FREQUENTLY ASKED BUDGET QUESTIONS
Why do we not outsource our custodial and maintenance functions in all schools?
We experimented with the outsourcing of the cleaning of our buildings many years ago, but rejected it for several reasons:
- There was no sense of ownership on the part of the workers who were not a part of our school system. These workers, therefore, took no pride in their work. As a result, our buildings did not meet the high standards of cleanliness we had set for them.
- Without a permanent staff that could be held accountable for the property housed within our buildings, we had a high rate of theft of school district owned transportable properties.
- Since we dispensed with outsourcing of the cleaning of our buildings, we have far greater levels of cleanliness and increased security, providing us with buildings of which parents and teachers are proud, in which our children are safe, and where theft has diminished to the point where it can only be described as non-existent.
With regard to maintenance, we employ skilled tradespersons as part of our permanent staff. These individuals enable us to provide cost effective services since each of our skilled maintenance persons enjoys total familiarity with the basic building structure and equipment located within each of our schools, enabling them to diagnose problems in a fashion that reduces the costs that would be associated with outside contractors who would bill us for the additional time needed for diagnostic purposes. Moreover, with a permanent staff we are able to practice preventative maintenance in every area of building maintenance, thereby reducing the chance of equipment failure and/or the creation of unsafe situations for students and staff which has advantaged us by permitting us to secure insurance rates at relatively low rates.
Additionally, the school district has contractual obligations with two unions that represent our custodial employees and our maintenance employees, respectively. Were we to make an effort to outsource, we would be required to negotiate the impact of that change with both unions, resulting in anticipated unnecessary costs related to litigation and inevitable settlements, expenditures not desired in recognition of the diminution of services we believe would result.
Why do we not freeze employee salaries instead of giving them annual increases in pay?
We are bound by law to collectively bargain with our unionized employees. Within the framework of the collective bargaining laws of the State of Connecticut that govern the manner in which negotiations are conducted with teachers, building administrators, custodians, maintenance personnel, secretaries, paraprofessionals, and nurses, the final terms of agreements are most often required to be consistent with contractual settlements made in neighboring school systems as determined by mediators and arbitrators appointed by the State. Without a state legislative freeze on employee pay increases and/or the freezing of wages in our neighboring school systems, there exists no opportunity to freeze the wages of our employees in Westport under existing law.
How much does the school system contribute to funding the Connecticut Teachers' Retirement System for teachers and administrators who retire from the Westport Public Schools?
The Board of Education does not contribute any funds to the Teachers’ Retirement System to support payments to teachers or administrators who retire from the Westport Public Schools. Every teacher and administrator, from the Superintendent of Schools to the classroom teacher, is required by Law to contribute 7-1/4% of his/her annual salary to the State retirement fund.
Why two psychologists in every one of our elementary schools?
Westport has supported two psychologists in every elementary school so that all children have access to psychological services through classroom-based large group instruction and small group and individual counseling, including but not limited to, bereavement groups, groups for the children of divorced parents, individual emotionally distressed students and those who have been victims of bullying. If we were to reduce a psychologist, the psychologist would only be available to do assessments for special education placements and deliver IEP counseling to special education students, leaving the needs of other students to go unattended.
Why do we need school counselors at the middle school level?
School counselors in the middle school are aligned with a grade level and follow all students through the middle school years. They meet the emotional and academic needs of students. They deliver developmental counseling in classroom-based instruction, small group and individual counseling. They provide support to teachers to help them meet the unique needs of their students. In addition, they provide support and guidance to parents.
Why are our class size guidelines at 22 in Kindergarten and Grade 1 and 25 at the middle and high schools?
The Board of Education, working collaboratively with the Administration, after having reviewed the available research on this subject, has concluded that class sizes not exceeding 22 in Kindergarten and Grade 1 and 25 in Grades 6-12 best enable the academic, social and emotional needs of the students attending our schools to be best met.
If we were to reduce the numbers of courses and elective courses offered to students at Staples High School, would it not reduce the numbers of teachers employed?
No. It would not. Analyses of the increasing numbers of courses and electives offered and required of students at Staples over the past ten years has demonstrated that the only factors affecting the numbers of teachers required at Staples are enrollment of the student body and class size guidelines.
Why do we provide bussing for students attending the public schools of Westport and those who reside in Westport but attend private schools in Westport?
Connecticut General Statutes require all public schools to provide transportation for students to the schools in the communities in which they reside. In providing such transportation, school systems are required to make their decisions based upon the safety of students were the students to walk to school.
The Westport Board of Education has determined that the lack of sidewalks throughout the Town of Westport and the dangers of students walking on our highly trafficked main roads require providing transportation services for virtually all students who attend the public schools. Similarly, by state statute, the school system also is required to provide transportation to resident students who attend the only private school in Westport, i.e., Greens Farms Academy.
Has the school system engaged in any programs to reduce energy costs?
Among a few of the many district energy-saving initiatives have been the following:
- Participation in a consortium of school systems and municipal agencies for the purpose of purchasing electricity at below market rates.
- Use of computerized energy management systems to monitor all computers used in the school system to shut them down automatically when not in use, thereby reducing energy expenditures significantly.
- Installation of extraordinarily large amounts of energy- and cost-saving insulation in all school roof replacement projects.
- Conversion of all lighting in all elementary and middle schools to energy efficient and cost saving lighting systems.
- Conversion of all school gymnasium lighting to energy-efficient and cost saving lighting elements.
- Installation of occupancy sensors in classrooms to automatically shut off lighting and reduce energy costs when rooms are not occupied.
- Continued replacement of unit ventilators with energy efficient models that permit us to eliminate window air conditioners and reduce costs of electricity in all classrooms where they exist.
- On-going replacement of all motors and fans in all mechanical systems with high energy rated models resulting in reduced energy expenditures.
Why does the school system expend funds for computer technology and software year after year?
The school system makes use of computer technology for two essential purposes; namely: (1) managerial and (2) instructional. From a managerial perspective, technology is used to ensure that vital tasks are completed in an efficient manner that guarantees that the interests of the community and the local taxpayer are met in the most productive ways. With regard to instruction, we make use of technology to achieve our goal of having every student fully prepared with 21st century skills so that they will be able to compete with great success in the global marketplace throughout their post-high school lives.
For managerial purposes, computer technology is used for accounting, purchasing, and payroll matters; recruitment, selection and various other employment-related matters; communications to home, school and community; school building operations and maintenance; student attendance; teacher attendance; student scheduling, intermediate progress reports and report cards; special education record-keeping, including Individualized Educational Programs and student records; and student health and medical data.
Instructionally, the school system has developed a long-term strategic plan to ensure that all students have access to computerized equipment in school that enables their instructional opportunities to be maximized, whether it be in the classroom or the school library, and permits students and their parents to be actively involved with their teachers and support personnel from home for instructionally-related activities ranging from homework to teacher consultation to teacher/student/student group consultation on a 24/7 basis, if appropriate.
Funds are expended for the purchase of modern equipment to replace equipment that is no longer salvageable; to purchase new equipment where it is necessary to equip students with equipment and programs that are essential to their long term success; to upgrade equipment, software and wiring to make existing equipment more responsive to changing demands and new industry initiatives.
Technology is no longer a luxury in our schools; it is a necessity. It is essential that it remain current both for students and staff.
What is the purpose of "special area" teachers and how are the numbers of such personnel determined?
“Special area” teachers include teachers of art, computer science, the performing arts (including music, theatre and drama presentation skills education), world language and physical education.
These “special area” teachers are essential for maintaining our commitment to giving all our students opportunities to explore their interests in the many facets of those critical areas that are not narrowly defined as “academics.” These special area subjects are as important to our students as the academic areas, as they serve a vital role either in preparing our students to be valued contributing members of our society; enabling them to explore future career options; or, providing them with lifelong skills that will permit them to be more well-rounded citizens.
At the elementary level, the numbers of such personnel are determined by ratios that reflect the numbers of students and the numbers of meeting times and hours in which students are to be scheduled for these activities each week. At the middle and high school levels, the numbers of personnel are determined by the numbers of students and the numbers of periods in any week in which such instruction can be made available to these students.
How are the numbers of paraprofessionals in the schools determined?
There are two types of paraprofessionals working with children in the Westport Public Schools; namely, regular education paraprofessionals and special education paraprofessionals. For the most part, our special education paraprofessionals serve in a 1:1 capacity, that is, they are assigned to a single student for virtually every moment of the regular school day. The numbers of special education paraprofessionals employed are determined by the recommendations of legislated Planning and Placement Teams in each school and are based on the needs of our special education students. It is required by statute that one of these special education paraprofessionals be employed whenever deemed necessary by a Planning and Placement Team in each school.
Regular education paraprofessionals are employed at each of our elementary schools on the basis of the number of classroom sections at each grade level, K-4 and the need to provide supervision for students at lunch time or on the playground during midday recess. At the middle schools and the high school, paraprofessionals are employed either for security purposes or for assistance in such places as the school libraries or science laboratories.
Why do we have two assistant principals at each of our elementary schools; two at Coleytown Middle School, three at Bedford Middle School and four at Staples High School?
I. Administrative Organization, K – Grade 8
Prior to the 1999-2000 school year, before the number of elementary schools in Westport increased from 3 to 5, the fundamental principal/assistant principal/administrative organization at each of the schools had remained untouched for many years. During the period from 2000-2004, administrative reorganization occurred in Westport’s elementary schools, as well as at both of our middle schools. By the 2004-2005 school year, with the administrative reorganization completed, we had instituted a more powerful, more effective administrative model, with clearer lines of accountability for instructional leadership, special education, and the supervision and evaluation of staff. By October 1, 2008 our K-8 enrollment had increased by approximately 400 students. Nonetheless, the numbers of administrators remained virtually unchanged, when compared to October 2004. If the model that was in place in the 1999-2000 school year had been extended when the 5th elementary school opened in 2002-2003, we would have had one principal and one assistant principal at each school, 2.5 special education coordinators serving the five elementary schools, and 6 elementary resource teachers. However, to increase efficiency and accountability, we eliminated the special education coordinators and reduced the elementary resource teachers, many of whose responsibilities were assumed at each school by one additional assistant principal. At the middle schools, where the complexities of scheduling and adolescent behavioral needs are different and oftentimes more complex than at the elementary level, special education coordination became the prime responsibility of one additional assistant principal, replacing the part-time coordinators in each building; one assistant principal was continued in each of the schools for various student, administrative, and scheduling responsibilities; the various curriculum coordinators were consolidated into positions with curricular, supervisory and evaluative functions in the areas of mathematics and language arts; and, at Bedford Middle school, an additional assistant principal was added to compensate for the larger student enrollment and square footage in that facility. The ratio of assistant principals to students at Coleytown Middle School for 2008-09 is 1:255; at Bedford Middle School, it is 1:289.1
The comparisons of staffing can be seen graphically immediately below:
|A. Elementary Schools|
|1999-2000 Model (if used currently)||Present Model (2008-2009)|
|5.0 elementary principals||5.0 elementary principals|
|5.0 elementary assistant principals||10.0 elementary assistant principals|
|6.0 elem. curriculum res. teachers teacher||1.0 elem. math/literacy curric. res.|
|2.6 SPED coordinators||0.5 science coordinator|
|B. Middle Schools|
|1999-2000 Model (if used currently)||Present Model (2008-2009)|
|2.0 middle school principals||2.0 middle school principals|
|2.0 middle school asst principals||5.0 middle school asst principals
|2.0 curriculum coordination: science (0.5), social studies (0.5), mathematics (0.20), language arts (0.25)||1.0 language arts coordinator
1.0 mathematics coordinator
|2.0 SPED coordinators||0.5 science coordinator|
C. K-8 Administrator Structure Summary
Of interest to note: Although K-8 enrollment, and the size of our teaching and support staff, has increased substantially from the 1999-2000 school year to the 2008-09 school year, on a comparative basis the administrative structure, K-8, is smaller than it was in 1999-2000.
1999-2000: 26.6 FTE K-8 enrollment = 3557
2008-2009: 26.0 FTE K-8 enrollment = 3967
II. Administrative Organization, 9-12
Assistant principals serve at the high school level for four fundamental reasons:
- Safety and Security of Students and Staff
- Student Management Issues, Including Disciplinary Matters
During the 1998-1999 school year, Staples had one assistant principal and one dean for 1015 students, as well as various department chairs, an athletic director, coordinators, and administrative support personnel in the areas of guidance and special education. That structure was changed beginning with the start of school in the Fall of 2004. For the 2004-05 school year, with a student enrollment of 1441 in a building with 350,000 square feet of space, there was an administrative structure in place at Staples High School that had, in addition to the building principal, four assistant principals, directors of guidance and special education, the full-time equivalent of 2.5 department chairs, and a full-time athletic director. For the 2009-10 school year, the numbers of assistant principals proposed has not changed, but the student enrollment is projected to increase to 1795 and the square footage will have been expanded above that in the 2004-05 school year by 115,000 square feet. Graphically, the relationship between student enrollment at Staples, the numbers of administrators, and the ratios of administrators to students is shown below:
|Year||Enrollment||Administrators||Ratio of Administrators to Students|
1.0 Assistant Dean
1.0 Assistant Dean
4.0 Assistant Principal
4.0 Assistant Principal
In adopting the current administrative structure for Staples, the Board of Education anticipated the increased enrollment and elected to put in place in advance of the full expansion of enrollment an organizational plan that focused on increased accountability; namely:
- greater consistency in curriculum, instruction, and in the use of assessment data to enhance learning for all students;
- coordination of all special education programs and involvement in the development of §504, health, and Student Study Team-developed intervention plans at each grade level, 9-12; and,
- supervision and evaluation of teacher and support staff, whether through the Professional Development and Evaluation Plan (PDEP) process or through other accountability measures.
In their daily roles, the four assistant principals and the building principal:
- act together as a team to collaboratively work with each of the department chairs, directors and coordinators at Staples High School;
- individually, have sole responsibility for governing the operations of the departments of academic support, fine and performing arts, culinary arts, technical education, child development, library media and computer sciences, in which they supervise, evaluate and provide the means of professional growth to their own department members;
- work collaboratively and cooperatively with the department chairpersons of English, math, science, social studies, and world language, as well as with the directors of guidance, special education, and athletics to evaluate the quality of the entire teaching staff and to assist in the selection, supervision and support of the professionals in each of those departments.
The assistant principals at Staples have become ever more vital as enrollment has grown and as older staff members have retired. Our professional support and evaluation system was recently reviewed and improved last year. It is effective because it requires not only intense involvement with new teachers, but also observations of veteran staff to insure that skills are maintained and improved. The assistant principals are significant participants, along with the principal and the department chairs, in this rigorous, labor- intensive program that has resulted in real growth among established teachers, improvement for neophytes who needed extra attention, and the early culling of those who, regardless of initial promise, could not measure up to Westport standards. With regard to students, the assistant principals:
- serve as the leaders of each grade level team, including regular teachers, special education staff members, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses and paraprofessionals, in coordinating the §504 accommodation meetings for students with unique needs and leading the meetings of the Student Study Teams which are on the front line of intervention for struggling students;
- oversee the Connecticut Academic Proficiency Test (CAPT) and Advanced Placement (AP) testing programs;
- coordinate all club and extracurricular activities; and,
- provide a presence in large group gatherings, whether it be in the cafeteria during lunch or at special events, after school interscholastic events, concerts, dramatic and musical performances, and other student activities.
Based upon the duties and responsibilities ascribed to the assistant principal function in Westport dating back to the 1980s and beyond, the expanding enrollment we have experienced at Staples over the past several years, the enormous increase in the physical size of the school, mandates imposed upon Staples by federal and state legislation and State Department of Education regulations, four assistant principals are vital to the maintenance of current programs and services and to the continued success of Staples High School.
How do we compare with other high performing school districts in the State-defined District Reference Group A in terms of per pupil expenditures? How do we compare to other Towns in our reference group with regard to our true value tax rates?
The following data is based upon the latest figures on per pupil spending (NCEP) as published by the Connecticut State Department of Education:
|Town||NCEP 06-07||NCEP State Rank||07 Adjusted Equalized Grand List Rank|
It is of interest to note that while the Westport Public Schools are ranked 18th in the State in terms of per pupil expenditures, our true value tax rate, a measure of a Town’s ability to pay, ranks Westport as being 4th in wealth.
Why don't school employees share more of the costs of health and medical insurance with the Board of Education?
The matter of the sharing of the costs of health and medical insurance between our employees and the Board of Education is a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. Our employees do contribute to the cost of health and medical insurance in a range of 13- 15% of the cost of this insurance, dependent upon the bargaining unit to which employees belong. The Board of Education contributes the balance of 85-88%. Efforts are made at the time of every contract renewal period to increase the percentage of employee contributions. However, we must deal with the realities of collective bargaining in attempting to achieve this goal.
Hard and persistent bargaining by the Board of Education with all our employee groups has, in addition to increasing employee contributions for health and medical insurance, resulted in a revision to our drug formulary program that has significantly reduced the costs to the school system associated with prescription drugs. This new formulary encourages and requires employees to accept, and their physicians to write, prescriptions that are of a generic nature, resulting in much lower costs to the school system’s self- insured health and medical insurance program.