NORWALK, Conn. – Superintendent Susan Marks has her work cut out for her with $10 million to cut out of Norwalk's school budget for next year and that is the reason a meeting originally planned for Tuesday night did not happen, according to a Norwalk middle school principal.
"She was not ready, and there was no sense in getting people together," Lynne Moore, principal of West Rocks Middle School, said of the special budget workshop that did not happen.
Moore and Jack Chiaramonte, chairman of the Board of Education, said the meeting was not canceled because it hadn't been posted. Board members announced their intention to have the workshop during a regularly scheduled meeting last week, but it was never posted on the city's website.
The meeting was not convened in an effort to avoid "chaos," Chiaramonte said.
"We're just trying to make sure that when we say something, it's something the board has discussed," he said. "In the past we have given list of things to cut from different people and it all goes out there. What happens is chaos. It's wasted energy for nothing."
As an example, Chiaramonte said he recently got a phone call from a Norwalk High School journalist who asked about a plan to move Briggs High School there. "I said to her, 'Sweetheart, we never even discussed that.' That was something somebody said, but we never discussed it and yet it was out there," he said.
Chiaramonte said he wants to present possible cuts in a "proper, professional manner" and "do a public workshop where everybody can have their say and everybody knows where we're coming from and how we arrived at those numbers. I want it to be completely open, and I want people to see it. But I do not want to send the wrong message by having a list of cuts that maybe one board member is thinking of and maybe nobody else is thinking of it. All that's going to do is create anger or angst."
When the workshop is held, he hopes parents heed his plea to be positive. "Please don't come and tell us, 'Don't cut this' and 'Don't cut that,'" he said. "We don't want to cut anything. We're board members, we're parents as well. ... If you're going to come forward, please give us a solution, maybe something out of the box."
Rumors swirl, and he'd like to dispel them. "We haven't discussed any closing of any schools," he said. "I personally think closing a school down is kind of late (in the year). It would require more research and stuff."
Marks has to come up with more than $10 million in cuts, Moore said, because she must give the board options. "It really is a superintendent's job along with her Cabinet to come up with a list," she said.
By law, the board must have the budget reconciled by June 30. The board is ahead of where it was last year, Chiaramonte said, when cuts were finalized at the last possible moment.
Yet Moore said they won't be announced soon enough. "What's so awful about it is that school ends on the 15th of June and that will be the last day for teachers" Moore said. "Most likely teachers are going to leave here, and other staff, and they are not going to know the status of their position. It's very unfortunate."