Non-tenured Westport teachers spared from superintendent's proposed cuts
Updated 6:51 am, Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Westport public school teachers made the grade with Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon Monday night, as he proposed a series of line item cuts to the 2011-12 education budget that essentially keeps staffing levels unchanged for the new fiscal year.
To meet the $250,000 cut approved last week by the Representative Town Meeting to the Board of Education's proposed $98.3 million operating budget for next year, Landon instead recommended reductions that mostly affect non-personnel spending.
Pending approval of his proposed cuts by the school board, Landon said all non-tenured teachers would be rehired for the coming school year.
The move would likely defuse tension between Landon and the Westport teachers' union, which grew last March after the board approved Landon's recommendation not to renew non-tenured teachers' contracts for the coming year.
That decision was made in anticipation of large budget cuts, which ultimately did not materialize.
To reconcile the approved budget with the amount cut from requested spending, the superintendent recommended the Board of Education cut expenditures by $100,000 for employee health-care costs by withdrawing that amount from the board's $2.2 million health insurance reserve.
That outlay would pay for health-care costs not covered by education employees' health insurance plans.
Landon's proposed line item cuts for personnel would save approximately $35,000 through the elimination of one part-time position within the English for Speakers of Other Languages department.
No employees would be laid off, however, because the cut would be absorbed by the retirement of an ESOL staffer.
The district would also save $10,000 by reducing the number of summer days worked by guidance counselors and psychologists.
Using students instead of teachers, secretaries or paraprofessionals to lead freshman orientation tours at Staples High School would cut expenditures by another $15,000, Landon said.
The school district would cut textbook and library book expenditures by a total of $25,000, according to Landon's plan.
Grants for instructional equipment would reportedly save another $10,000.
School board members' discussion of the proposed line item cuts was brief, and there were no public comments on Landon's plan.
After the meeting, Board of Education Chairman Don O'Day told the Westport News he backed Landon's proposed reductions.
"It's as good as we could have expected," he said. "The goal was to make sure it didn't affect the kids in the classroom, and I really don't think it does."
The Board of Education will likely vote on Landon's proposed package of line item cuts at its next meeting May 23 at Staples High School.