Some meetings at the New Haven Board of Education result in heated conflict between members, but at the Oct. 1 Finance and Operations Committee meeting — activity was more subdued.
This summer, the Board of Education sent shock waves through the Elm City when they sent notices to lay off over 1,000 employees and recalled them only a week later. But today members of the Finance and Operations Committee announced that the district is refocusing its efforts to cut the budget while keeping all necessary staff.
“We currently have 12 people that are teachers who have been laid off,” Superintendent Carol Birks told attendees at Monday’s committee meeting.
Birks said that she has no plans to present to the committee on furloughs, layoffs and school closures. She said the board is continuing to speak with teachers’ unions and the city about layoffs, but, currently, there are no plans to lay off core content teachers.
Birks also said there are no plans to close more schools, especially given that the school year has just begun.
“No updates, we just opened them,” she said in response to a question about the potential for school closures and consolidation.
In April, the Board of Education promised more direct action to address the school system’s over $8 million deficit after a membership turnover on the Board in the beginning of the year. Board of Education President and Finance and Operations Committee member Darnell Goldson has repeatedly called for more transparency in the district and for the school board to address fiscal issues.
This spring, the superintendent and Board of Education proved willing to make tough decisions to cut the deficit. In addition to the layoffs, the board voted to close the New Horizons School for Higher Achievement, New Light High School and Cortlandt V.R. Creed High School. The Board estimated that these closures would save the district $4.5 million.
However, these closures led to immediate public outrage. Students and parents testified before the board about the stress of school closures, and some parents were frustrated with the constant fluctuations in decisions about layoffs. After this response, the Board announced that it would advise Birks more closely on budgetary decisions and re-evaluate layoffs.
The Board is looking to increase efficiency and cut costs in the district — in any way possible. At Monday’s meeting, officials praised the success of switching the contractors responsible for maintaining the school facilities over the summer. The school board recently hired Eco-Urban Pioneers, a local construction and management company, to clean the schools over the summer after committing to working with more local, minority-owned contracting services.
Chief Operating Officer William Clark and Birks praised Eco-Urban Pioneers for their work cleaning the schools. Shafiq Abdussabur, owner of Eco-Urban, also expressed excitement for a continued partnership with the school board in future summers.
Clark emphasized that the energy budget of the school system has decreased to $7 million from $13.3 million in 2008. He attributed this success to partnerships with construction, solar power, LED lights and other work to bring down the cost of energy.
“Sometimes you have to take a step back and see where we were,” he said. “We have actually increased classroom area throughout the district by over 1 million square feet but lowered the energy cost.”
The school board holds meetings on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.
Carolyn Sacco | email@example.com .