Stratford might lay off dozens of teachers

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STRATFORD -- Pink slips may soon be coming for at least 40 Stratford teachers. Some in the community say it's completely unnecessary, though.

Stratford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Janet Robinson was unavailable for comment Friday, but a town councilman was more than happy to talk.

Robinson says most of the six unions affiliated with the schools agreed to take two furlough days towards the end of the school year, in hopes of saving the school system $700,000. However, the teachers union said "no."

"The only alternative the district has is to lay off teachers," said Robinson on a YouTube video posted Thursday.

At least 40 teachers were expected to receive pink slips as soon as Friday.

"I know it's disruptive, and I know it's heartbreaking," said Robinson. "This is not something that we ever wanted to have to do."

And according to a town councilman, she needed to consult the Board of Education, but instead made the decision unilaterally.

"The Board of Education is the executive body and they're essentially the Board of Directors for the school system, and the superintendent reports to them," said Councilman Greg Cann. He added that many in town leadership roles have been in the dark about whether these cuts are necessary.

"The Superintendent of Schools has not released financial documents that would validate her operating expenses, actual versus budget, for the last two years," he claimed.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Janet Robinson sent us the following statement explaining why she believes the layoffs are now unavoidable:

"This is the result of the $2.89 million in cuts to our ECS funds from the state. This is unfortunately happening mid-year. Our town is not able to totally absorb those cuts, so we must come up with $700,000 in cuts ourselves. Layoffs mid-year are so disruptive, we met with each union to ask if they would take two furlough days rather than layoffs. The administrators, secretaries and custodial unions agreed to the furloughs to save jobs. The teachers union voted no, so layoffs are necessary for that group. Half of the year salaries have been paid, so more teachers have to be laid off (i.e. if a teacher has a [hypothetical] $60,000 salary, $30,000 has already been paid; so we only save $30,000). This is unfortunate and not in the best interests of our students. it is an economic necessity at this point."

Parents are outraged. A letter, posted on change.org, asks for support in voting no confidence for the superintendent and Chief Operating Officer. As of Friday afternoon, it has garnered roughly 1,300 signatures.

"None of my emails have been answered by either the Superintendent or the COO, Clarence Zachery," said Cann.

New Stratford Mayor Kathy Hoydick, who was just sworn in on Monday, was also unavailable for on-camera comment. She says she hopes the superintendent, Board of Education and teachers union can come to a compromise that will prevent layoffs.