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Groton School Board OKs 1.4 Percent Budget Increase for Education

The $73,662,715 budget approved Tuesday would cut 25 percent of the district’s paraprofessionals and more than a dozen teachers.

The Groton Board of Education on Tuesday approved a $73.66 million budget for the coming fiscal year, a 1.4 percent increase over this year’s spending.

Board Members Rita Volkmann and Shelley Gardner voted against.

“It’s too much of an increase for our town,” Volkmann said. Even though she said she suggested adding items back in, she would have made cuts elsewhere.

Board Member Chaz Zezulka said he never thought the board would cut the budget as much as it did.

“In these times, in this day and age, that is miraculous,” Zezulka said.

The cuts included 25 percent of the district’s paraprofessionals, more than a dozen teachers, and transportation for students who choose magnet schools outside of Groton.

“In a budget year like this, we’ve got to take care of the kids that are staying here and gong to our schools,” Board Member Bob Peruzzotti said.

The budget goes to the Town Council next, then to Representative Town Meeting.

Budget cuts made by the school board include:

  • $707,000 for paraprofessionals. Cut represents 50 to 60 paraprofessionals out of a total staff of about 190.
  • $500,000 for purchased services across the budget. Depending on the department, this may include field trips, travel for instruction, equipment repairs or other items.
  • $150,000 for the athletic and activity budget at the high school and middle schools, including supplies.
  • $90,000 for a portion of the elementary music program (cut would affect the strings program).
  • $180,000 for two middle school French teachers.
  • $90,000 for a middle school computer teacher.
  • $540,000 for high school teachers. Cut would reduce one teacher each in math, science, health, technology, world language and English.
  • $90,000 for a high school counselor.
  • $20,000 for field trips (a 20 percent cut).
  • $200,000 for supplies (a 20 percent cut).
  • $100,000 for out of district transportation (for students that choose to attend magnet schools elsewhere).
  • $138,396 for ipads for seventh graders.
  • $100,000 for three special education tutors.
  • $100,000 for central office support.
  • $160,000 for custodial services.
  • $32,000 for secretarial services.
woodsy owl February 27, 2013 at 09:13 PM
The BOE could save another $700,000 or so if they recinded the elementary redistricting plan.
Dave February 27, 2013 at 09:57 PM
These cuts are a disgrace and are going to have a huge impact on the education of our children. The school board members should be ashamed of themselves!!!
Bartlett February 27, 2013 at 10:04 PM
So if you rent - you don't get a free public education?
Bartlett February 27, 2013 at 10:04 PM
And then Groton would be in violation of state laws. Not really an option.
Dave February 27, 2013 at 10:05 PM
There salary is not $90000!!! Who are you to decide they get paid to much? What is your salary? Do you have a college degree? I know many other professionals (engineers, scientists, lawyers, doctors, dentists, etc.) who make a lot more money.
Dave February 27, 2013 at 10:24 PM
How many of the board members still have kids in school? I believe the answer is zero. It is a conflict of interest to have a bunch of old people determing the school budget. I am sure when their kids were in school they had enough paper for copier machines, middle school french classes, elementary band and orchestra, field trips, middle and high school sports, special education, middle school computer classes, etc. You can say none of these things are being eliminated, but when you cut the funding enough they essentially are. This a very sad day for Groton's young people.
mom2x's February 27, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Paraprofessionals make 10.60 an hour with no benefits. They are the ones who are spit on, kicked, swore at, hit on a daily basis. They also help the children who need a little extra help. Those students who may not qualify for remedial help, or special Ed services. There are highly paid specialists, teachers who are still teaching whose heart and enthusiasm left years ago that make an awful lot of money and quite frankly don't work as hard as a paraprofessional. This district has spent money foolishly, time and time again. I will be curious to see come September, how my sons class of 26 3rd graders not including the 2 special Ed children that come in and out of the classroom depending on if they can sit or if they choose to throw things and yell. I will be curious to see how the teacher can handle all of it, without a paraprofessional. 50 to 60 out of 190 to be cut. That is an absolute shame!
HappyMom February 27, 2013 at 10:31 PM
To clarify, all children are rightfully due a free public education no matter what. But, somehow getting the children to and from that education seemingly is being forgotten.
Dave February 27, 2013 at 10:39 PM
I completely agree. Most of these paraprofessionals are assigned to a special needs child. Many of these kids are in a regular class. There is no way the teacher can teach to the whole class with out a para helping. These kids have meltdowns all the time and the para has to take them out of the room until they calm down. Many of them need help just going to the bathroom. If this really happens there is going to be chaos and the non-special needs students will not get a good education. What a shame!!!!
augie42 February 27, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Actually the $90K is an average salary, no benefits...according to Caroline Dickey, finance mngr.
Bartlett February 27, 2013 at 11:44 PM
I have seen the teachers contract. There is no way in heck that the teachers average salary is 90k.
B.R.E.E. February 28, 2013 at 12:25 AM
The board of Ed feels that there hands are tied. The ones with the loudest, biggest mouths feel like the taxes are already too high. Unfortunately, other towns will spend more on education because they know it is what motivates homebuyers. No one says oh they have a great police department or I'm moving there because they have a great human services department. Other town expenditures have continued to be funded while Groton insists on cuts to education. I believe this will continue as the residents are intent on operating the town more like a city and less like a suburb. This town will only continue to attract urban problems; meaning poorer less educated residents that typically require more tax dollars to be spent. You can't preach smaller government while attracting those that need the government assistance. It's this basic misunderstanding that is ruining this town.
Rick McDonald February 28, 2013 at 02:09 AM
If you rent the landlord still has to pay property tax. I fairly sure it is calculated into the rent.
Rick McDonald February 28, 2013 at 02:35 AM
Which other towns will spend more on education? Groton 73 Million New London 41 Million Waterford 44 Million Stonington 33 Million East Lyme 42 Million Maybe spending better and not more is the answer? Maybe changing state law that prevents decreasing below previous year regardless of the circumstances? What I see is years of unchecked spending never thinking about the fact that once the BOE budget goes up it can never go back down. Now we are all stuck with it
augie42 February 28, 2013 at 02:37 AM
Bartlett, I am going by what the BOE members and staff are putting out about the salaries....I suggest you LOOK again....unless you are accusing them of......
L.A.S. February 28, 2013 at 02:53 AM
I teach in the Groton school district and I can personally tell you my paycheck is nowhere near 90k. Life would sure be a lot easier if it was! The top tier teachers (13+ years in the district, holding top degrees) don't even make 90k. Groton has a lot of teachers who have stayed with the district for a long time and have served it very well. As a newer teacher, I hope to stay with this district for a long time as well since it's a wonderful place to be. But I can honestly tell you, my salary + benefits is not 90k, and I don't think we have enough teachers with seniority at 90k to make it an "average" salary. I invite you to step into the classrooms and see what your students are accomplishing. They are doing wonderful things for the circumstances that we work with. Sadly, there are far too many negative stories as opposed to celebratory / praisal stories in this town...
B.R.E.E. February 28, 2013 at 05:53 AM
Groton has a significantly larger student population and many more schools than any of the towns you have listed. You may want to do a comparison to those towns that are similar in size and part of the same DRG cohort for starters.
Bartlett February 28, 2013 at 09:59 AM
See the comment from LAS. The average teacher in Groton does not make $90,000.
Franky Camper February 28, 2013 at 11:14 AM
You missed the point. Look at the cuts and show me where leadership is sharing the sacrifice. There are significant cuts that could be made without taking away from the children. Grade schools don't need vice principals, so eliminate them and use the funds elsewhere. My sister in Waterford said they don't have VPs in there, and their schools are great. Nearly everything listed above will directly impact my kids, your kids, everyone's kids. Please Board of Ed, find ways to cut costs without cutting quality.
Sherry Cutler February 28, 2013 at 12:12 PM
I have been a para for the last 12 years in GPS. We make $10.69/hr and have not gotten a raise in 3 or 4 years which was 10-15 cents/hr. The majority of us (myslelf included) do not have health care, holidays or paid vacations. We do this job because we are passionate about our children- YOUR children. Thank you for all your support! It is not over! The RTM and Town Counsil have to approve this insane BOE budget. By cutting the para's they will be cutting the lifeline to our special friends' success. Basic things.Talking! Learning to get along with peers! Feeling important in this world with someone who will walk with them and explain things they can not understand! Doesn't every child deserve those basic things???
Brad Julian February 28, 2013 at 01:24 PM
Wow Dave, taking this a little personal aren't you. First off I don't decide how much they get paid and secondly it is none of your business what my salary is and yes I do have a college degree. Dave, you would not happen to be a teacher are you?
Brad Julian February 28, 2013 at 01:31 PM
Alright Dave, if their salary is not $90,000 than were did the BOE come up with that number. The article said that $180,000 for two middle school French teachers. I don't have a calculator handy but I think that if you divide $180,000 by 2 you get $90,000.
S.T.G. February 28, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Remember also that speech therapists have paras too. They also have caseloads of 30 or more students, AND they also attend ppts, SPED meetings, , not to mention endless paperwork. The reason they have paras is so that the children actually recieve services....what happens to those kids when those paras are cut ?
Rick McDonald February 28, 2013 at 01:47 PM
No B.R.E.E, I ask you which ones since my check of school districts in the surrounding area show them to be spending considerably less. You stated other towns will spend more, the burden of proof is yours not mine. I did find that Norwich spends somewhere around 70 million, but none spending more.
L.A.S. February 28, 2013 at 02:58 PM
So Rick- Norwich spends 70 million. Their student body size is close to ours and their high school is partially funded by private donors who give large sums of money. So, in theory, their 70 million goes to 7 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and an alternative high school. Our 70 million goes to 7 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and a high school. Pretty comparable.
Rick McDonald February 28, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Your point L.A.S.. B.R.E.E stated other towns will spend more, will not may, indicating he/she knows this for fact. I asked which towns since my check showed most around here spend not even close and are not inclined to spend more than Groton. In my opinion, Groton's problem is not that it does not spend enough on education it is that it does not spend effectively. A school closed, student body down yet we need to increase spending? I say no
GlpGeorge February 28, 2013 at 08:45 PM
Couple of questions....I thought the Town was either fully or partially reimbursed by the state for Magnet school transportation. I remember years ago when the BOE tried this maneuver that there was transferring of funds earmarked for Magnet transportation to other uses was not allowed. I am not sure. but I remember an issue with it #2. Has the BOE done their due dilligence on this transportation cut? I see this as being an INCREASE in students back to Groton because parents are unable to transport children to the Magnet or ISAAC school, Won't this cause an INCREAED demand on the class size and maybe special education programs? It might be the lesser of two evils to spend 100k to transport the 70 or so students to the schools they have been going to. I'm not going to lie to ya..my daughter goes to ISAAC and this is a personal hit for myself and my daughter, but it's still not a done deal. Denying transportation to about 70 if not more students will not sit well with the vocal voting public, get ready for the showdown at Town Hall. This is such a dog and pony show....the budget still has to get Town Council approval and then to the RTM who makes decisions based on personal opinions and uneducated emotional kneejerk responses.
B-Mom February 28, 2013 at 11:58 PM
The "averaging" of salaries was began by Kadri. How did he get to that number? Who knows. But the teachers who have moved through the steps in their contract (I believe there are 13 or 14) are not making $90,000 even with advanced degrees. It takes well over a decade to get to the top step. Using averages doesn't make any sense to me.
B-Mom March 01, 2013 at 12:07 AM
The education budget has had three years of level funding. How does that compare to the town side of the budget?
mysticparent March 06, 2013 at 06:39 PM
I agree with you on that! Getting rid of an entire program at the beginning level (3rd. grade strings) for retaining 3 band teachers for 2 middle schools is wrong. It's a good program, but not needed. No programs would be lost if the cut was at the middle school level

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