NAUGATUCK — The Board of Education’s requested $59.69 million budget for the coming school year is what is needed to move existing programs forward. That was the message Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson gave to borough officials Monday night.
“Basically it’s a move the existing programs forward kind of budget,” Tindall-Gibson said during a meeting of the Tri-Board, which is made up of the boards of mayor and burgesses, finance and education, at Naugatuck High School.
The school board’s $59.69 million proposed budget is an increase of $1.6 million or 2.77 percent over the current budget. The vast majority of the budget, about 81 percent, is salaries and benefits for the school system’s roughly 650 employees.
The school board’s proposal includes the equivalent of 8.5 new full-time positions.
The proposed director of instruction position received the most scrutiny from finance board members. The administrative position would work out of the Tuttle Building and carries a cost of roughly $134,000, according to figures presented Monday night.
“I know that’s not usually a popular request,” said Tindall-Gibson about asking for a new administrative position. “But, it’s something that is needed at this time.”
Tindall-Gibson said the position is necessary to deal with three major education initiatives — aligning curriculum with the Common Core State Standards, developing and implementing a new evaluation system for teachers and administrators and implementing new assessments.
The position is not a new one historically for the school board. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Brigitte Crispino held the position before being named assistant superintendent two years ago. Currently, Crispino with assistance from school principals, are handling the duties of the position and working on the new initiatives.
Crispino is retiring in June and school officials said filling the position will free up time for principals to focus on their individual schools.
Finance board members questioned whether the duties of the position could be accomplished by teams of administrators or a person on a one-year contract to get the district up to speed as far as the initiatives are concerned.
Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam defended the need for a director of instruction. She said school principals need leadership from the district and the position will impact every student.
Saam added the district’s curriculum is a living document and the district has to keep evolving to meet the growing needs of students.
“If we want to take us to the next level this is a position that will get us there,” she said.
The borough can not dictate how the school board spends its allocated funds, only the total figure given to the board. Tindall-Gibson said if the budget request is reduced, he would recommend the position be filled and the funds come from other items in the budget.
Also included among the new proposed positions are two new teachers and four paraprofessionals for special education.
The district’s special education enrollment is expected to increase from 618 to 671 students next school year. The new teachers are needed to meet mandated teacher-student ratios for special education.
Laura Cyr, director of special services, said the increase is due to a change in the law in how students are identified as special education. She added the district’s special education services are renowned in the area causing families to move to Naugatuck for them.
The paraprofessional positions are currently being filled by substitutes. However, school officials said full-time paraprofessionals receive more training and are better suited to provide the necessary services.
The largest increase in the request comes under the capital outlay budget, which increases by $446,500 to $556,500. The proposal includes $200,000 for school security upgrades.
The money set aside for security is a start for the district to make improvements. A security audit done at Central Avenue Preschool by Kaestle Boos Associates found the school alone needed about $450,000 worth of upgrades, according to Tindall-Gibson.
The tri-board went over the school budget request line by line late into the night Monday and it will not be the last time officials review it. The finance board is scheduled to do a final review of the entire budget April 29, before adopting the budget May 6 to send to a public hearing on May 13. The joint board of the Board of Mayor and Burgesses and Board of Finance is scheduled to adopt the budget May 16.