Montville - Parents and students on Tuesday night spent more than two hours in a public hearing speaking in support of 18 teachers who have received notice that they will be laid off at the end of the school year.
More than 30 people spoke before an audience of more than 150 in the Montville High School auditorium. A vast majority of the speakers argued for the school district to keep the nontenured teachers, a group that includes a school psychologist, music instructors and special needs educators.
All will be laid off if the Town Council adopts Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr.'s proposal not to increase the school's budget in the coming fiscal year.
"I'm willing to pay whatever it is and give my fair share to support them because they do an excellent job," said Rocco Basilica, who has two sons in the district. "I'm here because my kids are getting a great education."
McDaniel earlier this month proposed a $55.7 million town budget that called for no increase in the current $36.6 million spending plan. The school district had requested $37.6 million, a 2.72 percent increase, which the Board of Education approved in February.
Superintendent of Schools Pamela Aubin said the school district already has sent layoff notices to the 18 nontenured teachers, although their jobs could be saved as the budget process unfolds.
Sue Edwards was one resident who urged the Town Council to approve the school district's original request. She said she has a son who is currently a senior at Palmer Academy, an alternative school for special education high school students.
"If it wasn't for the school psychologist and the special ed program, he wouldn't be graduating this year," Edwards said of psychologist Deborah Spera.
Carlie Cave, a high school senior and a captain of the school's color guard, spoke passionately about the impact first-year band director Trevor Sindorf has made at the school.
She shared the question that Sindorf asked the marching band after each practice: "How are your eyes?" A number of audience members shouted the answer: "With pride."
"It's with pride that he has taught us not only to march, but to go through the rest of our lives with pride," Cave said.
A handful of speakers argued that seniors on fixed incomes could not afford a school budget increase.
Others said hardships the town recently has endured have made it difficult to support an increase in the school budget.
"Maybe the reality is you have to go somewhere in between what the Board of Education is asking and what the mayor is proposing," Keith Truex, chief of the Chesterfield Fire Co., said. "I think the right answer is you split the difference."
Tuesday's hearing was re-scheduled after an initial hearing last week was postponed when an overflow crowd at the Town Hall put the hearing in violation of fire safety code.