Questions on special education, security arise during Southington budget meetings

Questions on special education, security arise during Southington budget meetings

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SOUTHINGTON — The Board of Education will decide next week whether it will back School Superintendent Timothy F. Connellan's $101.6 million spending request for the 2020-2021 school year.

The request represents a 3.11 percent increase over the district's current $98.8 million budget.

The board held workshops this week, with a third workshop and a vote scheduled for Thursday.

After the board votes, the budget will go before the Board of Finance and the Town Council.

During a budget workshop Thursday night, board members questioned the spending plan, particularly the proposed expansion of the autism program, visitor verification systems for school buildings and curriculum materials. The budget includes an investment of more than $381,000 in new positions, including a teacher and seven behavior therapists to provide in-district services for students diagnosed as autistic.

Board Vice Chairman Joseph Baczewski asked whether there are ways to show the public the effectiveness of the district's special education programs

“... People see a lot of our dollars go through special education — it’s important,” Baczewski said. “It’s just a matter of trying to show people we do it very well.”

In response, Steven Madancy, assistant superintendent for curriculum & instruction, said Southington Public Schools do not have any schools categorized as low performing, which the state labels as category four or five.

“Many of our schools are one, two or three,” Madancy said. “It's a sign that we are programming appropriately for them.”

Madancy said students can have a variety of needs, including a broad array of disabilities, which can be very difficult to meet.

“If the district wasn’t meeting the standard the state would be coming in,” Madancy said.

Board Secretary Colleen W. Clark noted the district now has 1,003 students districtwide with an individualized education plans — an indicator that those students have some type of special education need.

Clark said while members of the community may want data to show funds are being spent properly, it can be difficult to quantify.

“Our job is to make sure that each child has the appropriate education for that individual child,” Clark said. “...Those are children, every last one of them… quite frankly, I think our teachers have done a heck of a job. They get the children to where they need for the next level — in education, in their life.”