Winsted to lay off 30 teachers

WINSTED — By a unanimous decision, the Board of Education decided to lay off up to 30 teachers, two custodian positions, 2.5 clerical positions and one nurse during a special meeting held on Thursday, June 2.There are currently 80 certified teachers employed in the school district. In recent years, the total has been as high as 100, but cuts have reduced that number each year.The vote came a few days after the town approved the proposed budget for fiscal 2011-12.The education budget for the next school year will come in at $18,600,000, which is $2,820,561 less than what the Board of Education recommended.The proposed amount is below the town’s most recent minimum budget requirement (MBR) of $20,049,466, an amount set by the state in late April.Members of the Board of Education insist that the school district will have a funding shortfall of $1,361,094 below the MBR.“It has become clear that a substantial amount of reductions have to be made in our budget,” Superintendent of Schools Blaise Salerno told board members at the special meeting. “The largest [budgetary] portion is school personnel.”Salerno was the one who made the recommendation for the layoffs to the board.Earlier in the day, Salerno met with many of the district’s staff members to discuss the potential layoffs.“None of them were surprised,” he said. “They all saw this coming. It would be inappropriate not to inform staff members who would be impacted.”Board Chairman Kathleen O’Brien recommended that the board vote for the layoffs.“He has to give [the employees] pink slips,” O’Brien said. “It’s a courtesy to give these people pink slips.”Board member Carol Palomba asked Salerno whether or not closing a school building would make a difference.“We are looking at such a huge funding gap that closing a building would not even begin to close that gap,” Salerno said. “Closing a building would probably save us $100,000, and that isn’t even a drop in the bucket. To get to the MBR, you will have to cut $1.3 million of the proposed budget that we sent to the Board of Selectman. It’s as simple as that.”Board member Joseph Hanecak made the motion for the cuts, while board member James DiVita seconded it.“I’m absolutely comfortable with this [motion] because we have to do something,” DiVita said. “We can always call these teachers back.”Before the vote was taken, DiVita asked Salerno if there was any other way to make up the budget shortfall.“I don’t see any,” Salerno said. “If I did, you know that this would be the last thing that I would do.”

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