DARIEN — Superintendent Alan Addley presented his proposed budget for FY 2024-25 to the Board of Education on Thursday. The $121,529,006 outlay represents a higher than average 6.19% increase, roughly $7 million, over last year. Board Chairperson Jill McCammon said she is expecting “some difficult conversations” in the next few weeks and cited higher teachers’ salaries and rising health insurance and special education costs as the “three main drivers of this budget.”
Calling it “a challenging budget,” Addley told the board, “there have been some forced decisions I feel I had to make.” Among them, Addley is proposing the elimination of eight teaching positions with most of the cuts affecting Middlesex Middle School. He said the reductions are “enrollment based” and reflect the decrease in the number of students at the middle school. Enrollment has fallen by 109 students at MMS since 2020. According to Addley, no programs are being cut as a result of these reductions and can be accomplished mostly through attrition. But Jen Fischer, Vice-President of the Darien Education Association and 3rd Grade teacher at Ox Ridge Elementary, said the cuts were “short-sighted” and reflect “an obvious inadequate analysis of the impact the proposed cuts will have directly on the children.”
Addley is also proposing to add two Assistant Principal positions, one each at Darien High School and Middlesex Middle School, based on the amount of time current administrators spend in Planning and Placement meetings for special education students. Darien has a high special education rate relative to neighboring school districts. Currently, DHS employs three Assistant Principals and MMS has two. Anticipating a possible showdown with teachers over the cuts, Addley stressed that the reduction in teachers is not going to support new administration. Instead, his budget would eliminate a Special Education administrator and the World Language Department Chair to maintain the same number of administrative positions in the district.
Addley’s proposed budget also expands Darien’s ELP Program from 4 to 5 days with a corresponding increase in tuition. To address teacher shortages, the proposed budget adds two permanent building substitutes for each of Darien’s five elementary schools and increases the daily rate of pay for substitutes to $175. The daily rate was last raised to $150 for the current fiscal year but Addley noted that the pay increase was insufficient in attracting enough substitute teachers.
Darien’s Board of Education met on Saturday for an annual all-day section-by-section review of the proposed budget. The next BOE meeting to discuss the budget and listen to public comment is slated for Tuesday, January 9.