Hartford Parents Fight Proposed School Staffing Change
Superintendent Plans To Lay Off Governance Council Coordinator
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
April 17, 2012
HARTFORD — A public hearing Tuesday night on Superintendent Christina Kishimoto's budget focused on one staff position that would be eliminated under the $400.1 million proposal.
The 2012-13 plan requests $9.35 million less than the current schools budget but adds eight teaching positions. About $3.45 million would be saved in salary accounts; $2.9 million of that would come from attrition.
Among several staffing changes, Kishimoto has proposed laying off Hartford's school governance council coordinator, who works with parents across the city to develop the state-mandated councils. Parents on Tuesday said the woman, Carmen Sierra, had earned their respect and trust, answering their calls on nights and weekends and serving as a mediator between them and the district.
By law, the governance councils are required at low-performing schools and are composed of parents, community leaders, educators and students who have a voice in their school's budget and the hiring of staff. High-achieving magnet schools in the city have also implemented them.
"Someone once said that education is like a baseball game," said Carlos Morales, chairman of the Burns School governance council and the first to speak during the hearing at Kinsella Magnet School of the Performing Arts.
"It needs all its players," Morales told Kishimoto. "If we are serious about the councils, eliminating the coordinator position makes no sense. I ask you to please reconsider."
Kishimoto said the current position has no authority over principals, and that she planned to form a team of five directors in the central office whose roles would include working with parents and expanding the councils.
"If it's not broken, don't fix it," said parent Milly Arciniegas, who helped lobby for the school governance council legislation that was passed in 2010. "We have assistant to the assistant to the assistant superintendents in this district, and I can't even get a returned phone call."
Administrators have also proposed $2.5 million in transportation cuts, including $1.7 million to consolidate bus routes and remove 17 out of 89 school buses from the fleet. Other cuts in the budget include $2 million in leased facilities — in one case, a contract expired — and $1.5 million in supplies and materials, or about $57 per student.
In addition, Hartford is projecting a major boost in student enrollment. The school system predicts an additional 1,648 students will attend city neighborhood and magnet schools next academic year. From 2008 to fall 2011, Hartford saw an increase of 774 students.
Spending for improvements to school buildings also is down to $760,000 for next fiscal year, nearly half of the current total. Among the major plans for that budget is installing air conditioning units in 50 classrooms that are being used for summer school.
Overall, Kishimoto's proposal requests no increase in the city's direct contribution to the education budget, currently at $94.4 million. Hartford also is counting on an extra $4.8 million from the state in education cost-sharing money under Gov.Dannel P. Malloy's proposed education reform plan.
The board is expected to adopt a budget May 1.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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