NORWALK, Conn. – Most of the feedback on proposed Norwalk Public Schools budget cuts concerns the middle school music program, Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons said Thursday.
The cuts won’t necessarily happen.
“We have the set of cuts approved by the Finance Committee. It’ll be up to the Board to decide on the final cuts, which could be different from what the Committee recommended,” Lyons said, when asked about continued complaints regarding the proposing cutting of the music program.
The BoE is expected to vote Tuesday on nearly $2 million in cuts to its proposed 2017-18 operating budget. The BoE Finance Committee voted last week to recommend cuts, including the elimination of the middle school music lessons.
Many have decried the cuts.
“Eliminating these lessons in the middle schools from the Board of Education budget would only affect the students who come from families that do not have the means to even buy or rent an appropriate quality instrument to take these important lessons that are now provided,” said Charles A. Williams, Norwalk Veterans Memorial Committee chaplain, Thursday in an email sent to his fellow veterans.
“It is very unusual for me to get involved in the politics of the Norwalk Board of Education but I want to support those students who support the Veteran organizations of Norwalk,” Williams said. “…As a Veteran from Norwalk and a product of the Norwalk School Music Programs, I and all of my Veteran friends are grateful for all the patriotic music provided to this city by our school students. I always hear the praises of the citizens of Norwalk and how proud they are for our school music programs. Let’s keep it that way.”
Alfred “Buddy” Scudder, a member of the Norwalk Veterans Memorial Committee, sent Williams email around.
“Both my daughter, violin, and my son, trumpet/concert tuba/sousaphone grew up in the program,” Scudder wrote. “As a parent it was well worth the cost, both monetarily and in the countless hours of volunteering to raise funds to support the efforts of the staffs and musicians. This fact should not be lost in these discussions. The BOE, is not just spending money that is unappreciated, in fact it’s value is increased by the efforts to raise funds by the musicians and their parents. And for what end? The best ambassadors for the richness of Norwalk’s educational system. The acheivements [sic] of the members of the Marching Bears and Marching Senators as they travel all over our nation have been unbelievable. All fueled by the coalition of BOE funding and monetary support fund-raising by musicians/parents.”
Lyons and other BoE members blame the Norwalk Federation of Teachers for the cuts, as NFT has refused to switch its health insurance plan to Connecticut Partnership 2.0, which reported would erase the budget deficit.
“The NFT is not opposed to discussing the State 2.0 plan,” NFT President Mary Yordon said last week in a statement. “We have tried and remain willing to negotiate to find a solution that is mutually beneficial to solve the budget problem. We made an offer, but they refused to negotiate.”
“There has been no further negotiation with the NFT,” Lyons said Thursday. “We offered to reopen negotiations if the NFT would make us a new proposal about three weeks ago (the Mayor had offered to be an intermediary to communicate that message to the NFT President, which he says he did), but the NFT has not contacted us (they’ve attacked us in the media, of course, but have not reached out to us with any new proposal).”
Lyons said, “The Board is getting a lot of communications from parents and staff (almost entirely on the proposed middle school music lessons cutback), so there could be changes there or in other aspects on the budget during Tuesday’s meeting.”