Before the winter break, Laurel Thurman was a full-time violin instructor at Wish and M.D. Fox elementary schools. But when the Hartford schools reopen on Jan. 7, Thurman says she has no idea where she will be stationed or in what capacity.
Thurman is one of dozens of teachers and support staff facing different roles in the new year. At Wish School, the band and violin programs were cut this month. Educators in other schools are expecting similar cuts as they try to rearrange programs to meet smaller budgets.
The changes are a result of unexpected drops in enrollment and a new system of budgeting in which money is allocated on a per-student basis. The new "student-based budgeting," which began this year, is an effort to make funding more fair across schools.
District spokesmen have been quiet about the changes, and some school employees said they have not been informed about what's happening.
Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, estimated that about 50 positions will be shifted after the new year. As of this week, no layoffs have been announced, Johnson said.
But the impact will still be felt throughout the district as some teachers are moved to new schools, some classrooms are condensed and many positions are split among schools, Johnson said. The unified arts department, which includes music, physical education and library services, was hit the hardest, she said.
"Here it is December. It's an outrageous thing to have students removed from teachers and teachers removed from students," Johnson said. "That's never an easy thing."
Thurman had expressed concern about the changes at a recent board of education meeting, saying that many students in the band program had already paid to rent their instruments. At that meeting, Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski said any changes will be mainly a result of shrinking enrollment.
Part of the decrease is attributable to enrollment in magnet schools. About 500 Hartford students enrolled in Capitol Region Education Council magnet schools over the summer, Adamowski said. Wish School alone lost 60 students, he said.
Each Hartford school budget was estimated during the summer, but when student enrollment figures were finalized in October, some schools found that their budgets had shrunk with decreased enrollment. District spokeswoman Nancy Benben said the district will conduct a final audit of enrollment figures in January.
Benben wouldn't confirm how many positions would be changed, or in what manner.
"As expected, there will be budget realignments as a result of updated student enrollment, and we are finalizing details," Benben said in a prepared statement. "We expect there to be minimal adjustments."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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