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Budget Cuts Chip Away at Norwalk High

Principal Leonard Mecca says he felt like he had lied at a recent meeting with Norwalk High School parents. "I told parents of incoming ninth-graders that we do everything we can to make a large building a bit smaller." But Mecca says that will be difficult if Norwalk High loses a housemaster and other staff next year.

The 2011-12 Board of Education budget proposes cutting a housemaster, a security guard and a police officer at each city high school. These are not the first cuts to hit the high school in recent years. Over the past three years, Norwalk High has lost 10 teachers through attrition and a dean of students. "You can keep on saying it's fine, we'll get by this year. But what I'm seeing are signs of erosion," says Mecca. "I haven't created a new program in years. We are not moving forward; we are treading water."

The teachers were lost in technology, art, English, business and physical education. "It means that we have fewer electives to offer, fewer sections are available and more study halls," says Mecca. "With those tech teachers, I wanted to create graphic arts and video production courses and bring our school into 2011."

Norwalk High School has four housemasters. The school was built in 1971 with four physical sections or "houses:" A, B, D and E. Students are assigned guidance counselors within their house, and each house has a central area with a housemaster.

Mecca says the housemaster is in charge of discipline and attendance. They also evaluate and supervise teachers. In addition, each housemaster has schoolwide responsibilities, including planning graduation, managing custodial services, scheduling, registering students and administering CAPTs.

"It's like cutting a limb.  If one position is cut, three will have to do the job of four", says Mecca. With 1,500 students total at Norwalk High, each house would increase from 375 students to 500. One interim housemaster, who is a retired housemaster, is filling the position of Kevin Walston , who left earlier this year to become a high school principal in Bridgeport. If the housemaster position is cut, Mecca will not fill the interim position.

Norwalk High has six security guards who monitor halls, the cafeteria and security cameras. A police officer monitors people coming into and out of the school. "We do this so our campus can be safer," says Mecca. Without the police officer and a security guard, Mecca says he would have to put one security guard outside.

A couple of years ago, the school lost a "terrific" dean of students who was responsible for ninth and 10th grade discipline. "He counseled kids and connected with them. He had the proactive ability to not let kids fall through the cracks," says Mecca. He worries that without a housemaster as well as dean of students, some students will have fewer one-on-one relationships with adults. "It's very important for high school students to make connections with adults. It's going to be tougher to build those types of relationships."

Are you worried about cuts at the high schools? Have you noticed a difference in the last couple of years?

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