BRISTOL - The Board of Education has officially authorized Superintendent Ellen Solek to notify the school district’s nontenured educators that their positions may not be renewed for next year.
The board had discussed the idea at a special meeting last week, as a way of coping with budgetary constraints, but postponed the actual vote until this week.
The authorization passed 7-1, with only Jennifer Dube voting against. Board member Jeff Caggiano, who had urged the board to postpone until after the April 3 school budget presentation to the Board of Finance, was not present for the vote.
The board has asked the city for a 7.04 percent increase in the 2017-18 school budget, however if the increase is less than that school officials expect that some layoffs may be necessary.
Chairman Chris Wilson said the board is required by state statute to inform teachers by May 1 of the possibility that they may not be rehired next year. However, he stressed that he wants to avoid any layoffs if possible, calling it a “worst case scenario.”
Wilson noted that many school systems send out this same type of letter every year but that it had not been done in Bristol since 2012.
Solek has said that the letter will be sent to 104 teachers and five administrators.
It doesn’t mean that everyone who gets the letter will be let go, Wilson said. “It’s just giving the administration the flexibility to determine over the summer if any of those positions will be eliminated.”
The 2017-18 school budget is “very much in flux this year,” he said, due to the state’s budgetary shortfalls, which means “we don’t know what resources the city is going to get and we don’t know when the city will set its budget.”
Wilson said usually the City Council and Board of Finance set the new budget around the end of May, but by the City Charter they can extend that process into June.
Board member David Scott said he knew the notifications were necessary but he still found it a difficult decision.
The board should consider making this an annual practice, because of continued budget uncertainty, rather than keeping the teachers guessing every year, Scott said.
Vice Chairwoman Karen Vibert said she agreed, after discussing it with fellow board member Tina Taylor who has taught in districts where this was an annual practice.
“She said she would get the letter and be like ‘oh yeah, it’s that time of year, so it does take away the anxiety and nervousness for nontenured teachers,” Vibert said.
“That really was the intent this year to make it our practice,” Wilson said. “I’ve talked to both administrators and teachers and they are certainly amenable to making this a standard practice.”
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.