Wilton schools draft five-year plans

Years after the Board of Finance first requested them, the Board of Education finally drafted five-year budget plans for Wilton’s four public schools.

“We’ve been asking for a long-range model for years, so it’s actually good news to hear that at long last, it seems to be getting some momentum,” Board of Finance Chair Jeff Rutishauser said during the finance board’s Oct. 18 meeting.

Although incomplete, finance board member and subcommittee liaison Richard Creeth said, the five-year models “show promise.”

Wilton Public Schools Interim Financial Director Richard Huot drafted the plans and shared them with the education board during its Oct. 13 meeting.

While putting the models together, Huot said, he tried to answer the question of “How come staff does not detract in direct proportion to the number of students you have?”

Huot presented individual five-year plans for Miller-Driscoll, Cider Mill, Middlebrook, Wilton High School and the district’s special services.

Each model has been broken down into four main categories — certified general education salaries, subject area certified staff, student support services staff, and classified salaries — and shows the total number of salaries and full-time equivalents (FTE) for each position dating back to 2013-14 and projecting out to 2021-22.

These five-year plans are not simply based on enrollment projections, said Superintendent Kevin Smith — they’re based on enrollment projections and incorporate the district’s strategic plan and objectives.

Smith said the models allow community members to see how the district allocates dollars, what staffing looks like at each building, and enables “a more efficient comparison across buildings.”

Miller-Driscoll and Cider Mill


At Miller-Driscoll and Cider Mill, said Huot, enrollment numbers have a direct effect on the number of certified general education teachers.

Miller-Driscoll:


  • 2013-14 — $3,616,700 with 42 FTE in general education teacher salaries;

  • 2016-17 — $3,660,397 with 39 FTE;

  • 2021-22 — $4,053,004 with 37 FTE (projection).


Cider Mill:

  • 2013-14 — $3,792,546 with 46 FTE in general education teacher salaries;

  • 2016-17 — $3,718,003 with 41 FTE;

  • 2021-22 — $4,188,703 with 39 FTE (projection).


Unlike general education teachers, enrollment doesn’t have the same impact on subject-area certified staff at the elementary schools, which include art, music, physical education, reading, math and world language teachers.

“Because of how their schedules are, their numbers do not drop,” said Huot. “It’s not in direct proportions to the reduction in students.”

Miller Driscoll:


  • 2013-14 — $2,264,084 with 42 FTE subject-area certified staff salaries;

  • 2016-17 — $2,181,507 with 21.5 FTE;

  • 2021-22 — $4,053,004 and 37 FTE (projected).


Cider Mill:

  • 2013-14 — $2,526,343 with 25.8 FTE subject-area certified staff salaries;

  • 2016-17 — $2,965,532 and 29.9 FTE;

  • 2021-22 — $3,370,922 and 29 FTE (projected).


Student support services, which include psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, and library media specialists, is “a category that we need to run our schools,” said Huot. To shrink the number of support staff at the schools, said Huot, “you would have to really reduce your student body significantly.”

Smith pointed out the change in FTE over the years is a reflection of curriculum change — not necessarily population change.

“Some of these staffing decisions are valued-based and program-based,” said Smith, “so as we are ramping up our efforts in learning commons and changing how we deliver those services, there was a need to add staff — not take away staff.”

Huot projects the number of support staff at Miller-Driscoll and Cider Mill to remain the same — at 10.6 FTE and 9.1 FTE, respectively — through 2021-22.

The salaries, however, he projects to increase:


  • Miller-Driscoll: $998,773 in 2016-17 to $1,143,868 in 2021-22.

  • Cider Mill: $833,546 in 2016-17 to $954,638 in 2021-22.


Classified staff includes paraprofessionals, clerical staff and custodians. Huot projects these salaries to increase at both schools by 2021-22:

  • Miller-Driscoll: $2,149,984 in 2016-17 (54.2 FTE) to $2,492,421 (54.2 FTE) in 2021-22.

  • Cider Mill: $1,294,041 (31.7 FTE) in 2016-17 to $1,452,666 (31.4 FTE) in 2021-22.


Middlebrook


Middlebrook School operates differently from the elementary schools.

“We operate teams,” said Huot, “and each team serves approximately 125 children.”

“You would think that if you lose 125 children, you would be able to cut a team, but that loss of 125 children would have to be in one grade level,” said Huot.

Therefore, he said, “the delivery of services and the reduction of staff do not match.”

If Middlebrook were to lose staff, Huot said, “the whole philosophy of how instruction is delivered at that building would have to change. That model has been in place a long time and has been very effective for that grade level, so changing it could be traumatic,” he added.

Huot projects the number of staff in each category to remain the same over the next five years, but the salaries to increase:


  • Classroom teachers (56.2 FTE): $4,994,469 in 2016-17 to $5,720,032 in 2021-22.

  • Subject area staff (26 FTE): $2,433,603 in 2016-17 to $2,787,141 in 2021-22.

  • Support staff (9.9 FTE): $1,076,176 in 2016-17 to $1,232,516 in 2021-22.

  • Classified staff (30.4 FTE): $1,311,287 in 2016-17 to $1,520,141 in 2021-22.


When it comes to Middlebrook, Smith said, the following questions have to be asked:

  • “At what point do we start entertaining less-than-full-time teachers in order to respond [to declining enrollment]?

  • What is the implication to teaming there?

  • Are there different ways to meet our needs to preserve the integrity and value of the teams?”


Wilton High School


Unlike the other three schools, classroom teacher numbers at Wilton High School are driven by the courses students select to take each year.

“Through the years, there’s been almost a [20-to-1 student-to-staff] ratio in terms of the basic courses,” said Huot.

“When you look at subject area staff, you’ll see that the ratio begins to drop because it doesn’t work the same way.”

When it comes to support staff, Huot said, the staff-to-student ratio is projected to remain around 1-to-100 through 2018-19.

Huot projects the number of staff in each category to remain the same over the next five years, but the salaries to increase:


  • Classroom teachers (65.4 FTE): $6,133,339 in 2016-17 to $7,024,350 in 2021-22.

  • Subject area staff (32 FTE): $3,582,849 in 2016-17 to $4,103,341 in 2021-22.

  • Support staff (13.4 FTE): $1,431,879 in 2016-17 to $1,639,893 in 2021-22.

  • Classified staff (47 FTE): $2,066,669 in 2016-17 to $2,395,836 in 2021-22.


“When you look at staffing at the high school, you see a lot of oddball numbers because the high school staffs to the section,” said Smith. “They have many more less-than-full-time or quasi-full-time teachers than we do anywhere else. We have to look at those as we’re confronting enrollment decline.”

Special services


Since becoming Wilton’s superintendent, Smith said, “there have been questions that have come up ... that we struggle to answer,” including “Why can’t we get a more accurate presentation of what we spend at each building?”

“The way that we previously constructed the budgets by operationalizing special services as its own cost center made it very hard to do that,” he said.

For the five-year plans, special education staff have been moved from an individual budget to part of the staffing at each building, which provides a “a clearer picture of what we’re spending by category in each building,” said Smith.

Huot said he has also been talking to Assistant Special Services Superintendent Ann Paul about breaking down the district’s purchased professional services cost center into other categories so the board can better project those numbers when budgeting.

Purchased professional services is “a combination of many things,”Huot told The Bulletin.

“We are breaking that line into several categories: behavioral consultants, educational evaluations, IEP settlements and transition services, which are services provided to students beyond high school, but younger than 21 who the school district is required to service.”

Purchased professional services cost the district $2,642,249 in 2013-14 and $2,894,845 in 2014-15, according to the five-year plan. This year, $2,194,417 is being spent in the category.