Admin

Messages from the Superintendent

2020-2021 Superintendent's Budget Message (continued)

The first item that must be funded in the 2020-21 budget are the salaries and benefits of current union employees under the terms of their new collective bargaining contracts.  The projected increase in the cost of salaries and benefits is approximately $5.6 million, and this must be funded to maintain current staffing and services.

In addition, the recommended budget funds an enrollment growth appropriation to account for the 406 additional students expected in the 2020-21 school year, compared to the number of students upon which the FY 2019-20 budget was predicated. A per pupil increase was developed using just the direct per pupil allocation of funds under the student-based school budgets. It does not include an increase to central district accounts such as special education or transportation.

The expansion and enhancement of the English Language Learners program is consistent with the plan developed earlier this year to address the unanticipated increase in ELL students. The large influx of new ELLs was beyond the capacity of existing staff to handle, and required a mid-year special appropriation from the City. In light of the continued growth of the ELL population, the recommended budget funds some new positions that will allow us to continue to provide legally required services to these students.

Moreover, the recommended budget continues to support the development of the District’s Choice Programs, by increasing the Magnet School Supplements by $744,000, based on increased enrollment in these programs. For the first time, the Above the Bar Kendall School and the Montessori Primary program at Brookside will be receiving this supplement.  Enrollment increases in these programs necessitates the increase but the amount of the program supplement remains the same at $1,000 per student. This is a sign that the District’s Choice Programs are meeting the diverse needs and interests of our students.

Consistent with the City’s efforts toward a cleaner environment, the District’s Strategic Operating Plan also calls for transitioning to “clean” propane-fueled buses, and the recommended budget includes funds for this purpose. Moreover, the Transportation budget also includes funds to implement the Board approved healthy high school start time beginning with the 2020-21 school year, along with funding to transport Jefferson students to their temporary home on the Ponus campus while the Jefferson building undergoes a complete renovation.

In addition, the recommended budget funds the implementation of the Phase II recommendations of the Counseling Services Study Committee. This includes funding a position for clinical supervision of School Counselors, the implementation of Student Success Plans, and support for the implementation of Social Emotional Learning (SEL).  At the November 2019 Board Workshop, the Board heard from many of the District schools that are “early adopters” of SEL in Norwalk. To bring Social and Emotional Learning to scale in Norwalk will require additional resources, and the recommended budget begins that effort.

Meeting the needs of our students and their families requires that the District partner with the community to provide high-quality before and after school programs for our students.  The District recently established an economical partnership with the Carver Center for that purpose, and the recommended budget includes the District’s share for the 2020-21 school year.

The NPS Strategic Operating Plan calls for expanding our language offerings to include American Sign Language (ASL). The recommended budget includes funding to begin a pilot program in ASL. With an enhanced 3-year language requirement under the high school program of study, it is important that the District offer our students a variety of options to meet these more rigorous requirements.

And finally, to support our objective of closing the achievement gap, it is essential that the District continue to expand summer school Tier III intervention to grade 7. Mandatory Summer School is the District’s primary Tier III intervention for students reading significantly below grade level. The recommended budget includes additional funds to accomplish this objective.

The autonomy granted to School Governance Councils under Board Policy enables our schools to exercise greater latitude over how their school’s resources are allocated in relation to their improvement plan. Therefore, the FY 2020-21 budget process is a two-stage process. The first stage defines the overall level of resources that the District is requesting from the City for FY 2020-21, and differentiates the portion of the budget that is controlled by the District Office and the portion that is controlled by individual schools through a per student allocation. The second stage of the budget process begins in February when individual schools and their respective School Governance Councils determine the allocation of resources that best meets the needs of their students. 

This recommended FY 2020-21 “equity” budget moves the District forward by completing the strategies identified in the District’s Strategic Operating Plan. By supporting programs and plans to “raise the bar and close the gaps,” this budget enables Norwalk Public Schools to continue to be the most successful City school system in Connecticut. And finally, the recommended budget goes a long way toward achieving justice and equity in school funding between Norwalk Public Schools and our most comparable neighboring school districts.

Sincerely,   

 

Steven J. Adamowski, PhD.

Superintendent of Schools

January 3, 2020