Magnet School Could Have Been 'Crown Jewel'

by Doug Sutherland

To the Editor:

[Editor's Note: attached YouTube video here.]

A little over a year ago, as I began to get more involved in local issues, I started hearing about a new magnet school coming to Trumbull.

Occasionally I would see an article in the CT Post or the Trumbull Times about negotiations with Bridgeport or the state. Last spring, I ran across a mean-spirited letter to the editor of Trumbull Patch by Town Councilman Chad Ciocci declaring “Proposed Magnet School ‘Bad’ for Trumbull.”

As I tried to find out more about this project, I discovered that Trumbull citizens were not being kept up to date by our officials.

I wanted to know why the school is being built, why in Trumbull?  How was the seat allocation determined?  What other districts were participating, and how were they chosen?  What will the cost of construction be, how much will the state fund and what will it cost Trumbull?  What will the annual tuition costs be, what will Trumbull taxpayers pay and what will the state pay? 

How would Trumbull benefit from having this school built in our town?  What educational and financial benefits would we have gained from the 150 seats we were to have had?  How did we lose 100 seats? 

And why did the town walk away from the nearly $20 million we were to have received?

While these questions went unanswered the local press seemed to focus on the tug-of-war between Trumbull and Bridgeport over what have to be secondary issues: emergency services, road upgrades and concerns over how this project would affect the area's residents.

Almost nowhere did I see any detailed information about what this school would look like, what the curriculum would be and what the possible benefits might be for Bridgeport, Trumbull and the surrounding communities.

With some research I discovered what a gem the Multi-Magnet school would be:

  • $126 million, state-funded, state of the art Multi-Magnet high school to fulfill requirements of the Sheff v. O'Neill decision
  • The largest school infrastructure project in Connecticut state history
  • 21st century curriculum focusing on three areas:
    • Information technology – in conjunction with Sacred heart University
    • Zoological studies – with the Beardsley Zoo
    • Physical science, math and aerospace – learning and internship programs with GE, Sikorsky and other similar companies
  • 1500 Students Grades 9-12
    • 70 percent from Bridgeport
    • 30 percent split between Trumbull, Easton, Fairfield, Shelton, Stratford, Monroe and Milford
  • LEED certified Green Building
    • Powered by wind turbines and solar panels
    • Green roof and green building materials
    • Energy-efficient mechanical systems
  • Completely landscaped using vegetation found on site

Though I do not live near the school, curiosity drove me to attend a recent citizen’s forum hosted by Republican Town Councilmen Chad Ciocci and Tony Scinto (see ).  It was a poorly attended, but well run meeting that allowed the school's neighbors to air concerns about its construction and the impact it may have on their homes and on the community.

But I was stunned to realize that while there had been neighborhood opposition for years, none of those who attended the meeting had ever seen so much as a picture of the school.  Nor did they have any idea of its characteristics or the unique curriculum it will offer. 

After viewing architects' renderings and understanding the benefits it will provide Trumbull students, Trumbull schools and Trumbull taxpayers, most were very impressed – one mother of a 15-month old even looked forward to when her child could attend.

It became obvious that town officials and the traditional media had failed our citizens. The real story of the Fairchild-Wheeler Multi-Magnet High School remains to be told.

Likewise not told and not well understood by most of our residents is the story of how this $126 million gift from the state of Connecticut has been bungled by our town officials. I decided to employ a different medium to try to convey what I feel is the real story of the magnet school that could have been a crown jewel for Trumbull.

Doug Sutherland


Jim Flynn November 05, 2011 at 12:16 PM
That was not an endorsement that I would ever want to receive. Talk about being damned by faint praise. Basically, they are saying, you have done a horrible job and need to start to cooperate with your neighbors but because Trumbull was in such good shape when you got here, it has done well over the past two years.
Trumbull Supporter November 05, 2011 at 12:37 PM
Yes endorsement was lackluster. . Reminding readers of his faults such as the magnet school and intimidating people. Newspapers usually pick incumbents anyway. Meaningless really.
Matthew C. Reale November 05, 2011 at 12:40 PM
No magnet school.... No Trumbull Day.... No Summer Concert ... No Halloween.... No Community Spiriti .... No Charter Revision.... NO HERBST!
Tom Kelly November 05, 2011 at 12:54 PM
lifewasgood, you show a complete lack of understanding about the quality of magnet schools. There are already magnet schools in Bridgeport for which Trumbull students would love to attend but they are on waiting lists because there are not enough seats allocated to Trumbull. These magnet schools feature 21st century curriculum and state-of-the-art facilities and are a marvelous environment for learning. I am positive that if the original deal went through, there would have had to have been a lottery for the 150 seats allocated to Trumbull. Now there will only be 50, and 100 Trumbull students have lost an opportunity to attend this school upon its completion. It would have been a tremendous asset to Trumbull, and what Mr. Herbst doesn't realize is that this will be one of those legacy items that people will remember him for....it would have been in a very positive way as this high school will be a big asset to our area...now, he will always be remembered for losing this high school and the 49 acres upon which it is built. The next legacy item is sewer regionalization. That's a subject for another day, but I hope the next First Selectman does a better job of negotiating for Trumbull then Mr. Herbst did on this one.
raymond jaroszewski November 05, 2011 at 12:56 PM
I was opposed to this location from the start why destroy such beautiful forest when Bridgeport has so many vacant brown field that need to be remediated? That said once i realized that it was going to be built there I wanted Trumbull to get the best deal possible for our students , taxpayers and to have some control over the remaining woodlands. How ever this was not to be Tim Herbst's method of conflict governing proved a losing hand.
JerseyGirl November 05, 2011 at 12:56 PM
Hahaha, I miss Trumbull...NOT!!!!
Carol Hudak November 05, 2011 at 01:11 PM
The POST has only printed press releases and done no digging to 'get' the story-not with the Magnet, Charter Revision Revulsion, or sewers. The intimidation story is so serious, yet an unseasoned reporter handled it. I hope the public is awake - any success Timmy may claim now is a result of former First Selectman, Ray Baldwin's efforts. If tim gets in for two more years, then the town will see the enormity of the ineptitude that is running this town; I include GOP Town council reps. in this statement - they shamelessly rubber stamped him, clearly not bothering to feret out the details before they voted. They are not worthy or re-election. The BOF handling of the budget was a disaster. The BOE was forced to hire an atty. - imagine, because the GOP was shamelessly, and illegally, overstepping its mandate. The eroding of rights by intimidation and re-writing the Charter is extremely scary. The GOP mentality is 'we're right, so we can do whatever we want.' It is extreme tunnel vision and it is very dangerous. This is NOT leadership. Trumbull, WAKE UP.
Jim Flynn November 05, 2011 at 02:23 PM
This is an "endorsement" His tenure has not been without its shortcomings. His handling of the proposed magnet high school on the Trumbull-Bridgeport line has been flawed, even up to his most recent request to the city of Bridgeport to cease and desist on construction. As originally planned, the state-of-the-art science magnet school would have been in Trumbull and presented an excellent opportunity for regional cooperation. Trumbull's reluctance to let the school move forward resulted in the state stepping in and redrawing the boundary so as to put the school site inside the limits -- and control -- of the city of Bridgeport. Also somewhat troubling are the persistent accusations of intimidation against the first selectman. While sharp elbows and capability in close combat are skills that every successful politician carries in his or her pack, using them unnecessarily only dulls their effectiveness. Read more: http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Herbst-earns-nod-for-a-second-term-2252615.php#ixzz1cqBZ5C5W
J Strouse November 05, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Carol, Why is it that Democrats always talk about Herbst inheriting all the good things from his predecessor...but never talk about any of the bad things Herbst inherited?
Scot Kerr November 05, 2011 at 04:36 PM
LifeWASgood, You need to recognize that Trumbull is a suburb of Bridgeport, and our fortunes are inextricably tied in important ways. Most critically the impending sewage treatment issues, but also regional education, and property values. How would our home values over the last decade have been effected without the Arena and Harbor Yard stadium? Taking an isolationist approach by shifting the town border won't make Fairchild-Wheeler a better or worse school, but Trumbull's not taking a leadership role in an important regional project certainly didn't help the school's chances. And more selfishly, it seems to have drastically hurt the chances for some of our town's students.
Pam Georgas November 05, 2011 at 05:40 PM
I believe a science magnet school will provide an important alternative to the mainstream high school curriculum for students interested in pursuing a career in the sciences. However, I hope that the state will also turn its attention to the existing tech schools, such as Bullard Havens, in Bridgeport. These schools which seem to be struggling for proper funding, provide a key career alternative for Bridgeport students, focusing on sought after technical skills such as carpentry, and electrical. These skills are just as important to a successfully functioning society as doctors, lawyers, and accountants.
Doug Sutherland November 06, 2011 at 02:24 AM
lifeWASgood, This letter by me and it's timing is for political purposes. We have an important election coming up Tuesday and I want the town to understand what we lost and what else we might lose if we continue with the current leadership in Trumbull. Bad decisions have been made these last two years and for all the wrong reasons. We can't afford two more years of politically motivated governance. The magnet school is still going to be located in exactly the same place and it will still be run by Bridgeport. All the problems we were worrying about (traffic, emergency response, safety, environmental damage, etc.) are still there - except we now have no control and no money (millions of dollars) coming to us to mitigate these problem. All we can do now is take our neighbor Bridgeport to court - running up more legal bills and further antagonizing a neighbor that we will need when we begin to tackle our next big issue - sewer regionalization. We also have fewer seats at this state-of-the-art school for our students. How is that good for the Town of Trumbull? How is any of this good for the taxpayers of Trumbull?
Doug Sutherland November 06, 2011 at 02:27 AM
Our current administration has managed to extract the worst possible deal from a very complex situation. Their only prayer now is to hope that this Bridgeport school turns out to be the nightmare they have been claiming. What a message to send to our town and our neighbors: instead of working to make the best of this golden opportunity, we now must root for failure. Very sad. There's no Thornton slam campaign being run. Just a campaign to point out the facts. If that feels like a slam, I'm sorry.
Jim Sullivan November 07, 2011 at 02:40 AM
What did we lose? 100-seats? Is that because our FS in a Republican and the Bridgeport Mayor is a Democrat? That not right. The state should step in and get the 100-seats back. Even if its not a sure thing the 150-seats would be filled. I also agree with the brownfields comment above. There was no reason to rip up those woods.
Doug Sutherland November 07, 2011 at 04:21 AM
Jim Sullivan, the extra hundred seats were negotiated by our P&Z as part of a package of concessions because this was going to be a Bridgeport school inside Trumbull. These seats helped offset expenses that the town of Trumbull would incur with this project (e.g. we don't get any tax revenue from property occupied by a school). However, with the school not on Trumbull soil, no extra hundred seats. The brownfield comment misunderstands the point of a magnet school. By placing the new school on a brownfield site, would we likely get the diversity we seek to improve educational equality. How many Trumbull parents would want to send their kids to a Bridgeport brownfield site? Just like some people's suggestions that Trumbull should not be taking any seats from the kids in Bridgeport. That would again not result in the diversity magnet schools are based on. Without diversity, without everyone invested in this project and without all our communities working to make it success, it well could become just another failed Bridgeport school, Unfortunately, Trumbull has not distinguished itself thus far with our lack of support for what could be a huge asset for everyone in the community.
Mark E Smith November 07, 2011 at 02:54 PM
NOTHING FROM HARTFORD IS FREE. Tell me one thing that Hartford has done for Trumbull for free. They take huge taxes and return virtually nothing. We will be paying not only our share for this school but Bridgeports share too. Nothing from Hartford is Free, however our Democrats feel it is. Yet we are the most taxed state in the country with the latest Tax Independence day in the Country. ( http://www.taxfoundation.org/taxfreedomday ) to pay for Hartford and the Democrats. We might have 10 years of free students but after that we will be paying over $20,000 per child which comes to $2,000,000 in 2011 dollars, it will be much more in 2021. Nothing is for Free, let alone from Hartford.
SoccerMom November 07, 2011 at 03:33 PM
I thought our "like new renovation" was supposed to make THS the crown jewel of Trumbull? The same programs that will be at the Magnet school can be implemented at THS - like most other towns are currently engaging. Stronger tech skills and foreign language need to be implemented at the elementary and middle school level. That should be the focus - not creating, managing and paying for another magnet school. Let Bridgeport handle it's own problems - they certainly tax their people enough.
Jim Flynn November 07, 2011 at 03:46 PM
as usual mark conveniently forgets that the Republicans have been running the executive branch of the government of connecticut throughout the entire decade unless we forget that rell and rowland were republicans. no tax increases could have been initiated without the signature of these two governors. so if you want to blame someone blame everyone both the dems and the reps. but that wouldn't be consistent with the narrative he is trying to weave out of whole cloth. and if mark was so worried about jobs leaving connecticut he wouldn't be traveling in singapore trying to find jobs for singaporeans that could be done by Americans.
Joan November 07, 2011 at 03:51 PM
Trumbull was never "paying" for a new magnet school. In fact, the money we would have saved on educating the 150 students from Trumbull who would have attended the magnet school could have been used on things such as updating our curriculum to match what will be available at that new school. Instead, with the current underfunding of our schools by Mr. Herbst and our Republican town council, our curriculum development has been cut and will be falling farther and farther behind. The like-new renovation at THS has nothing to do with updating curriculum, as far as I know. This was a huge fumble by Mr. Herbst, that will cost us dearly in terms of our education budget and the opportunity for a cutting-edge science education for 150 of our students per year.
SoccerMom November 07, 2011 at 05:05 PM
There is no such thing as "free". Particularly from the state.
SoccerMom November 07, 2011 at 05:07 PM
Amen Raymond. Not to mention abdandoned warehouses. Ones near U of B - high school students could have access to college level resources.
Joan November 07, 2011 at 05:37 PM
OK, then how much was the state going to make Trumbull "pay" for the magnet school? Cold, hard facts, please.
TrumbullProgressive November 07, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Yes, nothing is free - obviously. No one ever said it was free. However, we pay taxes to Hartford, would it not have been a good thing to see some of it come back to Trumbull to educate 150 of our students each year? There is no question this was a huge fumble by the Herbst administration. Arrogance, ignorance, prejudice - I don't know which, but this was the worst possible outcome for this situation. The school is still going to be built, it is still going to be in our neighborhood, but we will get no money and fewer students going to the school and no control of the situation. Where in God's name is the Win-Win?? No where for Trumbull, I can tell you that. Vote Row A on Tuesday. We can't afford two more years of leadership like this!
diddlebug April 03, 2012 at 11:10 PM
people didn't want bridgeport residents coming to trumbull and they didn't want the test scores of the bridgeport students to affect the towns ranking, I see a lot of words up there but isn't it pretty much that simple?
Scot Kerr April 04, 2012 at 02:19 AM
diddlebug - Not sure where you're coming from so late to this discussion, but I think you're off base with your comments. Having followed this topic pretty closely at the time, I never heard an inkling of concerns about the population or test scores being a concern of Trumbull's. It was a financial dispute over police and fire protection costs. There were other online discussions in town where many active parents of HS aged children strongly supported having the magnet school in Trumbull. Good news is the construction appears to be moving very rapidly so the kids that attend will be in there soon.
TrumbullProgressive April 04, 2012 at 04:07 AM
Scot, sadly diddlebug was right on target - not off base in the least. Town Councilman Chad Ciocci wrote a very racist screed back last April (http://trumbull.patch.com/articles/ciocci-proposed-magnet-school-bad-for-trumbull) attacking our neighbor to the south and suggesting that this magnet school would provide an inferior education because it would be a Bridgeport school and suggesting that no Trumbull parents would want to send their children there. On the contrary, this school will be state-of-the-art offering a curriculum not available at Trumbull High School. Not only will Trumbull parents want to send their kids there, there is currently a waiting list to get Trumbull kids into the other Bridgeport magnet schools. Unfortunately, before our FS bungled the deal, we could have sent 150 students to the school each year. Now it will only be 50. And if you are worried about Bridgeport students affecting the town ranking, I'm sure there will be testing requirements for Bridgeport students to get into this magnet school. Yes, the school construction is moving right along, but what could have been the pride of Trumbull is now in Bridgeport and Trumbull lost 49 acres of land and millions of dollars for upgrades to town services. The entire sad story is detailed at this link provided in the Editor's Note in the original article: http://youtu.be/2PU3lMArj4I.
Scot Kerr April 04, 2012 at 01:04 PM
I stand corrected on the breadth of comments opposed to this school for the wrong reasons. While the official justification remains the police/fire costs, it's clear that we have some in town that don't appreciate the importance of our relationship with Bridgeport and what it has to offer. Perhaps the fact that we just hired Bridgeport's deputy director of planning and economic development is a sign of change?
Angela sermons January 21, 2013 at 12:52 AM
I heard that they are only allowing grades 9-10 in the fall of 2013 . Is this true ? When will they start letting grades 11-12 to go there ?? ANSWERS PLEASE
Aaron Leo (Editor) January 21, 2013 at 01:44 AM
Angela, you can go the Bridgeport Schools Website, www.bridgeportedu.net. I will also be checking. Thanks for your comment.
Doug Sutherland January 21, 2013 at 04:53 AM
Angela, they will be adding a new grade each year, so in 2014, they will have 9-11 grades and then in 2015, they will have all grades 9-12. The deadline for applications is January 30th for kid going into grades 9-10th. Go to http://www.bridgeportedu.net/IMHS/index.html and click on Registration for the application or click on News/Info to download the brochure in .pdf format.


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