Hartford Schools are preparing to cut the Fiscal 2017 budget by $19.3 million, jettisoning some 236 positions, consolidating Bulkeley Upper and Lower High Schools, and discontinuing planned renovations at the Clark and Martin Luther King Schools, all to deal with the ramifications of the State and City budget crises.

That 4.4 percent cut comes in tandem with some $20 million in increased costs, including contractual salary increases of $6.7 million, a difficult balancing act.  The District sends 82 percent of funds to schools – and her central office leadership team has been cut by 30 percent, Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez said.

The budget calls for 20 positions to be cut from central office as well as some 96 teacher positions to be eliminated.  Given staff attrition over the summer (teachers retiring or moving away, etc.), teaching jobs will open up, hence it is impossible at this time to say just how many actual layoffs will occur.  As of April 19, all but 40 of the certified staff (teachers and administrators) affected by the budget cuts had found positions, the superintendent said.

Here are the video of the April 19 Hartford Board of Education workshop on the budget and the slides presented by Dr. Narvaez.  The full recommended budget document is here.

A Board Finance Committee Meeting to Remember

Chaired by Board Member Craig Stallings and joined by (fellow committee members) Board Chair Richard Wareing and Board Member Beth Taylor, the Hartford Board of Education’s Finance and Audit Committee this past Monday examined shifts in enrollment and the reasons for them.  Here are some highlights of the discussion:

  • Some 20 percent of Hartford students at the high school level attend technical high schools including Prince Tech; another 20 percent attend CREC magnet schools, Chief Data and Accountability Officer Jeron Campbell reported.  “We should start talking to those kids” in focus groups, Board Chair Richard Wareing suggested, noting that the tech schools “are eating our lunch.”

“Yes, in a major way,” Dr. Campbell replied.  School camaraderie, athletic programs, and even how much fun students are having, as indicated by social media posts, are all factors.  “I would love to know what’s driving students on such a consistent basis,” Mr. Wareing said.

  • Looking at the increasing costs (rising by $3.9 million next year) for special education services, Dr. Taylor asked whether nearby school districts are willing to work to regionalize services for students with disabilities.  “I’d like to see a five-to-10-year plan,” she said.  Many superintendents are discussing the possibilities, Dr. Narvaez said, and the District is conducting an audit of the programs.

Regional purchasing is happening, Chief Financial Officer Paula Altieri told the committee, but “Getting people to kind of let go and share services is hard.”

The Bottom Line.  The District faces a new reality with the deep budget challenges upon us, with the thoughtful strategic plan – and emphasis on equity – hanging in the balance as adjustments are made to implement it with dwindling resources.  Dr. Taylor suggested a workshop be held to closely examine the issues surrounding out-of-district placement costs for special education, which, for residential care, can be $67,000 per pupil.  That examination as well as the probe of why students tend to opt out of Hartford could be enormously helpful in long-term sustainability planning.  Like the city, the District has structural issues that now need to become this Board’s priority for their entire term, starting now.