Dear Norwich Public School Families,
We have received several inquiries about the status of budget cuts to NPS. What follows is a summary.
NPS has struggled with financial difficulty for over a decade. As district needs have increased, school funding has not kept up with that need. Previous budget cuts led to closing two elementary schools and significant reductions in staff and employee healthcare/wages. In the past, middle school sports, instrumental music, reading teachers, and other essential services were eliminated.
This year, the BOE (Board of Education) had several meetings with the CC (City Council). The BOE approved a budget requiring $1.65 million in cuts. The City Manager recommended a budget requiring $4.17 million in cuts and further discussions ensued. These were sentiments of caution I expressed in the meetings:
- NPS is already at minimum staffing levels. The budget reduction options would place us at far less than minimum staffing.
- Anyone who has walked the halls of our schools knows that our staffing, supplies, and resources are already limited and our needs are great.
In the end, on June 8, 2020, the CC approved a BOE budget that was more than the City Manager’s recommendation but still requiring the BOE to cut $2.9 million. Here is the timeline:
|Timeline||Status||% increase||Budget amount||Required cuts|
|Jan & Feb 2020||BOE initial request of CC||9.11%||$88,417,918||None|
|March 23, 2020||BOE Adopted Budget||5.50%||$85,496,145||$1.65 million|
|April 6, 2020||City Manager Recommended Budget||2.40%||$82,983,936||$4.17 million|
|June 8, 2020||Final City Council Approved Budget||3.95%||$82,240,102||$2.9 million|
The BOE made these cuts very reluctantly. When determining where to cut, the BOE had very few options. Most areas in the budget were either previously cut, or required by law, policy, or contract. Here is a summary of the reductions that are being finalized over the next two weeks (please note at this juncture the numbers are still approximate):
- 2 payroll positions — 1 administrator and 1 administrative assistant
- 30 out of 161 paraprofessionals
- 4 out of 28 custodians
- 3 out of 28 administrative assistants
- 3 out of 15 nurses/LPN
- 25 out of 57 part-time or temporary staff, non-union
- 2 teacher positions (not resulting in layoffs because of vacancies)
- Elementary magnet school transportation (schools will retain their magnet programs)
- Cuts to postage, advertising, instructional and library supplies and pre-school itinerants
We are working very hard to minimalize the impact of the cuts on our students and staff. We are working with families to try to keep elementary students in their current school by honoring requests to stay if parents can provide transportation or if childcare is located in the transportation zone. For more information about this option please reach out to your principal.
Our Business Administrator is working with union leadership to ensure that layoffs and reassignments are conducted by contractual procedures (laying off the least senior employees). Wherever feasible we will eliminate positions recently vacated by retirement/resignations in lieu of laying off current employees.
I would like to address current rumors on social media. We have not laid off or fired all of our paraprofessionals. We have not laid off or fired all of our educators of color. In fact, this year we have strengthened our commitment to recruit educators of color. We believe that actively seeking out and supporting a diverse workforce will better support and prepare our students.
Our ESL students should be instructed by highly trained, certified bilingual, and ESL teachers. There are reductions of ESL paras but there are also additions of paras who are bilingual, matching the language needs of students. We need to add ESL & bilingual teachers to best serve our students and remain in compliance with state law. Recruiting bilingual and ESL teachers for NPS have been very difficult. To that end, we are creating partnerships with local universities to offer ESL certification courses to our teachers and establishing a pipeline to recruit bilingual and ESL certified teachers.
Our commitment to equity and opportunity is unwavering. We have recently drafted a 5-year strategic plan that prioritizes:
- Creating a student equity policy and action plan
- Building an equity stakeholder committee
- Closing student achievement and opportunity gaps
- Establishing partnerships with historically black colleges and universities to increase our success in recruiting educators of color
- Increasing broad and diverse stakeholder voices in our schools
- Increasing inclusive, universally designed curriculum
- Providing cultural responsiveness training to our educational community members
The strategic plan will be finalized after we receive broad community input.
This is a challenging time in our school system due to COVID closure and concerns about student and employee wellness. These challenges have become more daunting because of the fiscal constraints in our schools and city. I am very sorry to share this difficult news with you. We are doing everything we can to support students and staff and lessen the impact of both the COVID crisis and the budget crisis on our educational community.
Kristen E. Stringfellow, Ed.D., Superintendent