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Greenwich Schools Face Trying to Do More With Less

The pinch being felt as the town's fiscal clamp squeezes the district.

 

The depths of the undercurrent of budget constraints emerged at the Greenwich Board of Education's monthly business meeting last week. 

During Dr. William McKersie's monthly Superintendent Report, a further explanation supporting the administration's recent “reorganization” at its Havemeyer headquarters was given, citing that it indicates a “change in how we supervise and manage academic programs.” McKersie said that the structure being created is meant to support “work in schools.”

McKersie indicated the “shifting” within the administration is “about bolstering and strengthening.” Additional changes are expected to be announced this week.

While McKersie said he sees “a lot of opportunity for growth” as a result of the changes, GOSA (Greenwich Organization of School Administrators) representatives David Walko and Angela Schmidt are looking at the shifting sands from another perspective.

The two co-presidents spoke on behalf of the 48 GPS administrators they represent which includes principals, assistant principals, coordinators and program administrators, many of whom attended the meeting.

The pair, who normally do not address the board, expressed concerns about the recent changes made by McKersie and the fact that “over the past 5 years, GOSA has seen a reduction of 15%.”

In addition to workforce decrease, Walko, Greenwich High School Clark House administrator, reminded the board that during the last contract negotiations, GOSA took a 0% pay increase for the first year. Both also explained that the title 'administrator' is misleading as much of their roles are deeply embedded in supervisory functions.

“Essence of Our Roles...”

Administrators are “foremost supervisors of teachers and learning,” said Schmidt, who is the North Mianus School principal. Schmidt said, “Approximately 30% of our teachers in our district are non-tenured” and therefore the “importance of supervisory support cannot be overemphasized.”

Schmidt also pointed out “the profound changes” the district is about to undertake including the adoption of common core standards, increased focus on digital learning, implementation of SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) and a shift to a the state’s teacher evaluation system, all will have impact on the district's administrators.

Possible Reduction in the Capital Budget

The board also received an update on the capital budget. Board Chairman Leslie Moriarty started the discussion saying she had a desire to communicate a “common understanding of the process.” Moriarty said the Board of Education deliberated capital funding in the fall, and now months later, the Town of Greenwich budget process is about the kick off. (The Board of Education will formally present its budget to the Board of Estimate and Taxation at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4, in the Town Hall Meeting Room. The BET budget committee will spend the day Feb. 7, reviewing the spending and capital projects proposals.)

The board voted 8-0 to approve their 2013-2014 Capital Plan at $10,075,000 at their Oct. 18 meeting at Eastern Middle School. The Capital Plan is $2 million higher than the $8 million target stated in the BET budget guidelines.

While the Board of Education still supports that capital request of $10,075,000, McKersie proposed a list of capital improvement adjustments which would “have the least harmful impact on the overall Capital Plan if they were deferred.”

The proposed adjustments represent a net reduction of $2,138,000, which include deferrals of projects as well as additions. Among the more significant deferrals: installation of air conditioning at Old Greenwich and Julian Curtiss schools saving $980,000 and $830,000, respectively; a $650,000 upgrade of egress lighting and installing a generator at Eastern Middle School. However, the school could see an addition of $410,000 to replace the aged auditorium seating.

The board still has the ability to speak before the BET Budget Committee on Feb. 7 to voice further opinions on the capital budget. McKersie reinforced that “nobody in this room wants to see reductions in the budget.” He said that First Selectman Peter Tesei “is a critical advocate” for the schools’ budgets. McKersie emphasized his intent to partner with Tesei in obtaining the necessary funding to meet the needs of the district.

Tesei said on Friday, that it is the school administration's decision to pursue the projects it deems most necessary. "I've taken the approach that it's better to bring them in and make the recommendations and that's within their realm of responsibility."

The Capital Improvement Projects Committee, which serves as an advisory committee to the First Selectman, will hold a public hearing at 7:00 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28 in the Town Hall Meeting Room.  Next Monday, Feb. 4, Tesei will make his budget presentation at 6 p.m., and the board of ed's its budget presentation at 6:30 p.m, also in the Town Hall Meeting Room.

*Editor's note: Local editor Barbara Heins contributed to this report.

Greenwich Taxpayer January 28, 2013 at 03:40 PM
The Board of Ed members knew that they would be asked to cut future capital projects when they opted to go forward with a bloated MISA project (instead of coming up with a more reasonable alternative). I was in many BET meetings when MISA was being considered for approval when Board of Ed members were cautioned that approval of that project would be deferral of future capital projects. Leslie Moriarty cannot now hide behind PTAC and others feigning "outrage" when she knew all along what the tradeoffs were. The BET should stand strong and insist on sacrifices that the Board of Ed agreed to long ago.

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