Stonington school budget cuts rile parents, coach

Stonington - Parents whose children attend area magnet schools again criticized the Board of Education Thursday night for cutting $43,000 needed to bus students to magnet schools despite the fact that the cost is reimbursed by the state.

Meanwhile, high school football coach A.J. Massengale criticized a decision to cut funding for freshman football, a decision he said he was never consulted on and which he learned of three weeks after it was made.

"I was completely blindsided," he told the board.

Massengale called the freshman football cut a "tremendous injustice to the 40 freshman expected to play this fall and who have no other place to play." The board has said that it has not eliminated the teams, just the funding, which means teams will have to raise funds to continue to play.

After listening to the comments, the school board took no action to reinstate the items. Chairwoman Gail MacDonald said the board constantly reviews the budget throughout the year.

The magnet school cut means that parents of 43 students will either have to drive their children to the out-of-town schools or re-enroll them here.

School officials have said the state reimbursement does not get funneled into the school budget but instead is deposited in the town's general fund, where it offsets the tax rate for all residents.

The elimination of the transportation money and funding for freshman football and basketball were among $300,000 in cuts the school board made after the finance board reduced the school budget's $1.3 million increase following the defeat of the 2012-13 budget at the first referendum.

Parent Jim Turner told the school board that the board's own policy states that it will provide transportation to the magnet school. He suggested that any money left in the 2011-12 budget be used to fund the buses and pointed out state law requires that educational funding go into the school budget.

Parent Hans Hartman charged the school board was discriminating against magnet school students and is exposing itself to liability if a student is injured while being driven to the magnet schools. He said he would also look into forcing a referendum vote on the issue.

"This was shortsighted. It was stupid. Please reinstate it to help these kids," added resident Tim O'Brien.


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