Ridge Road Elementary PTA Co-President Cheri Gibson confronted Superintendent Robert Cronin at last night’s Board of Education (BOE) meeting, demanding to know if social workers, guidance counselors and special education teachers were prioritized on a list created for refilling recently vacant positions.
“The resources that help kids grow and feel safe, you’ve gotten rid of,” said Gibson of the decision to let go social workers, guidance counselors and special education teachers. “Taking away these sends the message that they're not important. Kids have to deal with things we didn’t have to deal with when we were kids. The constant cyberbullying and mean girls they have to deal with...it’s not easy being a kid in 2012.
“The staff cuts made will directly impact every child in North Haven in some way,” said Gibson.
Other parents in attendance voiced their concerns over the loss of what they saw as a support system for their children in school. One parent expressed that the counselors and social workers provided vital attention to issues that directly affect academic success and allow teachers to focus themselves wholly on academics.
Upon hearing a parent suggest that special education was being stuck at the bottom of the list, Cronin informed attendees that the special education program is currently under Focused Monitoring, a data-driven approach to monitoring that focuses on a small number of carefully chosen priorities that have demonstrated the greatest impact on improving results for students with disabilities, according to the State Board of Education.
“What that is saying,” explained Cronin, “is that we can’t keep doing things in the same way. Clearly there have been a number of years that was happening and we weren’t getting the results we needed. We have to look at what we’re doing and see if there’s anything we can do better.
“It really wasn’t arbitrary. It was looking at all those variables, class sizes, stipend positions, we cut a number of line items. There’s very little discretionary money in the budget, so it comes down to what we believe is the best use of those resources.”
Gibson reiterated that Cronin would be attending the Ridge Road PTA meeting on Thursday, March 15, and asked again if he would be able to provide the list of potential candidates to fill current, vacant positions.
“Yes, I said I would,” said Cronin, “but, my concern with Ridge Road is the tremendous amount of hostility and lack of trust. You don’t sound very happy that I am coming.”
Gibson assured Cronin that his attendance would be met with much anticipation and that the turnout would prove this.