A Letter To The BOE: The Faces Behind 18.5 FTE Are Not Up For Debate

Preface: According to the BOE’s mission statement, their role as elected representatives is to “prepare our students to meet the rigors and challenges beyond high school, while supporting and enabling individuals to maximize all learning opportunities.”


opinion of: Fiona Samuelson


The proposed ‘23-’24 ELPS budget cuts over 18 positions of full-time equivalence (FTE); firing the hearts and connective tissue of ELPS will cost our district its edge. Losing those staff members will cause the quality of education provided to inarguably plummet as remaining teachers become overburdened by the absence of their coworkers. On top of post-pandemic exhaustion and a growing teacher shortage, this additional burden could send many educators to other districts where they will be better supported, leaving students with less learning opportunities.

If the Board of Education (BOE) passes this detrimental budget, it will further distance this group of representatives from their mission to support learning in ELPS.

These are not just numbers. The faces behind these proposed figures dedicate their lives to supporting students. When teachers are given less resources and expected to fulfill more responsibilities in the absence of 18.5 full-time positions across the district, as intended in next year’s budget, teachers and the quality of education they are able
to provide will deteriorate, and ELPS will begin, if not continue, to decay.

“The loss of 18 teachers would disrupt 18 of the wide-reaching circles of mentorship each teacher provides. Teachers don’t teach for prestige or praise; they do it humbly and often without thanks, which is something that inspires me still. The absolute bare minimum students and the BOE can do in return is to protect their teachers when situations like this arise,” Noelle Avena, class of 2022 alum said. Ms. Avena credits much of her success at Bryn Mawr College to the support she was shown and the relationships she formed throughout her time as an ELPS student that helped her prepare for higher education.

Take the budget’s loss of the heart of the ELHS library, assistant librarians Christine Maxfield and Janice Dargel. Not only will students lose the library as a resource, students will lose their support systems.

Ms. Maxfield is one of the kindest people I have ever met. She is more than a number on Superintendent Newton’s proposed budget. She makes the library a comforting space with her unwavering positivity. Ms. Maxfield has been the beating heart of the library for the past 15 years, creating continuity through three librarians and a pandemic.

With the proposed budget, all library assistants across the district will be cut, leaving students with limited accessibility the as an educational resource. Instead, it will only act to corral students whose class is without a
teacher that period. Current and future ELHS students deserve an accessible library; they deserve supportive
staff beyond their academic teachers, who, like Ms. Maxfield and countless other ELPS educators, fight to help students outside of the classroom. Without library assistants, the lifeline of connection at ELHS will be lost. Students will lose the opportunity to freely access the library, a time where many students discover their love of reading, and
they’ll also lose access to the wealth of knowledge and support each library assistant provides. At ELHS, Ms. Maxfield and Ms. Dargel run weekly raffles to promote reading, offer a space for clubs to meet, and use their
resources to make students aware of countless educational opportunities like scholarships and summer programs students otherwise wouldn’t be aware of.

Underpaying educators will drive them away. Losing educators, who power the standardized measures of excellence EL advertises itself as excelling in, means student performances will inevitably decline also. Less and less families will seek out property in EL to send their kids to ELPS.

The margin of education quality between EL and surrounding towns is narrowing as a result of underfunding within our district. EL’s education quality drives its property value, so once property values decline, there is no going back; there is no hope for increasing future ELPS funding. Lower property values means lower taxes, inherently feeding a cycle of less and less tax funding towards ELPS. A lower yearly budget will hold students and schools back from success.

EL has asked teachers to do more with less for years. While other districts are starting to recognize this work and pay teachers appropriately, EL is not. Districts like Norwich, Stonington, and New Haven are starting to balance teacher pay with four to 15 percent raises and higher. Not EL, where, according to the Connecticut Education Association, most teachers at the max step earned only a 0.85 and 0.86 percent raise in ‘19-‘20 and ‘20-‘21, respectively.

“To the teacher, America entrusts her most precious resource, her children; and asks that they be prepared to face the rigors of individual participation in a democratic society” according to the first U.S. Secretary of Education, Shirley Hufstedler.

Hufstedler’s words are the root of the ELHS mission statement and echo the ideas of the EL BOE’s that every one of their actions is driven by a will to “prepare students to be positive forces in the world.”

Aside from the physical day-to-day losses of teachers, supporting the proposed budget means students will lose opportunities, further contradicting the BOE’s stated values. The role of the BOE, as written in their mission statement, is to “enable all individuals to maximize all learning opportunities.” The loss of 18 plus teachers will strip students of said opportunities rather than create them.

In 2015, The Viking Saga published an editorial, on a less severe budget, convincing multiple BOE members that passing said budget would directly contradict their duties as elected representatives. The budget was subsequently altered in the interest of EL students. That publication carried the same message I assert now: cutting the budget below the bare minimum 10.30 percent increase means ELPS will lose our edge. The ‘22-’23 Saga staff will continue this journey; we will not stop using our collective voice in the interest of all ELPS community members.

Yes, inflation and high health insurance costs are unfortunate, but they were foreseen. Superintendent Newton said during his Nov. 28 presentation to the BOE that “the district was advised to estimate an increase from five to eight percent, but officials chose to focus on the low end.” Mr. Newton was advised that to meet his duty and pass a fiscally responsible budget, he would need to take those increases into account for the 2022-2023 budget. For whatever reason, that did not happen. That miscalculation, however, should not fall on the shoulders of students and educators. Your role is not to work around the missteps of Central Office or to appease the Board of Finance; it is to advocate for what is best for students. Passing this budget will not support learning in ELPS.

So, BOE, please let your mission statement serve its purpose: to drive all decisions and be kept in the forefront of your debate. Please continue advocating for a fair and just budget. Please work to, at minimum, keep or heighten
the 6.97 percent budget increase and keep the faces and people behind 18.5 FTE employed so they can continue dedicating themselves to the betterment of students. When teachers and students are confined to numbers on a
budget, then we must lower our expectations of excellence and success in failure to meet these mission statements.


Ted Bergmann’s Piece here: 

Anger Rises Over ELPS Budget Cuts