ansonia Teachers speak out
ANSONIA — The ongoing budgetary battle between the city and the school district pending in court has created unmanageable classrooms, required teachers to learn new grade curriculums and stressed several people out.
And the stress has already claimed two victims.
Matt Hough, president of the Ansonia Federation of Teachers, said a newly hired Middle School teacher quit for medical reasons just weeks after her first day on the job and a second teacher from the same school is out on medical leave.
Both he and other teachers said they fear that number will increase as the year wears on.
For more than 90 minutes, nearly 80 teachers, parents, students and Democratic candidates braved the chilly wind and dropping temperatures Thursday afternoon to hold an education rally in front of Ansonia High School.
Their key complaint was a Board of Aldermen vote in January to withhold $600,000 in education funding — money they say was illegally withdrawn from their budget.
The Aldermen provided an extra $600,000 to the school board to help get it through the 2017 state budget crisis. Eventually the school board received $1.8 million in state grant money while the city claims it was cut about $1 million in its state funding.
The Aldermen withdrew the $600,000, which the school said has meant eliminating eight teaching and one and a half administrative positions for the 2018-19 school year. The Board of Education sued the city; a summary judgment hearing is set for Nov. 13.
The Aldermen’s move also resulted in a State Board of Education investigation that’s still pending.
Mayor David Cassetti said the two sides could have resolved their differences before school started.
”I offered them a compromise,” he said. ”I’d give them $300,000 this year and $300,000 next year. They refused, so let’s let the court decide.”
Cassetti said the Board of Education’s budget has increased nearly $3 million in his three terms, from $28.9 million in 2014-15 to $31.8 million in 2018-19.
”Our residents just can’t afford to pay more taxes,” he said.
Educators said there’s more to a budget than the bottom line.
Like Bridgeport, New Haven, Naugatuck and many other school districts, Ansonia has been burdened with unfunded state educational mandates and soaring special education costs.
Hough told the crowd that Connecticut is one of four states that doesn’t figure the full special education costs into municipal educational funding.
Currently the Board of Education is spending $4.8 million sending special education students out-of-district because of the lack of programs here. Add that cost to the in-district special education students and the total costs of educating special education students is 30 percent of the current $31,860,483 budget, he said.
He said the increased class size because of fewer positions leads to teachers entering unfamiliar positions with not enough training to deal with unexpected behavioral problems.
“Teachers even at the elementary level have students swear at them, hit them, bite, kick and even punch them, all while trying to teach a lesson,” said Nicole Dlugas, who was switched to teaching sixth grade this year after spending 12 years as a third grade teacher.
She said she is “so fearful that I am not going to teach my students everything they require because I am so unfamiliar with my current position.”
She said there is a lack of text books “so everything we teach requires us to make copies, yet we are told on a daily basis to limit the number of copies we make. How are we supposed to educate the students without the necessary tools to do so?”
LIsa Delgrego, who teaches second grade at Mead School, is in her 21st year as a teacher.
”For the first month of the school year, I went home every day and I looked at my husband and I said: ’What am I doing? Why am I doing this?”
She said she has 26 second-graders whom she loves but “need shoes tied, don’t have a snack, not wearing a coat, getting into a fight with a friend, can’t get their parents on the phone ... 26 little kids who look at me everyday ... I’m not just a teacher. I’m a nurse, a therapist, a negotiator, I provide snacks... because if they can’t eat, they are not going to learn.”
Fighting back tears, she said conditions at the school are not “fair to them ... its not fair to my own kids when I go home and I’m stressed and I’m miserable..”