Naugatuck Board Votes to Close Central Ave. School

Students will be reassigned to other K-4 schools before the 2012-13 school year begins.

The Naugatuck Board of Education voted 7-2 in favor of closing Central Avenue School for the upcoming school year and repurposing the building as an early learning center.

So, next year, students in the K-to-4 Central Avenue School will be reassigned to the five other borough elementary schools, according to school officials.

Additionally, the board decided that Prospect Street School would cease to be an education facility, although officials said there is currently no plan on what will happen to the building. Naugatuck Head Start, School Readiness and the special education kindergarten programs — — will now be housed at Central Avenue.

The two dissenting board members were James Scully and Diana Malone. Both favored closing instead of Central, arguing that the Salem building, despite being a beautiful structure, is outdated and lacks handicap accessibility.

Malone also pointed to the fact that Central has a gymnasium and a better cafeteria than Salem.

The vote ended weeks of discussion amongst board members about how to get the proposed budget, which at one point hit over $62 million, to an acceptable level that the joint Board of Mayor and Burgesses and Board of Finance will approve. By comparison, the 2011-12 budget was set at $57 million.

Closing both the K-4 operation at Central Avenue, as well as shuttering Prospect Street completely, garner a total of $1.4 million savings to Naugatuck. That amount alone could plug the budget gap left by the loss of $1.4 million in federal stimulus money that the board of education was allocated in 2010.

There are nine teachers currently at Central Avenue School. Some, if not all, of them could be reassigned to other school buildings depending on several variables, including how many teachers across the district plan to retire at the end of the year.

Superintendent John Tindall-Gibson said there are currently seven teachers who plan to retire.

Proposed Budget Increase Down to 3.4 Percent

On Wednesday, the board voted in favor of a budget that called for a 3.4 percent spending increase.

That spending hike includes contractual increases for staff employees, as well as additional funding for a few select positions — namely an assistant business manager for the Board of Education, the , a part-time music teacher at the grade 3-4 level, a social worker at City Hill Middle School and a computer education teacher for the K-6 level.

Money for a part-time police officer at City Hill is also staying in the budget, but a $560,000 technology expense for tablet computers was eliminated. The board also eliminated $42,000 for staff development.

The board also saved $658,039 in health insurance costs by securing a new insurance plan with Aetna rather than the current staff insurance carrier, Cigna. There was also an additional $344,000 savings in the staff insurance plan. 

Finally, the board cut $165,000 that they were going to use to upgrade facilities. Borough Controller Wayne McAllister said he spoke with Facilities Director Mike Lynch, who told McAllister that some of the upgrades could be completed with money from the current fiscal budget, which ends June 30.

Board Chairman David Heller said both he and the administration will begin working on reassigning of Central Avenue School students “tomorrow.” He said he plans to work with Parent Teacher Group President Michelle Grella and other Central Avenue parents to assure their input is considered during the student repopulation.

Assistant Superintendent Brigette Crispino said the district plans to have details about what school each student will be going to by the middle of May.

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Gloria Garcia April 26, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Stephen, I couldn't agree with you more. Very well said sir. It's a shame our children, our future, are paying the price for this decision. "It's all in the interest of the kids." yeah right!
Tammy April 26, 2012 at 12:17 PM
An assistant business manager, really??
brutus April 26, 2012 at 12:19 PM
David, you have the most sensible comment here. The fact is that a school had to be closed. Not only for economic reasons, but for demographic ones as well. The town simply does not have the money, or the kids, to warrant the number of schools we have. we were at the same place two years ago, and the parents of Salem kids were outraged, Now the parents of Central kids are outraged. whichever school was chosen to be closed would have made one set of parents unhappy, so there's really no easy solution here. Blaming the mayor or the BOE and saying they chose one school over another because of economic status is unfair I think. All of that being said, however, I do agree that the wrong school was chosen. For the reasons pointed out by Board members Scully and Malone, it should have been Salem. Salem is a beautiful building and a big part of our downtown that could have been re-purposed. But as a school building, it's just inferior.
juan April 26, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Its funny how no freeze in hiring or pay was implemented along with these budget cuts,Just the usual shuffling.Some here people are crying more than their kids the question for your crying.is wheres the $.Its about time something is being done.We still need more cuts to get this town in order!
Tony Sanchez April 26, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Peachy! The meetings were never meant to do anything but temporarily give the parents a place to vent and come to terms with the inevitable. The excuse was that the student enrollment ratio is on a constant decline and the need for this many schools is unnecessary. However, we were never told how that compares to the percentage of families moving out of this town in part for these types of incompetences. What happens when the young people ( which are becoming more prevalent) start having children or when more people start moving back into the borough. I guess the board members will just come up with a temporary solution then. Judging by the board it seems maybe some of its members have forgotten what sitting in a classroom is like. Stephen i couldnt agree with you more. Change is inevitable! Let us not forget.
Diane Budzilek Smith April 26, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Two years ago Salem and Prospect schools were going to be closed. The following is an article that was in the Citizen's News February 2010 "The subcommittee also provided a document comparing and rating facilities in terms of each one’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, asbestos, energy efficiency, the condition of its roof, heating and air conditioning systems, and fenestration, or the design and disposition of windows and exterior openings. Naugatuck High School was rated the worst among the 11 schools, scoring twos and ones on a scale of five across all categories. Hop Brook, Maple Hill, City Hill (which will house the consolidated middle school) and Cross Street rounded out the bottom five. On the other hand, Hillside, Central Avenue, Andrew Avenue, Western and the Tuttle House comprised the top five school system buildings. Salem and Prospect Street Schools, both of which are on the proverbial chopping block, sat square in the middle of the rating, at sixth- and seventh-best, respectively." Central Avenue was listed in the top 5 of our school building systems and I believe recently had some improvements done. Why is a school that was listed in the top 5 school buildings being closed???? Central Avenue is larger, has a gym and is handicap accessible so it is being closed instead of a school with more deficiencies. It doesn't make sense.
Robin April 26, 2012 at 02:20 PM
I agree that the decision to close Central Ave was made well before there were any parent meetings. When my son brought up the letter stating the proposed closing, when I read between the lines of the carefully chosen words I knew the decision was already made. As an educator, it is very evident that children were not considered. When Salem was up for closing the parents made a big "stink" and the Board backed off. However, the comment in regards to parents of Central Ave and being of lower economic status says a lot in regards to the school that was targeted. So, keep a school that is not handicap accessible or has a gymnasium. Do we not care about the student whose peers within their neighborhood or friends are going to a school he/she can not attend because he/she is handicap and the school can not accommodate. Or what about State guidelines for PE, not being followed? I wonder which school will be next, next year because this is an easy fix in some Board members minds. Time to get out of Naugatuck.
Diane Budzilek Smith April 26, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Should say from an article, I did not copy the full article.
Don Carten April 26, 2012 at 02:35 PM
You are correct Rosa. Upon completion of renovations, the BOE offices will be moved to the High School and Tuttle House will be closed down or re-purposed. As for your comment, "Who cares about children's education?" let me just say this. Our BOE cares very deeply about the children of our community and spends many, many hours debating how to best serve them taking into consideration a shrinking enrollment and a limited tax base. They are a fine group of people who take on a thankless job, for no pay, because they do care.
Pays Attention April 26, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Quick question. Everyone commenting seems to have a lot of information and opinions on what the truth is or isn’t. How many of the budget workshops or finance meetings did each of us attend? Those tend to be were the major decisions are made and where the legitimate facts are discussed in detail.
Disgusted April 26, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Salem should have beed closed end of discussion.....
Donna Cariello April 26, 2012 at 08:51 PM
The closing of Central Ave. School is the biggest mistake this town ever made. Salem school needs so much work done to it to Accommadte the students. I would like top see the Board of ED. eat theior lunch in a basement. Displacing children from this side of town to the other side is ludicrous , when most of Salems students live on the other side of town. Where do the disabled children go??? Are parents going to see their children slpit up and in different schools?? I hope the BOE likes their jobs, come election time they may not be working here anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
David V. DeRosa April 26, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I understand there is a restriction in the Salem School's deed in the land records that it can only be used as a school or the interest in the property will revert to the grantor or his or her descendants. The Salem School cannot be used for a different purpose but Central can as there is not restriction in that deed.
Pays Attention April 26, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Complaining and criticizing in ignorance is the worst offense to this whole process. Those of you making statements then passing them off as truth need to understand that what you’re doing has no value or use in solving the challenges facing our community. Most of individuals serving on the Boards and Commissions of this town are volunteers. It’s not their jobs; it’s a service to the community. Those positions are unpaid. They do this work out of commitment for Naugatuck while still meeting their family and work responsibilities. They realize that solutions come from hard work and dedication not unfounded accusations and innuendo. When a person mows your lawn, fixes your car, or takes you to the doctor out of kindness. What do you do, criticize them for not trimming properly, or getting grease on the car door, or not parking close enough to the doctor’s office. No! You say thank you very much and if you don’t appreciate the kindness being afforded to you then you DO IT YOURSELF next time. I give the officials of this community all the credit in the world. They constantly operate under the most adverse circumstances, they sacrifice hours or their time to make the best decisions in the worst situations, and ask nothing for it. Yet some of us feel that they deserve not only criticism of their decisions, but belittlement of their persons. Maybe we should be careful about threatening to remove them and consider the implications of them not wanting to return.
Robin April 27, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Apparently you do not have a child/children that are being effected. And believe me if someone put grease on my car door or mowed my lawn incorrectly I would definitely say something. It doesn't matter if it's volunteer or not the best decisions should be made as well as a job well done. If this is the idea of a service to the community, then yes, maybe they need to step down or reconsider how they handle education. Being in education, I get it and understand how a board works. So to defend the board on this one, no way. Not all alternatives were looked at. We all sacrifice our time whether ir be PTO meetings, school functions, homework whatever, so please do not make it seem like parents are not "sacrificing their time". The problem, we rely on a Board to make decisions, that should be well thought out. Maybe they should consider not coming back because I am sure this is only the beginning of different schools closing. It's an easy fix instead of looking at pay freezes from the "higher ups" to all staff in the district. Not a favorite, I know, been there, done that, but it saved a school and jobs. Hmm imagine that.
juan April 27, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Great point Robin.Pays attention needs to wipe his chin its full of BOE.These town officials kicked the can down the road and our kids.
Rocky Vitale April 27, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Well said.
ed April 27, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Harry you are 100% correct, however you can't break the teachers union. This is not about having your childrens future in mind - it is about keeping union legacy costs intact!!!!
Diane Budzilek Smith April 27, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Naugatuck's children deserve better then their educational needs being determined by a deed restriction. If the town no longer needs the school let the property revert back to the grantor.
Pays Attention April 27, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Well Robin and Juan, while I respect your right to make the comments you’ve made I respectfully disagree with their validity. I served many years in this community and even though I am not active anymore I still stay informed. I will be looking for both your names on my next election ballot and I assure you I WILL vote for you. Have at it and good luck.
Lynn April 27, 2012 at 03:14 AM
My grandson attends a magnet school & another is on a waiting list for a one and Naugy has low priority for their waiting lists... Dave, "Short of raising taxes, that is simply not possible in these difficult times with so many people poorer than in the years past, this is the best the BOE can probably do." I agree, it is tough because Fed funds ran out yet the teachers still get raises in this recovering (?) economy, also in this article it states that the BOE voted on a 3.4 increase!!! How much will it cost us Naugy taxpayers to transport disabled children somewhere else.... When will the physical attributes (& recent maintenance/repairs completed) of each school be considered before any decisions are made? I pray the Human Resources Director will be a mutually funded position with the town... Tony, some of the meetings were not in facilities large enough for taxpayers to vent!!! Per this article "although officials said there is currently no plan on what will happen to Naugatuck Head Start, School Readiness and the special education kindergarten programs — all of which were housed at Prospect Street " I feel empathy for the students who will have to be transferred due to Central School's closing, but my heart goes out to those students who are from hardship households (those who have enough chaos going on in their lives) and Special Ed students because change is real difficult for them.....
Pays Attention April 27, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Well Harry, I guess we all have to decide whether we support the decisions of a group who have proven their dedication through effort and participation and who reach their decisions though study, discussion, debate, and collaboration. Or those who are so much more intelligent and enlightened that they can solve any problem through a 5 minute read of a newspaper article and a review of the comments of 15 persons equally gifted. Life is filled with difficult choices.
Tony Sanchez April 27, 2012 at 04:51 AM
@pays attention, I dont believe anyone is here to belittle or degrade the act of volunteering to be a member of the board. I certainly can't speak for everyone on here but when these "volunteers" are making decisions that affect me financially, emotionally and mentally I have every right to demand change for the better. I can't imagine based on your comment you have any children attending central but I'm sure you would think differently if you had to explain to a 6,7,8 year old etc....that the school, teachers and friends they've grown attached to won't be around next year. And when they ask you if they did something wrong you can try to explain budget gaps, fiscal responsibilitly, ease of reallocation or how we should commend our board members for "volunteering". It's not like central ave was the only option because it's the only k-4 school. If you served on the board then maybe you can enlighten us all with how a school that, when compared to others, has all the requirements of the needs of the community and the BOE and is rated in the top 5 in the town is chosen as the "logical" choice for closure. We're only left with the assumption that based on the economic status of the parents in this school it's the path of least resistance.
Menace April 27, 2012 at 04:56 AM
So let's spend 81 million on revamping the high school. I thought Oxford built a new school for 40 million ?
Vox Populi April 27, 2012 at 06:33 PM
But Harry, this is effectively a new BoE as most of these members were just elected, partially because the previous Board was tired and roundly criticized. So if a new group is elected and basically comes to the same conclusions, maybe Pays' assessment is not as off target as you may think...
Maria April 27, 2012 at 06:41 PM
I think you have said it all. It was all a deception for the parents, what's the point of having all these meetings and within the same week they made their decision. The decision was made before they even told us of their plans. I think all of Naugatuck should pay very close attention to what Mr. Heller and the Superident are doing to this town. I am not from Naugatuck and regret every single day moving here. My children and the children of this town need good leaders to make this town worth living here....We already pay enough taxes and there is nothing in this town to show for it. Thank you Michelle, for all of your hard work....But I think the parents shouldn't let it stop here....What's going to happen in 2-3 years???
Vox Populi April 27, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Menace, you are kidding right? Oxford has 1/3 the population of Naugatuck and a median household income of $95,710 vs. Naugatuck with 32,019 and median income of $59,744 (source city-data.com). So assuming based on population, Oxford has 1/3 the school age children that Naugy does, that would mean a new HS for Naugy would cost us about $120 million. Guess what, the quotes the town got as reported in previous articles were to build a new HS was $108 million.
taxman April 27, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Im moving to oxford! Sounds like a better place to live, they even have a airport there I wonder if they have toilets in their soccer fields like we don't.Vox what is the taxes there like? cheaper i bet.
Donna Cariello May 10, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Parents and Grandparents there are petitions ouit there , find them and sign them to keep Central Ave.open. This is not just a one person effort we need everyone to jion in Help save our school!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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