Superintend of Schools Uyi Osunde
In an unpresented move by the Stratford Superintend of Schools Uyi Osunde, a Town Hall Meeting was held on Wednesday open to all residents, students, and town officials.
The Town Hall Meeting was called by Superintendent Osunde, who has been on the job for 10 months, — to address misinformation, rumors, as well as the $123.2 million appropriation from the Town Council, which was about $2 million short of what it had requested during its budget proceedings earlier this year. The school board had asked for a 4.57% increase, which Osunde called a “bare bones budget,” but received 2.5% from the town. Also participating was Pam Mangini, Chief Operating Officer, and Board Of Education chair Andrea Corcoran.
“People will be impacted, but we also feel that the design we’re piecing together to discuss with the board will allow us to open the school year with effective possibilities,” Osunde said.
Osunde said the district would have conversations with any staff member possibly impacted by budget cuts before the plan is released to the public. “The decisions we make now will not just play out for the 22-23 academic year, there is a precipitous impact on how this plays out over the next five, 10 years,” Osunde said.
Stratford schools has been designated as an Alliance District, meaning it is among the 30 lowest performing districts in the state based on pre-pandemic figures. Osunde made it clear in the meeting that he does not think the designation accurately represents Stratford schools. He said he thinks the district has the infrastructure to turn things around quickly.
The designation will give the Board of Education an additional $1.1 million from the state, and Osunde said the district has to submit plans for how it will use this money at some point this summer. Mangini clarified that the funding cannot be used for purposes already accounted for in the general operating budget, like building utilities or staff supplies, which is also known as supplanting.
A summary of standardized testing data from the district was presented, which showed that students who took an afterschool SAT prep course the district offered scored 138 points higher on the exam in March than those who did not. Over 70% of the students who took the course met the goal for the English portion of the exam and 42% met the math goal. For comparison, just 40% met the English goal and 19% met the math goal for those who did not take the course.
The district is currently going through a strategic planning process, Osunde said. He highlighted five priorities for the district going forward — elementary literacy and numeracy, scientific research-based interventions with a focus on the middle school level, expanding SAT and AP prep access, climate and culture/school safety and instructional leadership.
He said that groups of himself, administrators, community partners, teachers and parents have been having weekly conversations about areas that need to improve, and that he remains a believer in the town’s schools.
“If I did not feel strongly about the potential of Stratford, I wouldn’t be here,” Osunde said.