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Hartford Schools: Staff Cuts Decried

Paraprofessionals And Bus Drivers Criticize Proposed Layoffs, Wage Freeze

Vanessa De La Torre

April 20, 2011

A public hearing Tuesday night on Superintendent Steven Adamowski's proposed 2011-12 education budget seemed more like a union rally as paraprofessionals and bus drivers clamored for their livelihood.

Adamowski has recommended a $395.8 million plan that calls for $4.5 million less in spending than the current budget and would require cutting 58.6 staff positions. That includes 27 paraprofessionals, about 10 clerical and technical support jobs, 6.5 security staffers, 2.5 social workers, four maintenance employees and a custodian.

Several administrative positions, such as an assistant superintendent's job, would also be cut as part of a central office reorganization under incoming schools chief Christina Kishimoto, who is the assistant superintendent of secondary schools.

In addition, the budget proposes hiring 4.5 full-time prevention and intervention workers, a part-time teacher and a part-time guidance counselor.

Adamowski requests no teacher layoffs, which may have lowered Tuesday's turnout. About 15 speakers addressed the school board during the hearing at Capital Preparatory Magnet School on Main Street, which drew at least 100 people.

Half of the audience belonged to the bus drivers' and monitors' union, CSEA-SEIU Local 2001. Following a recommendation from the board's budget task force, Adamowski suggested freezing their wages as one way to help trim $1.6 million from transportation costs. That would require asking the city council to suspend its living wage ordinance.

"Never!" declared Councilman Larry Deutsch, drawing the crowd's boisterous amens and shouts.

Members of the Hartford Federation of Paraprofessionals, who work with students with special needs, suggested that Adamowski cut more from the central office. Last year, Adamowski recommended laying off 19 paraprofessionals. By the summer, 65 were let go.

"This is immoral," said Shellye Davis, a union co-president.

Administrators later said that 17 of the 27 proposed layoffs of paraprofessionals were because students are adjusting well enough that they no longer need special services; the others are because of enrollment shifts.

Overall, Adamowski's proposal, his last as superintendent, requests no increase in the city's direct contribution to the education budget. City taxpayers currently pay $93.7 million, with the bulk of the schools' funding coming from state and federal grants.

The plan also meets a long-term board goal by increasing the amount of spending that goes directly to schools and classrooms in part with $11 million from a federal education jobs grant that the school system received last summer but saved for 2011-12. That stimulus money, crucial to this year's proposal, will expire in June 2012.

The new spending ratio is 75 percent for schools and 25 percent for central office and support services, Adamowski said.

The board is expected to adopt a budget on May 3.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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