Correction, Aug. 28: Superintendent Adamowski said, “have no bumping rights,” not “bumpy ride.”
NORWALK, Conn. – A surplus from the last Norwalk school year budget will be used to retain half of the staff members thought to have been instrumental in closing the achievement gap.
No one can tell how much will be cut from Norwalk’s state education funding this year, but it’s a safe bet that $1 million will be cut from the grant that funds the Curriculum and Site Instructional Directors (CISD), Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski said Tuesday. Therefore, half of those positions will be cut, as Norwalk waits to hear if it’s losing $6 million, $4 million or $2 million.
In the absence of a state budget, Gov. Dannel Malloy is running the state through an executive order. Although this has been characterized as a potential $4.4 million loss to Norwalk, if the legislature doesn’t replace the order with a budget, but Adamowksi at the Board of Education meeting said Malloy’s order cuts $6 million from Norwalk’s Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) grant.
There is no Alliance District funding in Malloy’s plan, and no Priority School District grants, he said.
Norwalk gets $1 million through Alliance, which would be eliminated first in an ECS cut because it’s a recently created program that wasn’t reauthorized by the legislature, he said. The PSD funding is $5 million.
If Alliance Districts are reauthorized it’s thought that Norwalk would be top of the list “based upon the money received and the gains in academic achievement made,” Adamowski said. So even if the legislature cuts the number of Alliance schools, Norwalk should be in, he said, citing the Department of Education as the source of that opinion.
This is complicated, in that if the ECS funding is cut the city would receive less money but NPS would not be directly affected, according to Adamowski. Alliance would go first, a subtraction of money the schools rely on, but then “the remaining $5 million would be the city’s responsibility,” he said.
“Our sense is that under almost any circumstance we need to be prepared for some cut in the ECS grant,” Adamowski said. “We hoped that it would at least be stable, given the history of underfunding of Norwalk… but… maybe it won’t be a $6 million cut, maybe a $2 million cut or a $4 million cut. But even if it is a $1 million cut we are going to lose the Alliance grant because it’s going to come off the top.”
Alliance funds the CISDs, a position created in 2014 by then-Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera and originally funded by the Dalio Foundation.
“I think it’s fair to say that this position has demonstrated a great deal of efficacy, based upon the improvements that our elementary schools are making, instructurally,” Adamowski said. “So, we think that unless the state goes down the tubes entirely, we are going to have a Priority School District grant of some sort. We would qualify far above others for inclusion in the Priority School District program. So, we are making an assumption there, we are taking a defensive position of cutting 20 percent of the Priority Schools District grant because we have been told by the state department that in their view that would be a likely scenario.”
NPS is finishing the 2016-17 school year with a surplus of $2.4 million, Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton said.
That’s misleading because $1.3 million of that is the Special Education Transitional Development fund, created in 2015. Although NPS is carrying over the money as part of its agreement with the city, the $1.3 million is calculated into the percentage the schools are allowed to keep from the surplus, under state statute.
Some of the surplus is being carried over for retirement payouts and unsettled labor contracts; NPS is negotiating with the state on other issues, and money is being set aside as a contingency on those items, Hamilton said.
The BoE can retain an amount equal to 1 percent of its budget. NPS is therefore requesting that it keep $435,700, and expects to return $220,000 to the city, Adamowski said.
The $435,700 allows NPS to fund half of the CISDs, he said.
“We don’t want to take steps that might be proven to be unjustified once the circumstances are finally settled. On the other hand, we have to prepare as best as we can, and make as many defensive measures as we can,” Adamowski said.
Cutting half the CISDs will mean that more schools will share the directors.
A number of the CIDS are candidates for an assistant principal position at Ponus Ridge Middle School, Adamowkski said.
“We hope to save one of them that way,” Adamowski said. “We have a couple who do not have tenure, who have no bumping rights. Then we have a couple who do have the right to bump into teaching, we’ve been holding a couple of vacancies open for that contingency. So we are going to try to do that in the next couple of weeks.”
Mayor Harry Rilling promised that the city will work with the BoE to try to mitigate the cuts.
“We are facing some very challenging times and I think everybody walking on eggshells, until we know what the situation is going to be,” Rilling said.
“We will work with the Board to make up for any cuts, in any way that we possibly can,” Rilling said. “It will be a challenge but I think we have done it in the past and I am pretty confident that we will be able to do it again, hopefully without too much pain. But we are facing some difficult decisions. I am cautiously optimistic still that the state will come up with a budget. I have confidence that they are doing everything they can to try to resolve this issue but until they do we have to be prepared to sit down and roll up our sleeves, find out where we can fund different things.”