The Board of Education voted Thursday to approve appointments for three positions that are part of a revised administrative structure in the New London Public Schools as well as four coordinators for the New London High School.
The board unanimously accepted the appointment of Katherine Ericson as chief academic officer and voted 5-2 to appoint Miriam Morales-Taylor as director student services and Cherese Chery as chief talent and human resources officer. Unanimously appointed to the NLHS coordinator positions were Grace Conti, response-to-intervention coordinator; Deanna Brucoli, humanities coordinator; Margaret Bucaram, bilingual coordinator; and Zato Kadambaya, science and math coordinator.
The district’s workforce has gone down by 43.5 positions, or eight percent, for the 2012-2013 school year. These include 23 teachers, eight teachers’ aides, four secretaries, and three administrative positions.
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Dr. Stephen Adamowski, a special master appointed to the district by the Connecticut Department of Education, said the revisions to the positions were made with the intention of keeping a focus on improving student achievement in the wake of the staffing reductions. He said the district was obligated to honor salary increases negotiated with bargaining units and had to reduce staffing to meet those after the school budget was maintained at a $39.8 million level.
“It is simply an effort to maintain and build capacity in the district with fewer positions,” said Adamowski.
The three administrative appointments will assume additional responsibilities in the Central Office. The assistant superintendent’s role, which Ericson held in an interim capacity, will transition to a role overseeing instruction, assessment, and professional development. Morales-Taylor will assume the roles of the three eliminated administrative positions—director of bilingual education, supervisor of instruction and assessment, and literacy supervisor—including oversight of special education, gifted and talented, and English Language Learners programs. Chery will focus on recruiting and retaining staff.
Vice President Elizabeth Garcia-Gonzalez and Secretary Jason Catala voted against these appointments. Catala said he did not think the board was properly involved in the selection process and that he objected to the positions due to the high number of teaching positions that have been eliminated.
“We do have classrooms that are overfilled,” he said. “These are new positions.”
The high school positions involve a promotion of existing staffers to have them split their time 60-40 between administrative roles and teaching. Ericson said these roles will include developing curriculums as well as monitoring and evaluating teachers.
“The high school has a lot more courses that need to be written, and we need to have someone to oversee it,” she said.
The coordinator roles are currently set to expire at the end of a federally-funded two-year School Improvement Grant, which provides a stipend for the extra work the coordinators will do in these roles. Board member Sylvia Potter asked if the grant funds could instead be applied to deficiencies in the district budget. Adamowski said the funds cannot be legally applied to supplant areas the district has previously funded using the local budget.
“We’re constrained by the nature of the laws,” said Dr. Nicholas Fischer, superintendent of New London Public Schools. “We cannot replace existing staff with this money.”