Clarification and Context
In response to Carol Walter’s March 18 letter [“We Speak Through the Chair”] stating that “the education budget is too high since it contains salary increases and maintains staffing levels despite a declining school population,” there needs to be some clarification and context.
Superintendent of Schools Maryann O’Donnell and the Board of Education (BOE) should be commended for making tough, expedient, and fiscally responsible decisions to address declining enrollment. In November 2018, the BOE unanimously voted to close Pierson and, with tremendous extra hours of work, Clinton Public Schools ensured a smooth transition to move 4th- and 5th grades to Joel and Eliot, respectively, by fall 2019. In addition, 25 teacher positions and one principal have been cut in just four years. As Superintendent O’Donnell explained, any staffing adjustments this year do not make sense without major disruption or adjustments to class sizes. Guidance and support staff are critical for next year post-COVID.
Regarding salary increases, contractually they rise each year. There are also increases due to advanced teacher certifications, which benefit Clinton students. There are some more sizable salary and pension increases on the town side.
We applaud the superintendents and BOE for making significant strides in improving the quality of Clinton education while also maintaining the second-lowest cost per pupil expenditure among 11 surrounding towns (again). The 2.1 percent education budget increase is reasonable. Clinton Public Schools need to be competitive to attract new families to our town and keep families from moving to other districts or private school. We encourage readers to watch the Feb. 23 town meeting video (available on town website clintopnct.org) to hear Superintendent O’Donnell’s answers to Town Council questions. And we encourage everyone who values education to voice support for the education budget at the Wednesday, April 7 virtual public hearing.
Heather Moore, President