Board Of Education Officially Lays Off 11

Names Of The 11 Released

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.

Pay-To-Participate Discussion

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.

Eileen March 25, 2011 at 01:10 PM
What is pay to play supposed to subsidize, why do you have to wait for numbers to come in on increased tutition costs or special education cost increases, is not the purpose of pay to play to subsidize athletics and extra cirruclar activities,.......
R Lee Balderdash March 25, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Mathematics, along with Reading and Writing are fundamental building blocks of education; basketball is not. One cannot play basketball without learning that 2+2=4, but one can learn math without playing basketball. Government funded education should be rudimentary at most. Everything else can be "pay-to-play"
Tati March 25, 2011 at 02:51 PM
The underlining problem with the education budget is the cost of medical insurance! I cannot understand why this has not come to the attention of the public and why other insurance avenues are not being explored by the Board of Education?
Teresa Schlotman Wilensky March 25, 2011 at 03:00 PM
While it would be nice to live in a world where basketball and math were each able to be fully funded - to Mr. Taglianetti's comment - we live in a world where difficult cost cutting is going on. We will never cut math to provide basketball but basketball will be cut to provide math. That difference explains why the odious concept of pay-to-participate is better to parents than doing without. Members of the Board of Education are talking out of both sides of their mouths, either they have to figure out a ways to generate the revenues to fund programs; advertising in the gym and stadiums, naming rights, endowments programs... or they should have proposed a budget that covered all of their programs and then pushed it through the boards on the conviction that Waterford Schools need the dollars to continue to provide an excellent well-rounded education. Board of Ed, come down from your lofty tower of " ideal" and get real.
Kevin Girard March 25, 2011 at 07:34 PM
They have. http://waterford.patch.com/articles/more-fiction-than-fact-in-the-teachers-union-almanac
Tim Fioravanti March 26, 2011 at 01:10 AM
Like: "or they should have proposed a budget that covered all of their programs and then pushed it through the boards on the conviction that Waterford Schools need the dollars to continue to provide an excellent well-rounded education."
farm guy March 26, 2011 at 12:50 PM
Have you met the board? Not exactly rocket scientists. Some are really nice people and some are not- either way, they know very little about education.
Lu March 28, 2011 at 10:40 AM
The residents of Waterford should be ashamed! All this controversy about pay-to-play and TAG programs, but nobody seems to mind that 11 teachers were lost their jobs! It seems the elementary schools were the hardest hit with these cuts. I wonder if any members of the Board of Ed have visited an elementary classroom and envisioned six more students in each class. Many of the teachers losing their jobs are very dedicated and amazing teachers. Ultimately the students are the ones that will pay for the town's irresponsible actions. As a parent of children who are involved in many youth sports, I pay about $600 a year for my children to participate. I'm not sure why when they go to high school it's such a big deal to pay.
Rachel March 28, 2011 at 03:56 PM
The teachers refused a wage freeze. They knew by doing this that approx 10 teachers would have to be let go. So, really it wasn't up to the board of education or the residents of waterford. The teachers were given options and this is what they chose.
Tim Fioravanti March 28, 2011 at 06:05 PM
The teachers "union" refused a wage freeze. The Board of Education had many, many options but they chose to cut 10 teachers. They also could have asked for more than a 3% increase too. Unfortunately, our Board of Finance doesn't want to hear that. I, personally, think they should hear that as an option. Attend the next meeting and express your feelings.
Lu March 28, 2011 at 07:39 PM
The town of Waterford and the teacher's union agreed to a contract. The town of Waterford is obligated to that contract, and it was irresponsible to base a budget on assuming wage freezes. Let''s not forget the teachers gave up pay via furlough days last year. I think the fact that other options were not considered is unacceptable. The bottom line is our children are the ones who ultimately pay the price.
Kevin Girard March 28, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Are you saying that the town is in breach of contract? If that's true, then I'd like to know how the town can get away with that. For my education, what were the other options they could have considered? The only two I heard were an offer to the teachers' union of a lower raise, 20 layoffs, and now thanks to Tim, a greater increase in budget. I'm curious what other options they weren't considering. Based on Paul's article I cited above, it does seem like many ideas were given consideration, but I'd love to see the evidence otherwise. I commend the teachers for giving up furlough pay last year - they are some of the most giving people you'll ever meet. To me, it sucks that people's lives need to get caught up in the cat and mouse game that is the politics of this all, and it sucks that the kids will lose out, but fiscal responsibility has to happen somewhere.
Kevin Girard March 28, 2011 at 09:11 PM
I can't count... three options ;-)
Rick Beaney March 28, 2011 at 10:16 PM
R Lee Balderdash: I agree that there are fundamental building blocks of an education but extra-curricular activities like sports, drama and music are essential to a good school system and to a student's learning process and experience. They should not be overlooked or dismissed as an "extra" benefit. Lu: I feel very badly for the teachers that have lost their jobs. But, to me, the main concern should be the students and programs such as the proposed elimination of freshman sports, varsity gold and indoor track and the cuts to the music programs. It is a tough economy and work is hard to find but the opportunity is out there. Once these programs are cut, the affected students will never have the chance to participate or have that experience again. They get one chance to be freshman, the golfer who has worked hard to become the top 1 or 2 on his team for his senior year will never get to be that again and represent his high school and community. If those programs are cut next year, those students have lost something that they cannot get back. There have been many parents who have supported pay-to-participate if that is the only option that will allow the programs to continue. The problem is not that parents do not support it, it is that the BOE is divided on the idea and if they truly believe that the students should come first, they will do their due diligence and make it work so these programs get reinstated
Lu March 28, 2011 at 10:30 PM
I was not implying there was a breach of contract, but rather fiscal responsibility should begin with contract negotiations. If your education budget is held to a 3% increase, why offer larger raises than that? Or if the current health care package is spiraling out of control, it should be addressed. Also if I felt Waterford had extra teachers that could be eliminated without affecting education, I would agree with those cuts. These are difficult times for everyone, but stacking 24 or 25 students in elementary classrooms is not a responsible answer to the problem.
Lu March 28, 2011 at 10:34 PM
I am not for cutting these important programs. I am saying I wouldn't mind paying to do them. There are many options, such as fundraising that could help offset the expense. I find it odd that the board is so divided on play to play, yet unanimously agreed to layoffs.
R Lee Balderdash March 28, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Rick Beaney, If extra-curricular activities are "essential", why aren't they mandatory? You know, there is a world outside of school where children can play games if they choose. The question is: who should pay for the individual interests of children? I say their parents.
Rick Beaney March 29, 2011 at 01:54 AM
RLB: I may be wrong but I get the impression that you didn't participate in nor supported extra-curricular activities when you attended school. Regardless, these programs benefit more than just the individual interests of the participants. They benefit the entire school system by providing a well-rounded set of programs (and we are not just talking about sports here but music, drama and others) that is attractive to prospective homeowners. Towns with good school systems attract more homeowners who contribute to the tax base, etc... The participants as well as the rest of the student body gain immeasurably by having these programs. I stated in my post that many parents support the pay-to-participate model that is being discussed but the BOE is divided on it based on the last 2 meetings which I attended. I proposed pay-to-participate last year and it was met with a lukewarm reception by the BOE. It has come up again this year and the BOE is giving more consideration to it than last year which is a good thing. I believe that in public schools, these activities should be provided, but pay-to-participate and/or sponsorship is something that should be done versus eliminating the programs.
Tim Fioravanti March 30, 2011 at 01:23 AM
The teacher contract was negotiated 4 years ago. It is the Board of Finance that stipulated the 3% or under increase. Do the math. It wasn't going to work unless other things were cut. What was not considered was letting the Board of Finance know that there was no way the Board of Ed could come in at 3% without doing a lot of damage. The 3% didn't have to be 3%, that's just what those particular people wanted and everyone caved. Too bad this town is reactive and not proactive. Vote for education!
Waterford Rez March 31, 2011 at 03:38 PM
Just raise our taxes a little!! Seriously, whats the big deal? Only in America, more specifically CT (you know, land of the "caring liberal") will citizens not think twice about paying thousands and thousands of dollars annually for DirecTV, iPhones, 20Mbs internet access, eating out, Xbox's and PlayStations, $4 coffees, 55" flat panel TV's, $300 little league bats, $5oo car payments, $300 purses, $140 sneakers, $2500 AAU team fees or what ever luxuries we require, but go completely ape s&%# when the town even mentions raising taxes 0ne nickle for education!!! Local taxes are even deductible off your fed return (if you itemize). Where is the sacrifice? Will anyone truly be homeless if they go up 10 or 20 bucks a month?
Waterford Rez March 31, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Rick Beaney... you are spot on too...good points. Why earn money if you can't invest it in your kids...even if it's HS sports. Give people a choice.
Tim Fioravanti March 31, 2011 at 08:27 PM
Waterford Rez - Awesome! Thanks!
Kevin Girard March 31, 2011 at 10:22 PM
Normally I'd completely agree with you. I agree that Americans in general, and especially in a relatively wealthy part of Connecticut, have a significant excess in their lives (me included) and that an extra $20/month probably isn't going to break most people. Agree completely that people's priorities are seriously askew. I'd completely agree on raising taxes if the tax raise went completely toward education (including school sports, languages, and art). Taxes are going up ~4.5% next year (with only a 3% increase in school budget - I am still struggling to figure that one out - guess we dropped 1.5% in revenue with our "tax whatever we can as much as we can" business strategies and the slumping economy). Is 4.5% considered "raise(ing) taxes a little?" And what's considered worthy? What's worthy to me as a parent of 3 young kids surely differs from the retired senior, I would think. At some point "allowing" tax raises for every worthy cause needs to be held in check. So I have to applaud those who have been working hard toward staying on a budget (but they deserve derision for promising more than they could deliver). Do the teachers deserve the 4% raise they contractually were promised? To me, they do, but I can't see sustainability in raising taxes (and town employees' salaries) at a higher rate than the salary raise in the surrounding community. BTW - The Fed doesn't let me deduct my local taxes :-(
Lori March 31, 2011 at 11:39 PM
I have to agree with Waterford Rez . I would definately give up a few cups of coffee to keep our teachers. Please stop cutting programs and staff as a solution to save a few bucks!
Kevin Girard April 01, 2011 at 01:25 AM
I've got the best idea ever... why don't we add an extra $1 tax on Starbucks and use it to pay for education. It will only hurt the rich, since only they can afford $5 cups of coffee (We'll leave DD's alone for now). Then we can have our coffee, drink it too, and support education all at the same time! It'll work just like the super high gas tax that is keeping our roads in good repair. Brilliant!
Alice Hanson April 27, 2011 at 09:16 PM
I think the whole thing is stupid. I mean, why lay off teachers to fix the budget. We are already so technology advanced. We didn't need all the prometian boards in the every single class room for CLMS, Waterford High, Great Neck, and etc. And we had microsoft 2007 and when I came back to school from April break every single computer in CLMS had Microsoft 2010. The school/town spent thousands of dollars when we didn't need to spend, microsoft 2007 worked just fine! And hey budget people, you are laying off my chorus teacher, Mrs. Comstock-King, and my art teacher, Mrs. Gilberto! I will miss them and who is gonna teach me chorus next year? Huh? I love Mrs. King will all my heart you had to make her leave. You should be ashmed of yourselves. And, all thoose other teachers, well most of them taught me in elementry school. So how you cut the spending on technology and lots of stuff we don't need and relize that we can function without all that stuff! I say keep the teachers and dump the fancy stuff. This is Alice Hanson, I am 13, and I go to CLMS, and yeah I am pround that I shouted out.
Alice Hanson April 27, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Also you cut my gym teacher Ms. Sheehan, I love her too!


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