School Board Discusses Staffing Levels For 2014-15

The Board of Education unanimously voted to have “reduction in force” notifications shared with nontenured staff in the district who may or may not have their positions renewed for the 2014-15 school year, during its meeting on Tuesday, April 8.

According Assistant Superintendent of Schools Linda Gejda, a state statute requires that school district staff be notified by May 1 if their contract will not be or will potentially not be renewed for the following school year.

The list of staff supplied to the school board during the meeting, according to Dr Gejda, included positions that are nonrenewals for budgetary reasons, one-year contract positions, and long-term substitutes. Individuals whose positions are currently being funded by grants will also be notified, according to Dr Gejda, until the district learns whether the grants will be awarded to the district again.

School board member Kathy Hamilton said, from her past experience on the school board, there are usually more people on the list for reduction in force notifications than “need be.”

“And also as far as its firmness, it depends on who may retire between now and June and whether that may and may not save somebody’s job,” said Ms Hamilton. “So I just want to be clear about that. I don’t know if new teachers understand that.”

Dr Gejda added that resignations may also offset the number of contracts that may not be renewed.

School district Interim Director of Human Resources David Abbey was present for the meeting and discussed the protocol for how people leaving the district through resignations and retirements could offset the number of people whose contracts are not renewed for next school year. He also explained how shuffling people may be an effect of resignations and retirements that leave other positions in need of being filled.

“Until you achieve tenure in the state of Connecticut you don’t have any seniority,” Dr Abbey said.

Dr Abbey also explained that a number of different criteria were used to create the list of staff who would receive the reduction in force notifications.

The criteria, according to Dr Abbey, included experience, expertise in a certain area, quality of teaching, a teacher’s field of certification, and whether someone had achieved tenure in another district prior to taking a position in Newtown.

Interim Superintendent of Schools John Reed, Dr Gejda, school principals, and Dr Abbey were involved in making the decisions behind the list being formed, according to Dr Abbey. He said the same decision process would be used to decide which people would be kept in the district following the reduction in force notifications going out.

“I have complete faith in the way you are handling this for these people, that you have their best interest at heart, and know how to monitor and adjust where they should go if someone is retiring,” school board member John Vouros said, before addressing how important the positions and people are for the district.

Mr Vouros also noted that people may not receive the option of continuing their same work but they may still have a job in the district.

“That’s another issue that we all struggle with here,” said Mr Vouros.

According to Dr Abbey, discussions have also been held with the teachers’ union regarding the reduction in staff notifications.

Board member Keith Alexander noted that the school board has been “insulated from this kind of large-scale change in recent years. It has been relatively small. Our numbers are bigger this year. We knew that going in. Dr Reed warned us nine months ago that this would be what we would be looking at this year.”

The situation is still hard, Mr Alexander said.

“I think that people are uncomfortable when it comes right down to the actual people involved, but I recognize that everybody in the district has gone through the effort at your level to try to make this as effective as it can be for what it has to be,” said Mr Alexander.

School board member Michelle Ku said the situation is heartbreaking.

“Many of the teachers on this list are excellent, talented, people… and it’s just a hard reality to face that this is what these decisions are coming to,” Ms Ku said.

Dr Abbey also said that incoming Superintendent of Schools Joseph Erardi, Jr, will be “very involved with this” as the situation unfolds.

Also during its meeting, the school board approved its monthly financial report, passed recommendations for the school board to have a nonlapsing fund account on to the Board of Finance for review, and approved a letter of support for the 2014-15 budget that will be distributed through a PTA newsletter and in local publications, like The Newtown Bee. The letter was submitted to The Bee as a Letter to the Editor this week titled, “School Officials And Board Support The Budget.”


 Student Athletes

For the second meeting in a row, the Board of Education honored Newtown High School athletes during its meeting this week.

During its April 1 meeting, the BOE members also welcomed and congratulated the NHS wrestling team for winning the CIAC Class LL State Championship in February and the school’s dance team for winning the CIAC State Championship, also in February.

This week, the school board welcomed and honored the NHS ice hockey team for winning the Division III State Championship in March and the NHS Unified Sports teams, the Blue Blaze basketball team and the Spirit Team.

Video highlights from the April 1 meeting with the NHS wrestling team and NHS dance team is available here.

Video highlights from this week's meeting with the NHS ice hockey team and the NHS Unified Sports teams is available here.

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