Groton Town Council approves additional education funding

Groton — Portia Bordelon said her 14-year-old son recently brought home more than 100 pages of a photocopied novel and told her there weren't enough books for everyone in his English class to have one.

“I was blown away,” she said.

Bordelon, a member of Representative Town Meeting, made the comment during Tuesday's Town Council meeting in which councilors unanimously approved a supplemental appropriation of about $1.57 million from the town’s undesignated fund balance for education. The appropriation was required by the state to bring town education funding up to last year’s level of $76.47 million.

Groton was recently named an Alliance District by the state, a designation that places it among the lowest performing districts in the state, along with Norwich and New London.

Bordelon told councilors she believes the school district ended up there because it didn't invest enough in remedial support.

“I’m hoping that if the money is returned, that Groton is going to take this money and properly put it where it belongs, which is back to the remedial aspects of our education,” she said.

Then she told the story of her son not having a book to do reading assignment.

Superintendent Michael Graner said he would meet Jan. 8 with Desi Nesmith, chief turnaround officer for the state Department of Education, to learn what led to Groton’s designation as an Alliance District. Based on that discussion, Graner said he would come up with plan to spend the money most effectively and discuss it with the school board.

Of the $1.57 million, the Board of Education discussed plans to spend $600,000 on paraprofessionals, $39,000 to hire a special education teacher at West Side Middle School, and $39,000 each to make the literacy and math specialists at West Side and Carl C. Cutler middle schools full-time positions.

The board also discussed plans to hire a math tutor at Northeast Academy Arts Magnet School, a part-time special education teacher at Charles Barnum Elementary School and other staff.

Graner said he would look into the situation with the book at Robert E. Fitch High School. There should be adequate money for books, he said. Teachers may be using packets rather than books so that students can take notes while reading, but it bothers him that 100 pages would be photocopied due to copyright rules, he said.

Bordelon said her son was told there not enough books to go around. Her son’s packet has pages on both sides and must be turned each time he flips a page, she said. “How can you learn like that?” she said.

Councilor Joe Zeppieri said the council is looking for objective measures that the schools are performing well.

The council supports the schools, “however, we want from you evidence that the money is well spent. We want to see our children performing at higher levels on proficiency tests because those are the only objective criteria that we have,” he said.

 

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