HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — School districts across Connecticut face challenges balancing the budget and the difficult decisions in cutting positions.
Gary Highsmith, the superintendent of Hamden Public Schools, initially said they were looking at potentially cutting 35 positions.
The approved budget will result in eliminating 17 positions, including teachers, security guards, and a psychologist, ahead of the 2023-24 school year, Mayor Lauren Garrett confirmed.
The district was forced to make some tough decisions with a $6 million budget shortfall, mainly due to the end of COVID-19 pandemic funding and a higher bus contract.
“I think you’re doing these kids a great disservice,” Kathy Miranda, whose grandson attends Hamden Middle School, said.
Garrett said the town was able to help reduce the shortfall from the initial $9 million to $6 million through a fund balance that came from selling Wintergreen School last year, but she and the council agreed it’s a one-time deal.
“It’s $3 million, and we don’t want to have them come back every year with this emergency,” Garrett told News 8. “We want them to do some work to solve this fiscal crisis.”
The mayor said most of the positions being cut do not require layoffs because of staff leaving the district or retiring. Parents told News 8 that cutting teaching positions after learning loss amid the pandemic doesn’t add up.
“I don’t think that’s a really good idea,” Miranda said. “I think we need our teachers. We should have less kids per classroom.”
Despite enrollment being up, Garrett said the classroom ratio wouldn’t impact learning because contracts limit the number of students allowed per teacher. Another concern among parents is the district is going in the wrong direction with security.
“We do need, definitely need security guards in our schools,” Miranda said. “I think they should increase that.”
“The school has been a lot more calm,” Garrett said. ” There have been far fewer fights, and we are in a much better place after this year compared to the previous year. I’m confident that this budget will certainly get them through the year.”
News 8 reached out to Highsmith for comment but did not hear back.