Schools losing experience

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Public School system will lose a combined 812 years of teaching experience at the end of this school year.

Twenty-eight teachers with between six and 38 years of experience apiece are planning to retire. All but one of the retirees are leaving as part of the borough’s early retirement incentive program, which gives a $25,000 lump sum payment to those who accept the package.

The borough will save about $1.5 million through the program. But what it will lose in educational value will be hard to replace, administrators and Board of Education members said last week.

Interim Superintendent of Schools James Connelly said the retirements result in a sort of “brain drain” for the district. David Heller, Board of Education chairman, said those leaving will be extremely hard to replace.

“The lives they have touched over these many years has made this a better community and a better society,” Heller said. “They helped mold and grow the students of Naugatuck.”

There are 11 teachers retiring from City Hill Middle School, seven from Naugatuck High School, six from Maple Hill Elementary School, two from Andrew Avenue Elementary School, one from Cross Street Intermediate School, one from Hillside Intermediate School and one from Western Elementary School.

The board is looking to replace some of the teachers but will lose 14.5 positions if the current $115.2 million budget is accepted. Heller used the retirement discussion as an opportunity last week to urge people to support the school board’s proposed budget.

It is likely headed to referendum after residents petitioned to send both the town and the school proposals to a public vote. The signatures on that petition will be verified, and borough officials will set a referendum date if enough signatures are verified.

“If the school budget is cut, that may affect the amount of teachers we can replace,” Heller said.

Parent Kevin Gendron said he’s worried that the loss of teaching staff will lead to increased class sizes.

“Parents are hearing that they are going to increase, and I just wanted to hear more about that,” he told the board.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Chris Montini said the district is doing everything it can to keep class sizes to the lowest level possible, especially at the elementary grade levels.

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