The following is the regular release penned by the Board of Education chairman, Bruce Likly. This was distributed to press on Monday, Feb. 10. On Monday evening, the BoE met with the Board of Finance for their first workshop to review the prospective school budget for the 2014-15 school year. GOOD Morning Wilton will have a full report on that tomorrow. But for now, read what Likly had to say about heading into budget season after adopting the superintendent’s budget.

By now you’ve heard the news that Dr. Kevin Smith has been named Wilton’s next superintendent of schools. Dr. Smith, who is currently superintendent of schools in Bethel, will replace our beloved Dr. Gary Richards, whose retirement will take effect on July 1.

I said back in September, when we began the process of identifying our next superintendent, that finding the right person is the biggest challenge any Board of Education will face. Now that the process is complete, I can tell you it was a thrilling experience, and I am honored to have played a role. We saw many highly qualified candidates, each of whom I am confident would have thrived in Wilton. But when we met Kevin Smith, the choice was clear.

Dr. Smith brings to Wilton a steadfast vision about 21st-century learning. He is passionate about education, has a deep belief that “anything is possible,” and shares our belief that Wilton can build upon our current successes to reach even higher levels. But most important–and this came through loud and clear with every one of the Bethel principals, administrators and teachers with whom we spoke–Dr. Smith always acts in the best interests of students.

Kevin is excited to be coming to Wilton, and is eager to begin meeting our teachers, administrators, parents, and students. However, just like here in Wilton, he is deeply engrossed right now in the Bethel budget process. Please be patient as we try and find opportunities to introduce Dr. Smith to the community.

On the topic of budgets, the Board voted to adopt an operating budget for the 2014-15 school year. If you have been following the process, you will recall that we have spent the past few months reviewing and revising the budget initially proposed by Dr. Richards and the administration. 

The budget adopted by the BOE includes a 4.52 percent increase in spending over current levels. The spending increases break down as follows:

  • Contractual obligations:                   1.78 percent impact to overall budget
  • Special Education obligations:         1.48 percent impact to overall budget
  • Security expenditures:                     0.32 percent impact to overall budget

These three categories of mandatory spending account for 3.58 percent of our 4.52 percent increase. This means that discretionary spending–technology, curriculum, new textbooks and athletics–will increase by .94 percent.

The budget we passed is very lean, but is able to accomplish a great deal by redeploying current resources. For example:

  • A new AP Computer Science course will be offered at Wilton High School, but will not require additional headcount;
  • The budget calls for four new FTEs at the high school, but costs are largely offset by enrollment-driven headcount reductions at Miller-Driscoll;
  • Middlebrook will add a math teacher, but the costs will be absorbed by a decrease in paraprofessional support; and
  • Cider Mill will undergo a reorganization of sorts, whereby each house-based instructional team will consist of classroom teachers, special education teachers, and reading teachers. (Currently special ed teachers and reading teachers are “shared.”) The costs of adding the necessary two special education teachers will be absorbed by converting two paraprofessional positions.

Our budget also maintains class sizes that fall within Board guidelines. Small class sizes are vital to productive learning, and something our community values greatly. The administration does an admirable job of balancing class sizes, but we do need to remain vigilant, as some of our classes and course sections are exceeding our upper guidelines.

The next step in the budget process is the “Board of Finance/Board of Education Workshop,” scheduled for Monday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the WHS Professional Library. This will be the BOF’s first chance to weigh-in on our proposed operating budget, and to ask questions about our spending plan. You will recall the BOF has recommended a budget increase of no more than 1.75 percent. While on the surface our 4.52 percent increase may appear excessive, I am confident that once our BOF colleagues have a chance to delve into our numbers, they will understand that our budget is very lean and responsible.

Finally, a reminder to our Miller-Driscoll parents that radon testing has been scheduled for February 19-21. Our other schools will be tested from March 5-7.  In addition, Dr. Richards will soon announce the hiring of an independent building science and hygiene firm to conduct a complete review of indoor air quality at Miller-Driscoll. All of these results will be shared with the community, once they are available.