Parents, students and educators are blasting a plan they said could hurt some of the most vulnerable children in Waterbury.
The plan could end up privatizing dozens of therapists who work with students with autism.
"They’ve been a tremendous help and a lifesaver really to help with my son," Naomi Pitts, of Waterbury, said.
That’s why Pitts showed up to the school meeting on Thursday night to help save the jobs of some 40 behavioral therapists in Waterbury who work with students, up to age 21, who have autism.
"These people worked with me and they’ve treated me so well. And they’ve helped me in so many ways," Nicholas Kling, a former student, said.
Students, parents and many of the therapists packed the meeting, hoping to convince the Board of Education to switch gears and not to privatize the positions.
Many are worried about how the change would affect students. Therapists are also concerned including how this could impact their jobs and benefits.
"Many including myself have been with the Waterbury autism program for over 10 years. We have dedicated ourselves to servicing students with challenging needs on a daily basis," Melissa Stark, president of the Waterbury City Employees Association, said.
Liz Brown, Waterbury Board of Education president, said the district is dealing with cuts from the state and this idea could help save a $500,000.
"It’s a matter of saving money and trying to keep jobs and keep the services to the children," Brown said.
While the board is also looking to slice millions of dollars more from its budget and potentially eliminate a dozen other jobs, it’s hoping to find solutions to address concerns raised on Thursday.
"I would like to keep their jobs. I think they do an excellent job. I think if we do have to make cuts I would like it more across the board," Brown said.
On Thursday, the board voted to forward a budget proposal to city leaders.