As just another symptom of the massive financial problems facing Waterford and the rest of the country, the board of education voted Thursday night to lay off 11 full-time employees.
The board unanimously voted to not renew the contracts of Barbara Comstock-King, Michelle Condon, Ellen Getty, Donna Gilberto, Stephanie Glenn, Aerilee Harper, Mary Hendrickson, Michael Manifold, Catherine McDonald, Michelle Pyka and Megan Sheehan. It was not an easy decision, education officials said.
“We are trying to make up ,” Superintendent Jerome Belair said. “We are dealing with a 'Sophie’s Choice' with this budget.”
The board could bring back the teachers if extra money is found in the budget, Belair said. The teachers were laid off because of the budget, and not performance, he emphasized.
Several art teachers, a current Waterford student and Waterford graduate spoke out against reducing the amount of full-time equivalents certified in art from 2.5 to 1.4, which reduces the amount of art a elementary students will have from two out of every six days to one of every six days. Facing the tight budget and the increases in health insurance and salaries, the board had to cut somewhere, Belair said.
Belair submitted a pay-to-participate model to the board that charges $50 per sport, $25 per activity in the high school and $25 per sport, and $10 per activity in the middle school. The proposal could generate an additional $44,000, Belair said.
However, the district might face additional costs in tuition or special education, so it might be best to hold off on accepting pay-to-participate until all those numbers are known, Belair said. The board took Belair’s advice and did not act on the matter, but did weigh in on the discussion.
“I just want to go on the record to say that I’m in favor (of pay-to-participate),” board member Tim Egan said. “It is the lesser of two evils, and I’m in favor of it if it can save a couple of positions.”
The board agreed to cut indoor track, a winter sport, which could be saved by a pay-to-participate program, Egan said. Without indoor track, the only winter sports available to females are cheerleading and basketball, which serves only about 40 girls, he said.
Board members Sheri Cote and Kevin Brunelle agreed with Egan. Chairman Donald Blevins and fellow members John Taglianetti and Jody Nazarchyk did not.
“I will never support pay-to-participate,” Taglianetti said. “To me, there is no difference between paying to play basketball than there is to paying to go to math class.”
Board member Kathleen McCarty said she would support pay-to-participate, but only as a last option. The board should first look into generating revenues through corporate sponsorships, she said.
“I would like us to do the research,” McCarty said. “There is money out there, we just need to find it.”
Cote, who works for the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, disagreed.
“I don’t think we should get our hopes up with this,” Cote said. “I work for a nonprofit organization that is always asking for funds, and it just isn’t easy to find anything right now.”
Board members Anne Ogden and Jessica McLaughlin both attended the meeting, but did not voice their opinion on pay-to-participate. The board could act on it later, after the budget numbers become clearer, Belair said.