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Update: Superintendent Encourages Residents to Attend North Branford Public Hearing on Budget

There will be a public hearing on the Town of North Branford and Board of Education's budgets, which includes a plan for full-day kindergarten.

Updated: April 2, 2012; 4 p.m.

Superintendent Scott Schoonmaker shared the following message, inviting all residents to the on Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. at the cafeteria.

"This hearing is the only opportunity for the public to address the Town Council regarding the proposed budgets. In addition to Tuesday, two additional budget workshops will be held in the Town Council Chambers on both Wednesday and Thursday, April 4 and 5, also at 7 p.m. All residents are encouraged to attend all three meetings.

We would also like to inform you that the 2012-2013 Board of Education Budget Request Detail and Summary are available on the district website for your review. Please take a moment to view the two educational videos added to the district's homepage banner at
northbranfordschools.org.

The Board of Education's budget information is also attached as a PDF.

Original Story: March 29, 2012

At the , both the Board of Education and Town Manager presented proposed budgets for the 2012-13 fiscal year for the and the , respectively.

Don Winnicki, the school district’s business manager, and Superintendent Scott Schoonmaker presented the BOE’s budget, which included a proposal for full-day kindergarten at .

A Look at the Numbers

The BOE requested a 4.26 percent increase, which is a zero-growth budget. The BOE is carrying over $237,307 of the $474,614 Jobs Bill received in 2011-12 due to various savings in the 2011-12 year.

Winnicki reported this is the first year he can remember that healthcare costs will decrease. Also, all retirees will be replaced with first-year master’s positions for an additional savings with the exception of a reading consultant at JHS, which requires a sixth-year step 12 education.

See the attached PDF for the full BOE budget presentation.

Why Full-Day Kindergarten?

The state is gearing up to adopt the Common Core initiative, which will be in place in 2014.

“We’re ramping up now for the rigor of change that will affect us in two years and with the level of things they are expected to know, we won’t be able to do in a half-day setting,” said Schoonmaker. “The standards and rigor will only increase. This will give us a good jumpstart to prepare for the 2014 implementation.”

, principal of JHS, is a strong advocate for full-day kindergarten, stressing that it not only benefits students academically, but socially as well. Both Parkhurst and Schoonmaker noted that kindergarteners currently do not have recess, toys in the classroom or other time to be social. Parkhurst said many times, the students even are working while having their snack.

“The social aspect, and some of the academic aspects, are being scrunched because of time constraints,” said Parkhurst. “We don’t even have the opportunity to read to the children every single day. It’s a race in kindergarten and how the teachers do what they do in 2 ½ hours, really two because they have a half-hour special every day, is amazing.”

Parkhurst is also familiar with the increasing demands that lie ahead with Common Core.

“We want to send kids into 1st grade with the skills they need and meeting the standards they are supposed to,” said Parkhurst.

How Can We Afford It?

Schoonmaker explained that transitioning to all-day kindergarten will not add costs to the budget, but rather reallocate costs. There are currently four sessions of kindergarten with an AM and PM section of each session.

The plan is to move to six sessions of full-day instruction. In order to accommodate six session of full-day kindergarten, one 1st-grade teacher and one 2nd-grade teacher would be transferred to a kindergarten class.

With 99 students currently enrolled and 11 enrollments possibly coming in, enrollment numbers are down, not only in kindergarten but throughout the system as projected enrollment for 2012-13 is 2117 with this year’s enrollment at 2177.

“In the past, full-day kindergarten was not listed on our proposal because of the pricetag, but with decreased enrollment and going from eight to six sections, we have now the opportunity,” said Schoonmaker.

He reported that, with 110 enrolled, the kindergarten classes would have approximately 18 students per class, which is still “normal, optimal class sizes,” according to Schoonmaker. The change would add about three students per class at the 1st- and 2nd-grade levels, which is still at a “level of comfort.”

Classrooms would also be shifted so the kindergarten classes are grouped together. Schoonmaker also noted that the school also can make use of the new Family Resource Center building should the need arise in the future.

What’s Next?

There will be a public hearing on the town's and Board of Education’s budget on Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. at the North Branford Intermediate School cafeteria. See the attached PDF, which is the letter sent to parents for more information.

“We’re preparing a video,” said Schoonmaker. “We want taxpayers to have a chance to see our presentation. This is their first opportunity to see our budget.”

After the public hearing, the Town Council will vote on the budget. From there, the next step is the in which the town can vote to approve or not approve the budget if the required 15 percent of voters head to the polls. Once the referendum is complete, the BOE will have its final budget number.

“Once we get the number, we’ll see what we have to work with and where we go from there,” said Schoonmaker.

More information on the town budget to follow.

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Jenn McCulloch April 01, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Will you be at the public hearing? Where do you stand on full-day kindergarten?
Doreen Currie April 02, 2012 at 01:17 PM
the meeting location has changed, it will now be at North Branford Intermediate School in the cafeteria. I am fully supportive of us finally getting full day kindergarten, it will ease a lot of stress on the students and the teachers. I taught full day kindergarten in Scotland and Texas, and when I moved to Connecticut in 1996 I was shocked and dismayed that my children only had half day kindergarten. I urge the council to go visit the school and take a look at the curriculum, if they have not had a child in kindergarten for a while they may not be aware of how much students are expected to learn before they start first grade, it's staggering.
Jenn McCulloch April 02, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Thanks! I just updated the article to reflect the change of venue.
Felice Raucci April 03, 2012 at 10:38 AM
I will be at the meeting. Both in support of full day kindergarten and support for the NBHS drama club. This is the first year my daughter got involved and after the outstanding performance of Oklahoma on Saturday night, the students were informed that the drama department is slated to be cut.
Lori F. April 03, 2012 at 11:19 AM
I couldn't believe it when I heard that they want to cut the drama department. My son has been doing plays since 8th grade. Why is it that the arts are always the first to be cut. This town does everything for sports, why don't they make changes to their programs? It is not like this town has really high ranking teams that are always in the news such as Hamden, West Haven, Norte Dame, Xavier etc. Maybe North Branford should start charging parents fees for them to participate in sports like other schools in the area do. The arts programs deserve to have a large amount of money budgeted to them because not every kid is into sports.
Doreen Currie April 03, 2012 at 01:45 PM
What scares me is the e-mail I got from a friend saying that they may end up cutting AP classes. The Advance Placement classes are college level courses and they can increase the students chances of getting into the college of their choice. My daughter plans to study abroad and she needs 3 AP classes for admission, if they cut that she will be left short one AP and her dreams will be squashed, and I'm sure she would not be the only one whose choices would now be limited.
Beverage Guy April 03, 2012 at 08:03 PM
One thing everyone has to keep in mind. The schools have been doing the same thing since I was attending many years ago. They cut the things that are going to get the most attention and the most vocal parents to speak out against the cuts. Then, once the schools get the money they want, they DO NOT have to spend it how it was budgeted and DO NOT have to answer to the taxpayer as to how they choose to spend it. The schools throughout the state have all been using the same 'game book' for at least 40 years. Also, can someone please explain the math reasoning in this line of the article as I must be misunderstanding something. 'The BOE requested a 4.26 percent increase, which is a zero-growth budget.' How is a 4.26% INCREASE zero growth? Makes no sense to me. Also, with enrollment down, health costs down, and 4.26% more money, why do they have to cut Drama, to annoy the parents into giving them more than in the current budget. As I see it, the only thing being added is full day kindergarten, which is needed to be equal.
Doreen Currie April 03, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I would think if they were playing with that rule book they would have merely threatened to cut athletics, in this town it would have started a riot!
Beverage Guy April 03, 2012 at 09:52 PM
I am fairly certain they will in the near future. That was the main thing they hit where I grew up. That town is currently pay-to-play so they can't keep doing that.
Beverage Guy April 04, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Doreen, I couldn't help but think about your comment and chuckle tonight at the meeting when cutting the school sports budget came up.

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