempt to block Saadi from addressing this issue as well as the reaction from the those in attendance.
(NOTE: Here's a copy of the salary spreadsheet that's being referenced by Minority Leader Saadi (click to enlarge). The principals in question (Broadview and Rogers Park Middle School) are circled and their scheduled pay increases are written on the right hand side of the spreadsheet.)
Last Thursday, during my interview with Minority Leader Saadi, the matter of the pay increase came up...
As Saadi stated, just because someone gives you a mind-blowing nine percent raise, doesn't mean that you have to accept a NINE percent raise. Hopefully the principals of Broadview and Rogers Park Middle school will do the right thing and only take a rate of increase that makes sense.
Equally as puzzling to many is the fact that Common Council President Cavo appeared to attempt and stop Saadi from addressing this topic AND the fact that Mayor Boughton didn't failed to take a stance on the administration contract in the same manner as he's currently doing with the teacher's contract.
...as the News-Times editorial states:So it's good to see that the board and the union have agreed to try mediation again, at the urging of Mayor Mark Boughton. A mediation session has been set for March 4. If mediation doesn't work, the dispute will go to binding arbitration.Simply put, with education taking a lion's share of the city's overall budget, where was Mayor Boughton when this god-awful administration contract was being negotiated PRIOR to it being rejected by the Board of Education and sent to arbitration? If the mayor can step in and request a mediation between the BOE and the teacher's union, it's logical to assume that he could have done the same thing in the case of the administration's contract and the BOE, which probably could have saved the city money in terms of arbitration costs alone.
It's easy for city officials to demand concessions from the teachers. But their argument is undercut by their failure to challenge the recent contract approved for school administrators, granting a 4.5 percent increase.
The administrators contract had been settled by binding arbitration and city officials said a return to arbitration would be expensive and could produce the same contract.
Still, the teachers are being subjected to mayoral jawboning for contract changes and the administrators were allowed to escape. It's not fair.
For the mayor not to step in when he had a chance opting instead to allow a binding arbitrator to award NINE PERCENT pay increases is irresponsible giving the current economic state of affairs in this country.
I'll have more later...
What story is Eileen FitzGerald reporting on?
Time: 8:53 AM
Danbury school officials met last night to discuss how it would manage with $2 million less in 2010-2011.
Those proposed cuts have been sent around through the Parent Teacher Organizations today.
But school officials continue to work on a new plan that they will present to the City Council education subcommittee tonight at City Hall.
So, parents should understand that some of the proposed cuts have already been amended and that the list continues to change.
I'm assuming that this post from News-Times education reporter Eileen FitzGerald came about from my blog posting I did hours earlier on the proposed closing of Mill Ridge Intermediate School (MRI), the elimination of full time kindergarten, and layoff of teachers. The problem here is that, by her claiming that the "proposed cuts have already been amended and that the list continues to change", FitzGerald is trying to sugar coat the situation. In fact, although she knew about the recommendations from the Board of Education's Building Utilization Committee, and the contents of the letter from PTO President Brian Walsh, FitzGerald didn't mention details of the cuts until today's front page story.
The Danbury leaders propose eliminating full-day kindergarten classrooms, prompting a cut of 5.5 teachers and 11 paraprofessional positions.
It includes restructuring Mill Ridge Intermediate School, which includes cutting 6.5 positions from among a principal, secretary, media specialist, language arts teacher, nurse, and two custodians. As part of plan, the King Street Primary and Mill Ridge Primary schools would add third grades, and fourth- and fifth-graders normally assigned to Mill Ridge would go to King Street Intermediate.
The problem with FitzGerald's post (and reporting in general) is that contrary to what she stated in her post, the PTO informed parents about the accelerated closing of MRI at the meeting (which came about due to the major's rejection of the board of education's original budget request). This news is nothing new to teachers or anyone who has followed the board of education's budget process.
In short, a number of parents and teachers reached out to me because they are VERY upset with the overall reporting from the News-Times when it comes to education in general. People are equally upset over the News-Times lack of coverage when it comes to reporting on concerns regarding the makeup of the Education's Building Utilization Committee, the history of tensions between the school board and city council.
FitzGerald knows what's going on and since being the she's the education beat reporter, she has a responsibility to report on what's happening AS IT HAPPENS (minus the sugar coating). Unfortunately, this is not the case and in the end, residents are not being informed about what's really going on at the board of ed and city hall.
I mean, we're only talking about something that takes up over 50 percent of the city's overall budget.
...more on this topic later.
CT 05: Murphy raises $325K in 1st Quarter
Time: 8:51 AM
Chris Murphy's campaign announced today that the Congressman for the 5th congressional District raised 325,000 for the first quarter of 2010.
Total amount raised for the 2010 cycle now stands at 1,612,000 with 1,175,000 cash on hand.
Murphy is facing a number of Republican challengers who are rather busy tearing each other apart.
Rejection of education budget results in proposed elimination of full-time kindergarden, teacher layoffs, closing of Mill Ridge Intermediate School
Time: 12:30 PM
Here's a message from PTO President Brian Walsh:
At last night's building utilization meeting we all agreed to move forward with the recommendation of moving grades 3 to the Primary and 4th and 5th grade to King Street. MRI will become a Middle School in the future. I truly believe in my heart this is the right move for our students for the short and long term success. I know for many it is hard to swallow but after sitting in multiple meetings and looking at all the data it came down to how our children will get the best education. As PTO President I feel responsible for each and every student at MRI and they have to be and will be my First Second and only priority. I supported the plan that I feel is best for their educational future. We looked at many options and we continue to return to this one.
As my sources noted, not all parents and teachers agree with this proposal, and who can blame them when this means busing children to a different school and a good possibility of increased class sizes. Also of note, the building utilization committee was made up of administrators, board members, parents and no teachers.
According to sources, with the proposed closing of Mill Ridge, the following positions will be cut:
- 1 elementary principal
- 1 secretary
- .5 math specialist
- 1 media specialist
- 1 language arts specialist
- 1 nurse
- 2 custodians
Here's a list of the additional cuts
- Full day kindergarten would be eliminated and the district will offer universal half-day kindergarten. This change will result in the elimination of 5.5 teachers and 11 paraeducators
- 4 additional classroom teachers will be eliminated at the elementary level.
- The Summit Program will be reorganized to an after-school program, resulting in the elimination of 1 teaching position.
Needless to say that these are drastic cuts to the education program in the city and it's yet to be seen if there will be any backlash to this proposal from parents.
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