School Consolidation Floated As Way Of Reducing Budget

New London superintendent says difficult decisions will be necessary to make up an estimated $4 million deficit in 2013 fiscal year

School administrators are proposing at least one year of consolidating the student populations at two elementary schools to help reduce the impact if the schools' budget is flat-funded for 2013.

Superintendent Nicholas Fischer and Assistant Superintendent Christine Carver spoke about the plan with the Board of Education on Thursday. The change would involve combining the student populations of the Harbor School and Nathan Hale School. The latter students are currently in modular classrooms on Cedar Grove Ave. while the school building on Beech Drive is renovated for use as an arts magnet school. This magnet school is expected to open for the 2013-2014 school year.

According to a memo from Carver and Maria Whalen, director of business and finance for New London Public Schools, Harbor School has a capacity of 465 students while the modular classrooms have a capacity of 350 students. The combined population of the two schools is about 600, Carver said, but it is expected that at least 135 students from the school will join the Winthrop School, which will become a magnet school for science, technology, mathematics, and engineering in the next school year.

Carver and Whalen project that the consolidation would result in $577,617 in staff and utility savings. The majority of this amount would result from one principal moving into a Winthrop School dean’s position created in the new budget, thereby eliminating one principal’s salary. Similar transfers of a custodian, secretary, and literacy coach (who would be swapped as a science coach) to positions budgeted for in the Winthrop School would further eliminate now-vacant positions that were also budgeted for. One teacher would be laid off as a result of the consolidation.

The plan also calls for further savings to the city of New London municipal budget as a result of the consolidation. This budget currently includes a $39,000 monthly lease for the modular classrooms, and the savings on about a year’s lease would be $468,000. There would also be projected in-kind savings from the reduction of maintenance, garbage removal, and other costs currently associated with the modular site.

The figures do not currently include the approximately $82,000 moving costs estimated in the move as well as an anticipated 12 percent penalty for early termination of the modular lease. Carver said the change is not anticipated to have any additional effect on the cost of busing students, although that cost is anticipated to increase based on the price of fuel.

Board concerns

Superintendent Nicholas Fischer said it is unclear what the 2013 fiscal year budget will be, given uncertainties regarding the extent of both city and state funding. He said the consolidation is one option for the board to consider, and that the principals at the district’s schools have also been asked to find 10 percent reductions in their individual budgets.

Approximately $4 million will be needed to maintain current services in the 2013 fiscal year budget; this represents approximately roughly 10 percent of the approved 2012 fiscal year budget of $39,817,405. Fischer said budget reductions in the event of flat-funding would likely include personnel, since staffing is the main part of the district’s expenditures.

“This is the start of a very, very difficult series of decisions we’re going to have to make,” said Fischer.

Board member Barbara Major said she would prefer consolidation to losing staff, but worried about the effect of another student relocation.

“I guess my concern is the same as everyone else: it’s the kids,” she said. “And I know Harbor’s not in the best of shape.”

Secretary Jason Catala said he was also concerned with the condition of the Harbor School building. He said he hopes the deficit will have minimal impact on the teaching staff.

“I’d prefer to cut an administrator in Central Office before we cut a teacher’s assistant or teacher,” he said.

Major said other options include combining the financial departments of the city and school district and asking staff to forfeit raises that were contractually approved for the 2013 budget.

“I think teachers would rather give up their raises than their jobs,” she said.

Fischer said cutting the raises would save the district about $400,000. He said the district has also met with municipal officials on the consolidation of financial services and that the city will make an estimate on the projected fiscal impact of such a move.

The Board of Education will hold a public hearing to hear residents’ input at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the . This hearing will precede the at 7 p.m.

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Clarification: The school district is not running a $4 million deficit. This represents an anticipated cost increase to maintain current services in the 2013 fiscal year budget, and schools have been asked to find reductions to save this amount in the event of flat-funding by the city.

Sara Florek February 04, 2012 at 02:33 AM
oh, sorry to be getting so excited!!!!! But also the new Magnet Middle School in Waterford? How awesome would it be if we could regionalize and cross magnet. Etc. Doesn't it seem to be heading in this direction already? Magnet's are popping up all over.
Sara Florek February 04, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Sue, even though my daughter is just a pre schooler, it is an issue that weighs on my mind. I think often about the catholic schools (though I am not catholic), I pray often for Williams, I consider Fisher Island. But to be honest, all of this comes with a cost. Being a New London resident I managed to get my daughter into a terrific pre school through grant funding, I do my homework. And we both will continue to do so. ;) As I am sure you know I am a single parent. My business is growing, and maybe I will not always be financially "challenged". I still believe, though the wallet is tight, that my daughter deserves the best. I am a committed parent. You will often hear me say "if I have to use every dollar of my tax returns to get her to a good school I will"......I am hopeful (as always) that there is a suitable option for her by the time later education rolls around. That is why I have such excitement about the NL and regional magnets.
Sara Florek February 04, 2012 at 03:03 AM
I agree. One WOULD think we would only have to do that will colleges. I hate to sound negative. With the current standing of our High School, what other choices do you have???? I have several friends that went to NFA, that are extremely well rounded, a family member that attend Saint B's and another close friend that went to Fishers Island. I do have some terrific friends that also attended New London High School and came out just fine, but, again. I think we all want a better feeling when we send our kiddo's off in the a.m.. GAH! What can we do?????
Sara Florek February 04, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Sue, lol. We did. Kind of. But I guess the core of what our discussion was is that a parent having a child ready for high school, and a parent prepping for her child's future both have the same fears. New London Public Schools. YIKES! So I will quote my previous post, to get back on subject like yourself " I do have some terrific friends that also attended New London High School and came out just fine, but, again. I think we all want a better feeling when we send our kiddo's off in the a.m.. GAH! What can we do?????"
Daniel Burnett February 04, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Sorry for all the previous smartphone fails. Lori brings up a valid point about absentee landlords and transient renters. Take Waterford for instance (which I will do a lot because it is where I grew up) If it ever became public in the town of waterford that their children were using photocopied books to do their homework out of, the situation simply would not fly. I exaggerate- but 17 different groups of concerned Mom's and Dads and Grandparents would throw every last fundraiser in the book. Brownies, Lemonade, Walk-a-thons, etc etc.. You get the point. The important thing here is that almost every last citizen of Waterford would most likely contribute a little, if not a lot. But New London is not Waterford. If you lined up citizens of Waterford, what percentage of them would be actual tax payers? What percentage would have gone to Waterford public schools, sent their kids to, or are planning on one day sending their kids to? The simple answer is most of them. New London is a different animal. If parents set up a fund raiser to buy books for their children, the majority of by passers in New London would just keep on walking by. They are renters with no families, elderly from far away or families with kids but who might only be staying a few years, who knows? This is not a good focus group for a strong community of parental involvement. This is unfortunately at our childrens expense.
Daniel Burnett February 04, 2012 at 04:06 AM
The question is what do we do about this? People who share Lori's opinion about the 'sanctuary city' will never budge on that regard. Arguing marijuana and immigration laws is the equivalent of arguing over abortion rights. Everyone has a different opinion. Unfortunately for all of us, we can't all have our way. I happen to be of the opinion that the new mandates will -not- increase violence or crime in our neighborhoods, but again, this argument is invalid since we will never agree. Even before the alleged Sanctuary City theory started popping up, these neighborhoods have been filled with crime and violence anyway. So again, the question is... what do we do? New London is filled with multi-family units and low income housing already. We can't just... get rid of them, right? People move to New London because they can actually afford to live here. I am one of those people who had a new family and simply couldn't afford to buy a single family home in Waterford. I had to explore my options, and buying a multi-family home in New London, and renting out a part of my home was literally the only way I could bring stability to my family. We can't just pretend people like me don't exist. Lori, it seems like you're suggesting that if a more business-savvy leader such as yourself were in control of New London, New London would simply cease to cater to low-income housing. So i suppose I am just asking you, what would happen to everyone who needs New London for this reason?
Sara Florek February 04, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Well. I haven't read the rest of it, but fund raiser's. GALORE. right on.
Alan Green, Jr. February 04, 2012 at 01:31 PM
I envision region-wide fundraisers, and perhaps sharing of books. Pardon me, Waterford, but may we borrow that book when you're done with it? Not sure how NFA came to be, but if you build it, they will come. What if we rebuilt NLHS in that same fashion? Or at least a part of it?
Billie Bourque February 04, 2012 at 02:42 PM
The last city council put $500.00 a month for the mayor to lease a car. The mayor refused to take the allowance, choosing instead to drive a 4 year old car that was in storage and not being used. The Mayor pays for his own gas. The car he has been using is one of the " city's property's " that the mayor thinks the city should sell. Why are people blaming the mayor for things the previous council did ?
Daniel Burnett February 04, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I would be interested in learning more about how NFA operates than looking to Waterford for help. Waterford is so different, Norwich seems to have a more similar demographic. I think it'd be wise to ask for council from their administration.
Daniel Burnett February 04, 2012 at 03:07 PM
@billy, thanks for the clarification.
GURU February 04, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Sue P. I could not disagree more with your stance about NLHS. It has nothing to do with standards at the High School, it has everything to do with where students are at by the time the get to the High School. According to your logic, 7th graders will out perform 11th graders at the High School. This would have to do with their schooling from elementary up. Education is what you make it, the current administration has made literacy a priority and standards are very high. There are many extremely bright students in every class at New London High School that your daughter's 7th grade class would not even come close to outperforming, as well as students who your daughter's 7th grade class would dominate. Why not send your daughter to NLHS where she will have an opportunity to be at the top of her class and receive more scholarship money. Every year NLHS graduates students who go on to excellent universities and colleges and have great success. Education is what you make it, students who graduated with me fifteen years ago are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and teachers. I have a young daughter and she will go to the high school. Not so sure about the elementary school.
Sara Florek February 04, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I agree that NFA is a tremendous school.
Sara Florek February 04, 2012 at 03:35 PM
It makes sense to send a child to a school where her academics may soar above the average so she can reap the rewards. But with the continual out come of our High School students test scores below acceptable I am uncertain as to whether I would send my daughter there at this point in time. However, I have heard there are some great teachers at NLHS, so how can the bridge be made to improve our students outcome?
Inside Man February 04, 2012 at 04:12 PM
@ Billie, you are absolutely wrong. Stop lying to the people of New London. The council did not put $500 a month for the Mayor to lease a car. The city manager had a car allowance. There were no allowances made for the Mayor towards a car, but he felt that he was entitled to the car allowance so he took it. Either be honest to the citizens or site your facts so they can check them themselves so they can see you are not telling the truth!
GURU February 04, 2012 at 04:14 PM
I went to New London High and am firm believer that you can receive an excellent education there. Like I said there are many below average students but the teachers there are all highly qualified and I believe that work ethic and the value of education is the reason for our low test scores. Parents who are involved and make education a priority with willing children will perform well. Ignore CAPT scores for a moment and look at where some of our top seniors are going. I went to NLHS with friends who have become doctors, lawyers, engineers, some of who went to Ivy League schools. I also have had friends murdered and who are doing long stints in prison. The reality of the situation is that New London is a city where there is a great deal of poverty, where the traditional two parent home is not the norm. In many instances that lack of support due to a variety of factors allows children to not value education and as a result they fall behind. I am confident that all children can succeed at New London Public Schools with the right support and the right effort. Unfortunately in most urban settings this is not the case. I have noticed through research and reading the paper that the teachers and administration in New London are trying diligently to provide more support and improve our schools. I will feel comfortable sending my daughter to NLHS when the time comes because of my experience as a student and the valuable life experience you get from going to a school with such diversity
Lori Hopkins Cavanagh February 04, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Thomas - It would be a good point except kids in New London are bused even within walking distance to the school. Also, with over 75 sex offenders living in the city in absentee landlord apartments, many parents would feel uncomfortable letting their kids walk or bike anywhere without supervision.
Lori Hopkins Cavanagh February 04, 2012 at 05:30 PM
When my son attended Nathan Hale, most kids were bused in from across town and the only PTO involvement was from half dozen parents in the immediate neighborhood.
Lori Hopkins Cavanagh February 05, 2012 at 12:14 AM
NFA operates more like a private school than a public school and is endowed. I haven't looked at the test scores or the incidences. Looking at test scores only, you are getting half the picture.
Lori Hopkins Cavanagh February 05, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Daniel: I gave the city all of the solutions to our present crises and as the number one selling real estate agent in the city, I know exactly what I am talking about. Look to Habitat, look to home ownership, stop building more apartments as they are at the Fort, reward owner occupancy of the multi's just like the one I grew up in. Stop building low income housing and tear down the High Rises. East New London could be totally transformed to make the best of the wonderful homes that exist there. The museum doesn't belong in the train station, it is congested enough in that transportation district! Build the museum and the expansion of the Coast Guard on the 25-30 acres of contiguous land in East New London. I have lived here all my life and I know what happened and how it can be turned around. you want better schools it has to come from the outside in.
Lori Hopkins Cavanagh February 05, 2012 at 12:23 AM
New London is approximately 75% rental, Waterford is 5%. See the problem?
Billie Bourque February 05, 2012 at 12:56 PM
The budget is public information. And Yes, the council did allow $500.00 per month for the mayors car. He has declined it. This is public information. Please don't call me a liar. This is fact. This public information is available at city hall. Also available is the budget and memo's moving the snow removal budget to $0.00.
Alphonse DeLachance February 05, 2012 at 09:45 PM
The mayor is not a man to be trusted. The mayor campaigned on fixing education in New London, then there is the Flip Flop on Riverside, beg off on abolishing NLDC and so much more. Golly he has even gone the opposite direction from the New London democratic party. The New London democrats had endorsed Susan Bisiewicz to be our next United States Senator and the mayor a democrat who preaches newparty unity in New London has endorsed the opposition, yes Chris Murphy has been endorsed by Daryl Finizio. It just never ends.
Ken February 08, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Four-day-school-weeks are another option for cutting education budgets. More that 100 districts nationwide have gone to them to avoid cutting programs or teacher positions. "And the districts are reporting benefits that go beyond cost savings. Students are more attentive, less tired, and less likely to stay home, the districts report. Teachers are also less likely to be absent." http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/missouri-schools-test-four-day-week/article_08871537-65a6-5251-be63-66836a4c6aa5.html
Felicia Hendersen February 08, 2012 at 06:25 PM
That is a very good idea to start things off with and we can do the same on the city side a 4 day work week. We can get in less trouble in the city with the mayor working just 4 days.
Inside Man February 08, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Billie, I call it like I see it, and again you are lying. You said and I quote "How much money did the last council budget for snow removal or salt for this winter ? " and the fact is that the last Council did budget for snow removal and the previous finance director and/or city manager moved those monies around to fill gaps and overspenditures. Don't blame the council for acts that they had no knowledge of! Secondly, the previous council did NOT allow $500/mo for the Mayor's car allowance. There was a car allowance for the City Manager and the personnel director told the mayor that he was entitled to that NOT THE COUNCIL! You want to blame everything that is wrong with this city on the previous council? Let your buddy Mayor Fizzing Out take the blame for what he is doing wrong and stop blaming other people. Frankly it is getting old!
Lori Hopkins Cavanagh February 08, 2012 at 08:28 PM
John, you are absolutely right. Unfortunately, the city's tax payers must suffer for Finizio to pay off his political debts.
Lori Hopkins Cavanagh February 08, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Ken: What are parents going to do with their kids on the fifth day? I am fortunate to be able to set my own hours, most parents are not so fortunate.
Lori Hopkins Cavanagh February 08, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Felicia, we would be better off letting Daryl take the next 3.75 years off. Maybe the city can negotiate a really strong early retirement for him.
Ken February 08, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Lori: Read the article and find out how that has been handled. Apparently, it has been less of a problem than anticipated.


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