Stonington schools decide where to cut

Stonington - With residents overwhelmingly approving the proposed 2014-15 budget last week, the school board has finalized what items it will cut to account for the Board of Finance's $254,000 reduction in proposed school spending for 2014-15.

The cuts are as follows: $25,000 in reduced social worker positions, $10,000 in reductions of teacher assistance in math and language curriculum, $120,000 to implement the required state teacher evaluation program, $18,784 in technology infrastructure to enhance communication, $4,800 for the middle school Summer Academy, $26,000 for a half-time additional chorus teaching position at Pawcatuck Middle School, $9,500 to fund the high school Chinese language program, $19,000 for sections of physical education or other subjects at the high school, $5,000 for the high school Summer Academy and $16,895 for track and soccer equipment at the high school.

School board chairman Frank Todisco said the board chose cuts that would have the least impact as possible on students.

After the public hearing on the budget, the finance board restored $270,000 of its initial $525,000 cut after more than 400 people packed the public hearing and called on the board to restore all the money and let residents vote on an intact school budget. The finance board refused.

"With the approval of the budget referendum, the Board of Education was able to restore some of the reductions that would have had serious impacts on our students," wrote Superintendent of Schools Van Riley on the school system's website after the board's decision Thursday night.

He wrote that the restoration of the $270,000 means the following items, which has been slated for elimination with the $525,000 cut, are now funded for 2014-15:

• For the elementary schools art, music and physical education specialists and an elementary librarian to be split between elementary schools will not be cut.

• On the middle school level, reinstated will be a seventh-grade teaching position at Pawcatuck Middle School, a part-time French teacher, music paraprofessionals at Mystic Middle School, Mystic Middle School jazz club and chorus, a half-time chorus teacher at Mystic Middle School, library paraprofessionals and basketball teams at both middle schools.

• At the high school restored were a part-time French teacher, the Virtual High School program, support for the drama program, transportation for the crew team, funding for the freshman basketball and football teams and supplies for sailing, cheerleading, and crew.

Riley again pointed out that the school board has already cut $1 million from the proposed budget before it submitted it to the finance board, including eight teaching positions due to attrition.

The school budget now shows an overall increase of $539,000 or 1.6 percent but school officials have said they needed a $1 million increase just to preserve the current level of education because of employee raises and increases in health insurance, fuel, utilities, and special education costs.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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