WALLINGFORD — In a marathon three-hour meeting, the Board of Education inched toward making a slew of employee cuts touching both vacant and filled positions within multiple departments and education levels for the 2023-2024 academic year Wednesday night.
The public workshop drew attendance from residents, educators and school administrators who remained in the dark as to the employment status of themselves and their colleagues at the conclusion of the special meeting, as no final decisions were made regarding upcoming cuts.
Board members were reluctant to move forward, appearing visibly shaken and emotional while sifting through facts and figures, with Chair Tammy Raccio decrying the process and Vice Chair Ray Ross laying blame for the evening’s proceedings at the feet of Republican Mayor William Dickinson Jr., whose education budget proposal left the board with a $3.5 million gap to account for, approximately $1.4 million of which is expected to made up for through staffing reducations.
“Nobody, on the board, nobody, ran for office and wanted to do this,” Raccio said. “This is not how we advocate for education in Wallingford. We are not happy about this either.”
As of Wednesday, the board considered cutting the financial equivalent of one elementary level Spanish teacher, one high school physical education teacher, four library media specialists, 6.5 full-time high school teachers and eliminating the equivalent of 20 full-time first grade paraeducator positions.
Also on the table was opting not to fill several vacancies, including an opening in the IT department, two assistant principal positions and a middle school office staff position, as well as declining to hire a new high school Latin teacher, a special education clerk, a high school physical education teacher, a part-time maintenance staffer and the financial equivalent of two middle school world language teachers and four new paraeducators.
Educators in attendance showed frustration at the volume of proposed cuts facing their branch of the school district, applauding as the board floated laying off a higher number of administrators in lieu of teaching roles.
Wallingford Education Association President Anne Varrone-Lederle took issue with what she labeled a disproportionate layoff burden placed on teachers.
“I do have to say, the lack of the word administrator and curriculum on this list is overwhelming,” Varrone-Lederle said. “I expected a little more hurt amongst all of the departments that make up this school district.”
Staff reduction quantities and the actual positions to be cut are not finalized. The board did not vote on a final budget for the upcoming academic year and faces a looming June 1 deadline to arrive at a consensus.
Members will, however, have some fiscal breathing room in future workshops. The Town Council overrode a veto from Dickinson during a concurrent meeting Wednesday night, freeing up roughly $290,000 in additional education funding legislators initially pushed for earlier this month.
The Board of Education will reconvene on Monday, May 22, at 6:30 p.m.