2019-20 Operating Budget Request

2019-20 Operating Budget Request
Posted on 01/09/2019

Continued from page one: 

To raise the bar for all students, we know that providing students with additional instructional time is one of the most important levers we possess.  Norwalk had the shortest elementary school day in Fairfield County, and through negotiations with the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, we implemented a two-year phase-in plan to add 30 minutes to the elementary school day. FY 2019-20 will be the second and final year of that phase-in.  This plan requires the addition of a fourth “Specials” teacher at each elementary school to provide daily planning time for teachers. Therefore, the recommended budget proposes that we add six “Specials” positions at the six elementary schools where we did not already implement this change during FY 2018-19.

In addition, the recommended budget funds the second and final year of a phase-in program to begin band instrument lessons in 4th grade, rather than the prior District practice of waiting until 6th grade. This program was implemented during the 2018-19 school year at six elementary schools, and the recommended budget continues this implementation at the remaining six schools. We believe that by starting instrument instruction earlier, we will be able to reduce the number of “pull outs” which occur at the middle school level and lessen the impact on academic instruction, while increasing opportunity for more students to participate in band.  Currently, gtrings instrument lessons begin in 3rd grade.

The Strategic Operating Plan calls for the District to move to a 26-credit graduation requirement in accordance with a State mandate and to be competitive with the best high schools in Connecticut. Moreover, an increase in the breadth and depth of the high school program of study will raise the District’s SAT scores. Therefore, the recommended budget includes funding for five additional high school teachers to complete the move to a 26-credit graduation requirement.

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 6, and raise the threshold criteria for required participation. The recommended budget includes additional funds to accomplish this objective.

The Strategic Operating Plan also calls for the implementation of the District’s first Montessori primary level (ages 3-5) classroom, beginning in 2019-20, as an additional District Choice Program. The recommended 2019-20 budget includes funding to initiate such a classroom at Brookside School.

Moreover, the recommended budget continues to support the development of the District’s Choice Programs by increasing the Magnet School Supplements by $416,000, based on increased enrollment in these programs. For the first time, the Tracey Character Education School and BMHS Marine Sciences Pathway will receive 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.

The recommended budget also embraces the District’s move to healthier high school start times, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The budget contains a placeholder appropriation of funds for potential increased transportation costs associated with this change. Since the Start Time Study Committee is still doing its work, the final impact of this change on transportation costs is not yet known.

And finally, FY 2019-20 represents a transition year for the District’s Office of Specialized Learning and Student Support Services. Over the past three years, through the funding provided by the SPED Development Fund, the District has made excellent progress in reversing the District’s over-reliance on out-placements and 1:1 aides, and has developed in-house capacity to serve our special needs students. With the phase-out of the SPED Development Fund, for FY 2019-20 the District has absorbed the costs associated with operating these new in-house programs within its regular operating budget.

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 2019-20 budget process will continue to be a two-stage process. The first stage defines the overall level of resources that the District will request from the City for FY 2019-20, and differentiates the portion of the budget that will be controlled by the District Office and the portion that will be controlled by individual schools through a per student allocation. The second stage of the budget process will begin in late January/February, when individual schools and their respective School Governance Councils will determine the allocation of resources that best meets the needs of their students. 

In conclusion, the requested FY 2019-20 budget moves the District forward by implementing 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 progress toward its goal to become The Most Successful City School System in Connecticut.


Steven J. Adamowski, PhD