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How New Canaan Schools Achieved Cost Savings

New Canaan’s teachers say they agreed to money-saving concessions in their most recent contract because it was in the best interest of the children they teach. They add that it helped that the teachers and Board of Education have a good relationship.

“It’s never an argument with us,” said Vivian Birdsall, president of the New Canaan Education Association , which represents more than 400 teachers. “New Canaan believes in the educational process. We didn’t get anywhere without working with each other.”

While the $73.1 million outlay for schools in the proposed $121 million overall town budget includes no concessions, the teachers and school board did negotiate givebacks in the contract that went into effect in the 2010-11 school year.

Teachers agreed to go without graduated salary in the three-year pact. Michael Lagas, director of school finances and operations, said not having those steps saved about $770,000. Steps will be included in the 2011-12 schools spending plan. The teachers union also agreed not to take reimbursements for travel to educational conferences, as did members of the New Canaan Administrators Association, which represents administrators.

“I think it’s more trying to be frugal in tight times,” Lagas said. “New Canaan Public Schools and the entire country are facing difficult times.”

Teachers are also monitoring students in hallways, during lunch periods and on playground breaks, Birdsall said, work that was previously done by teachers’ aides. Lagas said the district has decreased the number of teachers’ aides by about 23 full-time equivalents over the past three years.

“It’s a difficult choice to make,” Birdsall said, noting that teachers would like to use that time to prepare for classes or do grading. “We’ll continue to do it because we don’t have the non-academic aides anymore.”

Birdsall said she understands the challenges Superintendent of Schools David Abbey and the Board of Education face in making a budget that maintains the quality of education in New Canaan. “These are good people,” she said.

Do you think New Canaan teachers should have given up more to help the school district? Let us know by leaving a comment below. You can also visit our Facebook Page.

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