To the Editor:
At the Annual Town Meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3 at the Wilton High School Clune Center, next year’s budget proposals for the town and the schools will be presented. The presentations will be followed by the opportunity to vote — either after the meeting or on Saturday, May 7 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The results will determine funding levels for next year. Every vote counts.
The Wilton Public Schools budget proposal for 2022-23 represents a 2.21% increase over last year’s budget. Some highlights that the budget includes:
- Keeps elementary class sizes at the lower end of the planning range and maintains the current level of academic intervention staffing to support students. Smaller class sizes, reading and math interventionists, and instructional coaches address the learning gaps caused by COVID. The “accelerated learning” model adopted this year has yielded positive results so far in addressing COVID gaps and also in increasing the timely use of data to provide targeted, flexible support for students. (Important note: 45 full-time equivalents (FTE) of the staffing that support smaller class sizes and academic intervention are provided by federal COVID grants — ARP and ESSER funds — which are not part of the operating budget.)
- Continues district math improvement plans. In addition to the accelerated learning model, existing math interventionists, and continuing instructional coaching, this includes extending the recently revised Middlebrook math course sequence into the high school with two courses: Algebra I—Geometry Accelerated and Geometry—Algebra II Accelerated.
- Through curriculum writing and textbook funds, expands course options at WHS to include Marine Biology, African American and Latino Studies, the next level of American Sign Language and Introduction to Exercise Science and Sports Medicine.
- Continues attention to the social, emotional, and mental health needs — which have increased or been exacerbated by COVID — through current levels of support staffing (counselors, social workers, psychologists), programs to build self-awareness and teach students strategies to support mental health, and age-appropriate mental health screening tools. A Wellness Seminar elective class will be added at WHS. (Note again, 1.0 FTE Social Worker comes from COVID-grants — ARP and ESSER funds — which are not part of the operating budget.)
- Supports students with special needs by fully implementing all individualized educational plans (IEPs) and continuing the pre-school, Genesis, and Community Steps programs.
- Implements the planned yearly technology replacement and upgrade schedule — this year included in the operating budget rather than being leased.
- Meets all contractual salary and benefit requirements for teachers, administrators, custodians, and office and paraprofessional staff. Salary and benefits account for over 79% of the total budget.
- There have been discussions about renovations needed at MB and WHS. Many of these items (lighting, flooring, univentilators, etc.) are bondable and will be addressed in the town’s plan for future years. The WHS elevator that needs immediate repair will be funded from the Board of Finance’s discretionary reserve funds ($203,000 approved by the BOF).
The proposed school budget maintains the current level of services that our students need and deserve. Please protect that investment by voting in favor of the 2022-23 budget proposal. Your vote matters!
Chair, Wilton Board of Education