Layoffs loom in school budget

School-wide layoffs are a result of a budget gap of approximately $13 to $17 million; the city has not increased school funding for two years.
School-wide layoffs are a result of a budget gap of approximately $13 to $17 million; the city has not increased school funding for two years. Photo by Sagar Setru.

At a public meeting of the Board of Aldermen’s Education Committee Tuesday evening, Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo said the city will face layoffs this coming year that could affect teachers, part-time staff and administrators.

The coming workforce reduction is a result of new deficits that the school district expects to face, depending on the amount of money it receives from the state, Mayo said. He estimates the coming cuts to be between $13 and $17 million. According to federal budget documents, the district received $14.3 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which will not be renewed next year. Additionally, all city departments are facing cuts, because the city’s budget gap is $11 million and growing.

“Personnel will have to be cut,” Mayo said. “A lot of bodies will be moving next year.”

Although the city has not increased funds for the school district in two years, government stimulus money and other grants have helped plug the holes in the budget, said Chief Operating Officer Will Clark.

“The deficit did not lead to Armageddon this year,” he said. “But some of those resources [from stimulus and grant money] are drying up.”

The committee also received an update on the state of education reform in New Haven, including progress on an initiative for gathering feedback from across the district.

This week, New Haven parents will receive School Learning Environment Surveys for the 2010-’11 school year, said Assistant Superintendent Garth Harries ’95.

The surveys measure academic expectations, engagement, communication, safety and respect at each New Haven school.

Last spring, the surveys went out to every parent, teacher and student in the fifth grade and up. This year, the surveys will also reach non-teaching staff, such as custodians and secretaries, Harries said.

“This has been a particularly powerful tool with us — to be able to say, ‘teachers at this school think “x,” parents think “y,” and so what are you going to do to build momentum?’” Harries said. “We thought that since this survey is about school community, it was important to include non-instructional staff.”

Harries also touched on the first year of teacher evaluations in New Haven. Under the evaluation system, teachers are graded on a one-to-five scale from “needs improvement,” which is the lowest grade, to “exemplary,” the highest. Teachers marked as needing improvement face potential termination.

Within reporting schools in the district, 4 percent of teachers were rated “exemplary,” and 6.2 percent as “needing improvement,” said Harries.

Emily Byrne, the director of New Haven Promise, said she would be working to increase outreach efforts in the district to create more parent and community engagement. Workshops at schools have been planned in February to help students fill out forms to apply for the scholarships, Byrne said. The program is also partnering with the organization College Summit to offer support to students in high school, elementary and middle school.

“We’re looking to plant the seeds of a college-going culture at as young an age as possible,” Byrne said.

Fewer than 10 members of the public attended the workshop.

Comments