June 11, 2012 11:59 PM
The meeting of the school board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee got off to a bad start when committee member Art Beaudry from Ward 9 launched into the administration for not providing the information it planned to discuss in advance of the meeting. As Assistant Superintendent Michael Tursi outlined various personnel realignment options for the committee to consider in light of the nearly 200 vacancies expected this fall due to layoffs, retirements, resignations and non-renewals, an exasperated Beaudry complained he couldn’t take notes fast enough to keep up with Tursi.
Committee chair Sarah Ambrogi of Ward 1 tried to calm Beaudry, noting that the purpose of the meeting was to give the administration a chance to introduce the options it was considering and open discussion, not to cast any votes or make any decisions. She stated that the options presented by the school district’s administration would be sent to committee members.
Ward 4 Committeeman Roy Shoults, also a member of the committee, echoed Ambrogi’s position. “The purpose of the meeting is to hear these approaches to the funding problem we have. We have to start somplace. If we don’t say something and they don’t say something, then we start from no place.”
Though not a member of the committee, Ward 2 school board member Debra Gagnon-Langton renewed her complaint that the administration “came forward with RIFs without asking the board for input,” and said they are “now bringing it back piecemeal.” She expressed alarm over the “number of teachers and administrators jumping ship is alarming” and criticized the administration for providing the aldermen with class size information that was not right.
Superintendent Tom Brennan pushed back against Gagnon-Langton’s charge that board members were uninformed of where the pink slipped teachers would come from saying that most of them were presented on the initial RIF lists to the board. He went on to say, in response to a question from Gagnon-Langton that “none of this is acceptable. That we don’t have a budget of !62 million is unacceptable, but we have to deal with the hand we’ve been dealt. The bottom line is, literally, how do we deal with a $150 million budget?”
Tursi and Brennan detailed various options to reassign personnel between the high schools and middle schools to adjust for the layoffs in “Language Arts” (formerly known as English) and “World Languages” (also known as “Foreign Languages.” Middle school class sizes would, on average range from 29 to 33 students under the proposed scenarios. Tursi was unable to provide estimates for high school class sizes noting the variety of classes available in the subjects.
Elementary school class sizes were expected to average 27 kids across the district.
Other issues addressed by the committee involved reassignment of Information Communication and Technology personnel as well as English Language Learner (formerly known as English as a Second Language) teachers to handle growing numbers of these students at Memorial High School. The ELL program was not impacted by the budget cuts, however the ICT program took a 50% reduction in teachers.