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Norwalk Schools Seek $4M in Budget Cuts

Norwalk Superintendent Susan Marks told her school principals that $4 million needs to be cut from next year's school budget and outlined a series of proposed cuts for them.  Possible cuts include housemasters, assistant principals and elementary school aides.  The actual budget will not be made public until next week.

Norwalk High School Principal Leonard Mecca attended the Wednesday meeting and wrote an email to his staff, calling the cuts "pretty devastating stuff." Among the proposed cuts at Norwalk High are one housemaster, a security guard, the School to Career Program, the police officer that monitors outdoor activities daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., $20,000 from the band transportation budget, and co-op athletic programs in hockey and swimming.

At the principals' meeting, Marks explained that maintaining the current level of staffing and programs would require a 6 percent increase over the current $150 million budget. Given the economy, Marks plans to present a budget with a 3.5 percent increase to the board, which means the district would need to cut $4 million.

On Thursday, The Hour also identified potential cuts, including two elementary assistant principals, two middle school assistant principals and first-grade aides.

In an interview after receiving news of the media reports and Mecca's email, Marks said the protocol is for the Board of Education to receive the budget before it goes to the public. "I wanted to give my principals the heads up,"  she said surprised that information had already been widely shared.  She said the BOE will receive the budget next week at which time she can discuss the scope of proposed cuts in detail.

"This budget affects the entire district. I tried to be as equitable as I could. The cuts go across administration, teachers, support personnel, central office and programs. These are not fake reductions," Marks said.

"I don't like this budget. In fact, I'm calling it my 'non-recommended' budget," she said, referring to the fact that the superintendent usually presents a recommended budget to the school board. "It will hurt kids, but there is a financial reality."

Marks said she is also looking for ways to get more money for next year. On Wednesday, she instituted a spending freeze and plans to push savings forward to next year's budget.

Early next month, the superintendent will present the draft budget to the school board. It will be reviewed at public workshops before the board votes and moves it to the city.

What do you think of the proposed spending cuts? Are there any better ideas?

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