ANSONIA-A planned walkout was intended Thursday morning if Mayor David Cassetti showed up to address teachers during their annual convocation before Monday’s start of school.
“We planned on sending a message,” said Matt Hough, president of the 175-member Ansonia Federation of Teachers which is part of the American Federation of Teachers. “We wanted to tell the mayor until you listen to us we’re not listening to you.”
Copies of messages sent to teachers indicate the protest was planned in advance. In those messages, teachers were told they are not required to participate but if they do there will be no consequences for employing their first amendment right.
Teachers also were told they could turn their back on him if he speaks but “that is not the preferred method.”
As it was Cassetti, who said he has addressed the teachers every year since his election, was not invited nor did he show up for the roughly 90-minute orientation at the High School.
Back in June, Cassetti was not invited to speak at the high school graduation.
Superintendent of Schools Carol Merlone said there was “no keynote speaker or anyone else from outside the school system” during Thursday’s teachers meeting. She gave a similar response in June regarding the graduation
All this shows that the wounds are still festering from the Board of Aldermen’s actions in January removing $600,000 from the school board’s budget.
While the aldermen claim the money was a loan to help the board get through the 2017 state budget crisis, the school board says otherwise. They point to state statutes they prevent a municipality from reducing a school board’s budget once its approved.
This led to the Board of Education suing for $600,000 return and demanding it be included in future budgets. They are armed with a legal opinion from the State Board of Education warning the city that if the $600,000 is not returned an additional $600,000 penalty will be imposed.
As a result of the budget take back, Hough said 16 teaching positions and one and a half administrative positions were eliminated. Since then eight teachers were re-hired.
All this could lead to some class sizes of more than 30 students.
Meanwhile, Cassetti said he would talked about bullying if he were allowed to speak to the teachers.
“Now I feel like I’m being bullied,” the mayor said.