Darien Board of Education Approves Budget Without Major Cuts

Darien Board of Education Approves Budget Without Major Cuts

Proposals to cut funding for department chairs, an athletic director, and the district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives from the final Board of Education budget were rejected this week.

The Board unanimously voted to approve a $110 million budget, a 3.74% increase over last year.

None of the biggest cuts that generated the most public comments over the past few weeks were included in the final budget. Parents and the superintendent pleaded with the board members to keep the department chairs and DEI initiatives in place.

Parents asked the board to “leave DEI as it is budgeted so that we can have a quality education that all of us in the community value.” Others said that the department chairs help to keep curriculum consistent across the classrooms and ease the transitions for students from elementary to middle school and then from middle school to high school.

Parent Tiffany O’Connor said that she hoped the board wouldn’t support the last minute cuts to the chairs and staff at the high school.

“They (the cuts) are so absurd as was the process—I can’t image the board even taking them seriously,” she said.

Student Liam Lee, a fourth grader, said that he had faced discrimination as an Asian student in the district, having other students tell him that he had “Chinese eyes” or that they “weren’t racist because they ate rice.” He said that the DEI efforts can help “open up their worldly vision” and “educate people more.”

Board member Mike Brown, who proposed some of the largest cuts, said that his goal was to have the board work on its priorities.

“We have had situations where we’ve had cuts be requested (by the Board of Finance)—I thought this would be a good exercise in going through our priorities as a board,” he said.

Other board members said that the proposed cuts, even though they were not passed, were both harmful to the staff members who had to worry about their jobs the past few weeks and an example of board members “not doing their homework.”

“This is a clear example that board members are not doing their homework,” board member Sara Parent said. “These are real people’s jobs—we created undue stress for no reason.”

About $225,000 was cut from the budget, including more than $100,000 for a groundskeeper position for maintenance.

Some board members said they would like the process, which allows board members to suggest any cuts or adds they would like throughout January before discussing and then voting on those items in February, to be evaluated.

“I think we have to do a deep dive after this budget season to see what we can do better, what we can do differently,” Board President David Dineen said.