Southington BOE delays vote on teaching cuts, hopes for state aid

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SOUTHINGTON — The Board of Education has opted to delay its vote on the slashing of six teaching positions in hopes of receiving additional state funding that would allow the positions to be retained. 

The approval of the state’s budget will occur on June 7 next month, allowing the board enough time to assess before voting the following day whether to approve a new budget without the teaching positions removed. 

Superintendent Steven Madancy and the board members have no outstanding expectations of more funding coming to the schools upon the approval of the state’s budget, but thought it best to wait just in case, instead of making a preemptive vote. Democrat Zaya Oshana proposed the delay, with Republican Vice Chair Joseph Baczewski seconding the motion — all board members voted unanimously to wait. 

“There is no guarantee we will receive any funding, nor how much if we do receive additional funding from the state. However it appears its a good possibility, and if it is a good possibility it’s incumbent upon us to wait to hear what additional funding we’re going to receive and then take up this relocation,” Oshana said when putting the motion forward to the board. “Cutting teachers and educators I just don’t think is the answer.”

“I don’t want to give false hope to folks, but if there is to Mr. Oshana’s point and we wait it could allow us to revisit the proposed reallocation plan and work with the town to see if there’s anything else that can be done with the allocation we’ve received thus far,” Madancy added. 

The discussions to cut six teaching positions, three between the sixth-grade class at DePaolo and Kennedy middle schools, began at a special budgeting meeting earlier this month following meetings with the Board of Finance to make further cuts to lower the final district budget down to $110,222,653, down $1,550,231 from what was approved earlier this year. 

To make up for the difference, administrators opted to reduce the health insurance allocation to regular and special-ed positions as well as cut the six positions. While no teachers would be laid off with this move, as the cuts only impact currently vacant positions, it would have the effect of increasing workload and class sizes for teachers in the sixth grade.

Though administrators were concerned about how it may affect students, they said it was the best option they had with minimal impact, as attendance in the sixth grade will slump over the next three years before rising sharply again in about six. By then, they hope to add the positions to the budget. 

The reduction in teachers is a point of contention for some board members, who think it may have an unforeseen long-term impact. The original intention of the board was to achieve a level-services budget, with no reductions in services or staff, though continued financial difficulties have caused the town to aim for reductions, to keep down growing town expenses. 

The move drew concern from members of the public at the meeting. Traci Ianni, a Southington resident who has worked for nine years as a paraeducator in the district, teaching sixth and seventh-grade math, spoke out against cutting the positions due to what she felt would be a negative impact on the students during a delicate period in their lives. 

“Two of my seventh-grade classes are wall to wall with students and I can tell you it’s extremely challenging to touch base with every student daily, inevitably leaving questions unanswered. Consequently, I experience the need for smaller class sizes every single day,” Ianni said. “Sixth-grade staffing should remain unchanged if the priority is truly the best interest of the kids at such a crucial transition point. Redistributing teaching positions under the guise of no overall layoffs has other consequences. Southington will still have six fewer educators on the job, potentially creating larger class sizes in other areas in other parts of the district as well.”

“I’m skeptical these teams will be resurrected in the years ahead if they’re omitted from this budget,” Ianni added. “I have never seen something restored once cut, with the exception of middle school sports.”


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