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School Officials Further Clarify Hiring, Class Size Decisions

Published: April 12, 2019 at 07:00 am

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Are there overlapping responsibilities between Newtown’s Assistant School Superintendent and a proposed Director of Teaching and Learning?

Why should both of those positions be filled before the next school year starts?

In view of declining enrollment, why is the school district maintaining or increasing costly administrative staff?

And why is the district reducing kindergarten class size guidelines?

These key questions were among many posed to a panel of school officials leading up to the Legislative Council’s 9-3 vote to send a $78,104,410 district spending request to voters for consideration at referendum April 23.

During the council’s final meeting on the local town and school budgets April 3, school district Business Manager Ron Bienkowski and business office staff member Sonja Vadas were joined by Board of Education Chair Michelle Embree Ku and Vice Chair Rebekah Harriman-Stites.

The school officials sat with the council following public input from four residents, including Board of Finance member Steve Hinden, who urged the council to pass the town and school budget requests to voters with no adjustments.

But a more potent message was delivered by Deborah Lubin Pond, a Newtown resident and Hawley Elementary School educator who said she believed if the district budget was cut, it would mean larger class sizes come fall, which would reduce opportunities for more individualized instruction.

Ms Lubin Pond said she and her colleagues locally were experiencing much greater demands from students, especially in areas involving Social Emotional Learning (SEL), addressing behavioral issues, completing regular correspondence with parents, and preparing students to take state-mandated testing.

“We give the best of ourselves to them,” she said of Newtown teachers. “If we’re not having 15-18 class sizes... students can’t get individualized instruction — and when test scores suffer, we’re told [students are not receiving] enough individual attention.”

In closing, Ms Lubin Pond said if Newtown students are afforded the best educational foundation at young age, it carries through to rest of their lives, adding, “If that is what it means, I’ll pay those higher taxes.”

Read the full feature in this week's print edition of The Newtown Bee - on local newsstands or subscribe by calling 203-426-3141 or by clicking HERE.

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