Editor's Note: the following statement by Patrick Holland, chairman of the Milford School Committee, was read at the meeting Thursday, prior to a vote to of security director.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." I would like to take a moment to disinfect the school committee by shining some light on our special budget meeting of May 10. At that meeting the school committee voted to approve its final round of budget cuts for the 2012-13 school year, and as a result, three administrators and two teachers lost their jobs. However, this was not the total net effect of our reduced budget, as we could not afford to fill one other vacancy left by retiring teachers. The true cost of our reductions, as of that evening, meant the Milford Public Schools would enter the next school year with three fewer teachers than it did this school year.
One particular administrative cut was the subject of substantial debate. In fact, passion rose so high that I would like the public to know that I have spoken to all of the parties involved, and we are in agreement that personal feelings will not be allowed to become a distraction from important committee business. This committee has a code of ethical conduct. All members are expected to conform to that code; if they cannot, they should excuse themselves from the meeting.
At that special budget meeting, committee member Mr. Quattrochio made a 15 to 20 minute presentation detailing the information he had gathered from his meetings with the superintendent, the high school principal, two assistant principals, the security director, the guidance staff, and the district technology officer. The purpose of these meetings was to learn about how the district implemented its security policies at the high school. At the end of the presentation, Mr. Quattrochio stated, based upon the facts he gathered, that a district wide security director position was a luxury the school department could not afford.
The committee then embarked upon a 40 to 45 minute discussion of the utility of the security director position. Each committee member spoke, had an opportunity to voice their opinion on the matter, and was fully heard during the discussion. The result of this discussion was a vote to accept the budget with the reduction of one additional administrative position, the district-wide security director.
It is important to note that a district-wide security director position was created only two years ago. The Education Reform Act of 1993 makes the principal of each school building legally responsible for the supervision of their building, its staff, and their students; by law the principal of each building is charged with supervising all security personnel, and enforcing all security policies in their building. Finally, our best security provisions are given to us by the Chief of Police, who provides the school district with two full-time police officers to protect our students.
Some members mentioned that they felt ambushed by the presentation of their colleague, that the timing of his suggestion was somehow inappropriate, or that the suggestion itself was inappropriate because it was not a reduction put forward by the superintendent. I would like to remind those members that a special budget meeting is the most appropriate place to present a budget cut, that in my time on the committee we have never created agenda items to discuss specific cuts, and that the meeting of May 10 participated in. I would also like to remind my colleagues that it is not the job of the superintendent to approve the school budget or to set policy; that job is the sole responsibility of the seven elected members of the school committee, who make suggestions as they see fit.
Too often, at all levels of government, middle management positions are layered into public agencies. Although well intentioned, the role of these positions can often be accomplished by increasing the productivity of existing staff. In my opinion the school committee eliminated three such administrative positions in this budget cycle.
There was no argument presented during any budget discussion that convinced me that any of the administrative positions we eliminated were more important than a single teaching position. We must preserve teaching staff at all costs, to keep class sizes manageable, and to preserve quality instruction.
I am sorry people had to lose their jobs. It is my hope the superintendent provides favorable recommendations for each of the reduced staff members. As a committee, our focus needs to be teachers and textbooks, and we must now set aside any hard feelings that always accompany difficult decisions and move forward for the sake of the school department.