New Haven Unified School District

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A Message from the Board

A Message from the Board

June 2, 2019

For the past forty years, New Haven Unified School District has stood as a shining example of what educational greatness could look like. It’s because of our students, teachers, staff, and community that have set the bar for excellence and equity.

The past few weeks have been heartbreaking.

The Board has taken a principled stance to ensure the long term success of our district. We are unwavering in our commitment to serve students today, next year, and in the future. We understand the numbers. We understand that revenues are projections but expenses are real and have ongoing impact to budget and to programs and services for our students and families. We understand the heaviness of this responsibility and are united in fulfilling our collective duty.

Before we even engaged in the first bargaining session in December of 2018, the Board understood that it was going to have to cut millions of dollars in the coming years. As of the budget proposals from the Governor in January, these cuts were estimated at $3.9 million and $4.7 million for 2019/20 and 2020/21 respectively.

One of the key considerations in setting a bargaining direction was not to make that any worse. We also understood that we were negotiating salary only. Class sizes are determined by staffing ratios, an agreement between the District and NHTA and included in the teachers’ contract. Currently that staffing ratio is one teacher for every thirty students.   Historically, the District has been able to staff some grade levels a little more richly, thereby reducing class size, but due to budget pressures, is no longer able to afford this. During the post-fact finding discussions, the Board directed staff to identify and outline several scenarios– even ones that were outside its comfort zone, but the process has to be one of give and take.

The Board has directed the District bargaining team to make reasonable efforts to reach an agreement with NHTA’s bargaining team, balanced with its fiduciary responsibility to keep the District financially solvent. The Board has also empowered its bargaining team to recognize when talks are not being productive and to use its discretion when deciding to end discussions. Moving forward, the Board has set further direction to establish clear timelines and schedules from the onset of discussions.

Recently, the Board and NHTA have received engagement from local and state leaders. While the Board values their input, the Board was pleased that each and every one of them have acknowledged the Board's authority and share a common belief that productive discussions by both teams at the table are the key to reaching an agreement in this process. The Board thanks all leaders for their interest in moving us all forward.

The Board has been receiving an amazing number of messages. Rest assured, we are reading them, but responding to each and every one of them can be a challenge– we will continue to do our best. We are encouraged to see that the messages have evolved from giving the teachers union what it demanded, into a clear support of fiscal responsibility and long-term stability. It’s amazing to see our community rolling up its collective sleeves and getting engaged and more informed.

It’s important that the community understands that NHTA plays an equal role in bringing teachers back to their classrooms. The only ones stopping them from doing this, is them.

Regardless of the outcome of the strike, one reality is inescapable– we are going to have to make significant cuts. The Board commits to engaging the community and stakeholders in this effort; only then can there be true empathy for how gut wrenching this process is.

In the coming months, the Board will provide additional information around the negative impacts of continued deficit spending and a plan to grow revenue, stabilize expenses, restore balance to educational programs, and to engage the community in charting the course ahead.

Our community has been through so much. Despite all of the negativity we have endured together, we are optimistic that there is light at the end of the tunnel. At our core, we are stronger together and we look forward to healing and rebuilding . We will all get through this, and there will be a new day of stability, equity, and quality.

In service,

New Haven Unified School District  Board of Trustees