65 New London teachers could lose jobs

New London - The superintendent of schools has placed 65 nontenured teachers throughout the district - including three literacy coaches, two deans of students and the high school's athletic director and football coach - on nonrenewal notice due to budgetary constraints.

The school district is facing the possibility of another budget year with little increase to its spending plan.

The teachers were advised of Superintendent of Schools Nicholas A. Fischer's recommendation before the Board of Education met Thursday. In a memo to the school board, Fischer wrote that "this action is in no way related to their performance."

"The city's budget is 34 percent of the dollars we get," he said Thursday. "We're still uncertain about state and federal dollars, but we have to exercise caution and say that we're hoping to have you (the staff members) back, but we will not know frankly until June 30 exactly where we stand."

The school board requested a $42.9 million budget with a 6 percent increase for the 2012-13 fiscal year, but the City Council's Finance Committee on Tuesday voted for a $40,626,406 school budget, which includes a 1.2 percent increase over the current budget.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio had proposed a 3 percent increase to the school budget.

On the list of 65 nontenured staff are three literacy coaches. Under the Finance Committee's spending plan, those positions, including that of the district's literacy supervisor, would be lost.

"That's going to hurt," Fischer said. "There's no other way to describe it. One of our major goals is to obviously improve student literacy and test performances. One of the things we need to work on is improving the quality of instruction. And to improve the quality of instruction, we need literacy coaches."

School board Chairman William Morse said nontenured teachers are traditionally given pink slips at the end of the school year and that prior notice, required by the state, protects the school district.

"Those nontenured teachers, the way the budget's looking, I think we're going to see a lot of those people lose their jobs," board member Jason Catala said.

The Finance Committee's school budget proposal of $40.6 million would be an $809,001 increase over the current budget, which would be covered by Education Cost Sharing funds.

Fischer said he didn't consider the Finance Committee's proposal an actual increase because the district is entitled to the ECS funds.

"(Finizio) is giving us the $809,001, but it's not his money to give," Fischer said. "Once the council approves its budget, the council and the mayor will have to work out their differences."

The Finance Committee on Tuesday also voted to merge the school's business office with the city's. Council President Michael Passero said the school board would get to keep the money it spends to run the business office and that the city would absorb the costs.

Fischer said it costs $539,768 to operate the business office but figured the money the district would be able to use for other purposes is only $183,521.

"The city only pays 34 percent on the dollar while the state pays about 50 percent. The cost of the business office is $539,768, so the city's net increase to us is $183,521," Fischer said.

The school board's Finance Committee will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the budget before the City Council meets to approve the city and school budgets on April 30.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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