Cuts and layoffs are being proposed in the Hartford School District, and parents and teachers let their voices be heard at a school board meeting.
The meeting started at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the M.D. Fox Elementary School and was held to discuss changes at Bulkeley High School-- from the redesign of the school, to the potential for about 14 jobs to be cut, along with the other challenges officials are facing this budget season.
"This year, the situation is much worse because we just have nowhere to go while facing a budget gap of $20 million," Hartford School Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez said at the meeting.
She said she is eliminating a third of her senior leadership team, "and I am then asking my team to make cuts within their departments."
The district said there’s a tight financial situation at the state and city levels, and they will do all they can to keep spending cuts away from the classroom.
A special education teacher told Eyewitness News that one month before he was set to receive tenure, he was told he’d be laid off. After four years in the district, he’s hoping that won’t be the case.
"This is really hard and I know it's hard for my daughter and hard for everyone all around,” said Bulkeley High School teacher Jeffrey Kasparek. “I have a family to feed and I just have one daughter. I know there are many more teachers out there with more mouths to feed."
Julie, an art teacher at the Hartford Public High School Nursing Academy, said she was told her job was on the line.
"I was told they were cutting in the district and that my position was one of the positions that would be cut," she said.
Many were under the impression that when cuts came, the entire art department would be one of the first things to go.
"I'm not sleeping at night, to tell you the truth, it worries me greatly," said Andrea Johnson, who is the president of Hartford Federation of Teachers.
After the meeting, Eyewitness News asked school leaders about the possibility of the art department being on the chopping block. Hartford School District Spokesperson Pedro Zayas said "No, the art program is absolutely not being threatened."
Zayas said arts will remain an integral part of the city's education, but warns that cuts could still come from that department, but does guarantee that it will not be obliterated.
In a statement earlier in the day, the school district said “We are heading into our 8th consecutive year of flat funding with increasing costs of supplies and services. There is a tight financial situation at the state and city levels. Those are our primary funders. Given the dwindling resources and bleak financial projections for city and state coffers, we are facing some very difficult decisions that will impact every school and every administrative office at Hartford Public Schools. However, we will continue to keep these spending cuts away from the classroom. Our pie may be smaller as we head into the new academic year, but we will continue to invest around 82 percent of our budget resources directly in our schools."
The superintendent will present the first draft of her budget proposal to the school board on April 5.
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