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Budget leaves New London teachers in limbo

New London - The 68 nontenured teachers in the district who were issued layoff notices in April have yet to hear if they will be brought back for the upcoming school year.

New London Education Association President Rich Baez said Tuesday that his members are still waiting for answers.

"Usually, we would know who would be coming back by now, but because the budget hasn't been settled, they (the Board of Education) don't know what monies they have to hire them back," Baez said. "They do not have a contract as of June 30. Technically, they're not employed until they get a recall notice."

The union is also concerned that the reduction of teachers throughout the district will have an impact on class sizes, which are set in the teachers' contract at 20 to 24 students in kindergarten through first grade and 24 to 28 students in second through 12th grade. Baez said that if class sizes are breached, a grievance would be filed, but it is still too early to tell if that will be the case.

Last week, all school administrators were asked by the superintendent of schools to trim their budgets for a second time to achieve a total of 8 percent in reductions. Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer said Tuesday that those reductions have been submitted and total $3.2 million throughout the district.

Baez said the district's battle to set a 2012-13 budget has been "unique."

"We really have no budget yet. It's kind of tough to say. They may have a number, but they haven't shared that information with us yet," he said. "New London is on the map now with the special master and improving student achievement. Studies show that overcrowding is one of the reasons cities don't succeed. It will be a difficult learning environment."

The teachers' union and school district administration will hold a meeting later this week where Baez said he expects to be updated on the total number of teachers who will be asked back, the number of teachers who have accepted jobs elsewhere and the number of teachers who have retired.

"I'll be surprised if we don't lose or haven't already lost quality teachers because of this delay. An intelligent person, which all teachers are, would not sit back on their hands and wait for the possibility of being laid off and miss the opportunity to be hired elsewhere," he said.

School board members were hoping that the $809,001 in Alliance District funds awarded to the school district would help replace some of the money the district has lost through flat-funding by the city, but Fischer said the money comes with many restrictions.

The district's recently appointed special master, Steven Adamowski, said Tuesday that the state funds are conditional and largely dependent upon the school district's submission of a proposal outlining how they plan to allocate the money.

"The district can use those funds to build on, expand or initiate new reforms. This money cannot supplant existing district operations. That is the responsibility of the city to fund the normal increases that are in the budget," Adamowski said. "It's a highly unusual situation that the district has gone five years without an increase."

New London was selected as one of 30 low-performing Alliance Districts by the state commissioner of education as part of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's education reform bill.


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