Hebron Board of Education welcomes interim business manager

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Mon., Apr. 8, 2013

At the April 2 Hebron Board of Education meeting, the board introduced Interim Business Manager David Lenihan, who was asked to provide input regarding the district’s budget. Lenihan replaces Bill Mazzara, shared between the Hebron and the RHAM districts, who was suspended from his duties during a scandal involving a misappropriation of funds by former Hebron Superintendent Ellie Cruz. Mazzara is no longer employed with the district.

According to Hebron acting superintendent Kathryn Veronesi, Lenihan will be working an average of two days per week for the district until the end of the year. “The Board has not yet made a decision about how we will move forward with this position at this time,” said Veronesi.

Lenihan talked about the year-to-date expenditures for FY 2012-13. He reported higher than expected expenditures in some areas, including legal expenses. He estimated additional expenditures in the amount of $145,000 through the end of the year for legal fees. Based on his preliminary analysis, however, Lenihan said that he expected the district to come in between $25,000 and $35,000 “to the good,” for the current fiscal year.

The board introduced a discussion regarding how to handle an estimated $162,000 in savings that had arisen since the board had been required to pass its budget forward to the town. An expected 25 percent increase in insurance costs had been reduced to “closer to 13 percent,” said Veronesi, resulting in a $159,000 savings, which would result in a .99 percent increase to the budget for FY 2012-13 rather than the 2.33 percent increase represented in the budget passed forward to the town. A savings of $3,000 due to a teacher not realizing a step increase would bring the increase down to .97 percent, said Veronesi. The board needed to decide whether to amend the budget to reflect this change, or whether to reinstate some positions that had been cut “because we were looking at such a significant increase in the insurance line,” said Veronesi.

Of particular concern were the math specialist and library media positions. “Those are significant cuts for us,” said Veronesi, explaining that the math specialist position, in particular, played an increasingly large role within the district. She explained that the math specialist’s role was no longer to simply work one on one with students. With increased testing and the demands represented by common core curriculum changes, the math specialist played a role in the collection and examination of data, as well as helping to streamline the busy work so that teachers were freed up to focus on the classroom. 

With the district currently providing between 50 and 60 students with extra help in math, Veronesi said that the cutting of the position could result in fewer kids being serviced.

Board members acknowledged the importance of the positions, but expressed concern regarding support for the budget. “I don’t think the budget will pass because people are hurting too much,” said Dominic Marino.

Amy Lynch-Gracias referred to a study brought before the board recently which showed that the U.S. ranks top in the world among expenditures for education, but ranks only 26th in student performance. “How do we spend so much and rank so low?” she asked. “I still think we should be looking at a zero percent or less increase,” said Lynch-Gracias. Lynch-Gracias suggested reinstating the positions but finding other areas to reduce the budget.

In the end, the board voted to reduce the budget to a .97 percent increase, representing the $159,000 savings for insurance and the $3,000 for the teacher step. But the direction provided to the superintendent was to try to find ways to reduce in other areas to make the reinstatement of staff positions possible. “Dr. Veronesi, you and your staff have some more studying to do,” said Shea.

Veronesi said that the district had responded to a reduction in enrollment by decreasing an assistant principal position and a special education director position to half-time. “We will be naming the special ed director/assistant principal at this week’s board meeting (April 11),” said Veronesi. The combined position requires certification in both areas, and carries a salary of $114,000.

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