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Deep School Cuts Averted Governor Authorizes More Hires To Make Up For Teachers Lost To Early Retirement

GRACE E. MERRITT

August 19, 2009

HARTFORD - With only two weeks before 10,000 students return to the state's technical high schools, school leaders had been bracing themselves for the unpleasant task of telling parents that they would have to close certain trade programs, cancel fall sports or possibly even dis-enroll students.

The system's 16 high schools had collectively lost 161 employees this summer including 108 teachers through a retirement incentive program designed to cut state costs.

"We were looking at taking some pretty drastic steps. Happily, we never got there," said Allan Taylor, the chairman of the State Board of Education, which oversees the technical school system.

That's because Gov. M. Jodi Rell stepped in to help ease the shortage last week, authorizing the school system to hire another 25 teachers. The state had initially allowed the district to hire 52 new teachers to help fill classrooms, but that still left many classrooms empty with schools scheduled to open Aug. 27.

"We're very, very grateful that people were watching that closely and that they recognized the need for some urgency in the decision," said Patricia A. Ciccone, interim superintendent of Connecticut technical schools.

Rell spokesman Adam Liegeot said Rell listened to the board's concerns about adequate staffing and acted accordingly.

The technical school system, the seventh-largest school district in the state, is run by the State Board of Education and had been hamstrung by the ongoing state budget impasse between the governor and the legislature.

The additional 25 teachers means the technical school system will be able to replace a total of 77 of the 108 teachers lost or about three of every four.

"We've still got some work to do to make everything fit, but we are going to be able to run the schools and run the athletic programs and provide services," Taylor said.

Some of the classes will be larger and some courses may not be offered, Taylor said, but details are still being ironed out.

"It's harder to say what the impact is right now because we're not making dramatic program cuts, just a lot of smaller adjustments," Taylor said.

In addition to authorizing the 25 positions, the governor authorized the district to automatically refill vacancies that open up for other reasons, such as when an employee quits.

To further contain costs, the state plans to close J.M. Wright Tech in Stamford for two years, but will keep Bristol T.E.C. open despite an initial proposal to close it.

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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