School board approves $98 million spending plan

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Fri., Jan. 10, 2014
Dr. Alan Bookman presented his case for keeping with modern technology and upgrading the school system's buses, as part of his proposed $98 million budget for 2014-2015. Photos by Steve Smith.
Dr. Alan Bookman presented his case for keeping with modern technology and upgrading the school system's buses, as part of his proposed $98 million budget for 2014-2015. Photos by Steve Smith.

Asking for a 4.41-percent increase, Superintendent of Schools Alan Bookman recommended cutting 10 teaching positions in his proposal for the Glastonbury schools' $98.06 million spending plan for 2014-2015.

Bookman said slightly-declining enrollment enables the district to remove six sections from grades K-6. Some projections for class enrollment include the addition of one section of kindergarten at Hebron Avenue School, and the elimination of one first-grade section from both Hebron Avenue and Naubuc schools.

Projections also show that Buttonball, Eastbury and Naubuc would drop a second-grade section, while the other three schools would add a section. District-wide, four sections of fourth and fifth grade would be eliminated, according to the projections.

“When you take all of the sections, plus and minus, and put it all together, you will see that the total impact is a reduction of six full-time equivalents,” Bookman said. “That would be six fewer teachers that we would have at the elementary level.”

Enrollment levels are expected to show little difference at Gideon Welles and Smith Middle schools, but Bookman said 2014-15 should be the last year of higher class sizes, and the middle school numbers will likely drop in following years.

Glastonbury High School is expecting 89 fewer students in the fall. If following the industry standard ratio of 17 students per teacher, GHS would drop five teaching positions, but Bookman said one extra position was removed for the current year, so only four positions will be dropped.

While reducing the number of teaching jobs by 10, salaries for all employees comprise the largest increase – 1.64-percent, or $1.54 million of the proposed budget. “If we were not reducing staff for next year,” Bookman said, “that 1.64-percent would be over 2 percent.”

Health and other benefits will add a 1.14-percent increase to the budget.

Bookman said that a key part of the system's strategic goals is to build a 21st century learning environment in Glastonbury, and said that the schools' high rates of graduation and the number of students going on to college is “not good enough.”

“We want to make sure that our students, when they leave, are prepared for what they will face in the 21st century,” he said, “and we want them prepared for the jobs of the 21st century, which will be available to them, if they have those particular skills.”

The technology portion of the budget includes the GHS iPad initiative, which will put tablets in the hands of the class of 2018, as well as next year's sophomores and juniors. It also includes shortening the current seven-year replacement plan for computers and other devices in the school, to five years.

“What has happened is that, during the sixth and seventh year of the technology in our schools, we're finding that the computers are breaking down, and we're having to consolidate the technology that we have,” Bookman said. “We're also finding that older computers cannot handle the software that we expect them to handle.”

Some hints at the future beyond 2015 were given when some positions to be added were questioned – the idea being that the board should consider that projections for declining enrollment may result in cutting positions in coming years.

An additional health education and development alignment resource teacher was asked for in the budget, as was an additional maintenance person (specifically for HVAC maintenance). Board member Jim Zeller said that perhaps, if this staff person is needed, another position could be cut somewhere, because future enrollment will call for further cuts, and potentially a scaling-back of more teaching positions.

“One of my concerns every year is that our support staff keeps getting larger and larger,” Zeller said. “We are facing a declining population. We are going to have to deal with facilities, I think, at some point pretty soon. I'm concerned that we're adding someone, going into a decline.”

On Jan. 9, the Board of Education voted to trim Bookman's budget by $200,000, to $97.86 million – a 4.2-percent increase.  The vote was 7-1, with Zeller as the only dissenting vote. The budget will be reviewed by the Town Council and Board of Finance before being presented as part of the whole town budget at the Annual Town Meeting, slated for March.

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