Board of Education: Elected or Appointed?

by Pamela Discko

Trumbull Voters, did you know that your votes do not count for 6 of the 7 positions on the Board of Education? 

Currently, each political party chooses 3 candidates to be put on the ballot. Running unopposed, they need only one vote, their own, to “win”. They each serve 4 year terms.  They are not elected by the voters, they are appointed.

The proposed Charter Revision on the ballot this November seeks to change this. Under the revision of Chapter VII, Section 3, all BOE members will serve concurrent 2 year terms. When the current 4 year terms are up, the next member to be elected will serve a 2 year term.  Each party will nominate 5 candidates.  The voters will select 7 of the 10 candidates on the ballot.  This will be a true election.

Something else to consider: The BOE submits a budget each year to the town which appears as a line item in the town budget. Once the Board of Finance, the Town Council and the First Selectman agree on the amount and the town budget is passed, that amount, (which this year is $96M+), is turned over to the BOE to spend as they see fit, with no town oversight.

Here are the facts: Currently, 6 out of 7 BOE members are not “truly” elected by the voters and these 7 people spend 2/3 of every tax dollar. It’s time to change the Trumbull Town Charter.

Pamela Discko


Bill Holden October 31, 2011 at 05:20 PM
Councilman Meisner is the guy who objected to the Charter revision proposal to allow voters to vote for all their Council members. Presently voters can only vote for 2 out of 3 to be elected and Mr.Meisner would have kept it that way if enough Council members supported his position. Any voter residing is District 6, who doesn't mind being DENIED A VOTE for all their representatives, should by all means vote for Mr. Meisner and "no" on charter revision.
Thomas Tesoro October 31, 2011 at 05:26 PM
Mr. Meisner raised some very legitimate points to support his position, although for the record, I disagree with him on this matter.. Mr. London, above, makes statements that have no basis in fact, attacks fellow citizens and are quite frankly, foolish. We can and should do better on our Town Council.
Cindy Penkoff October 31, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Lainie you are only looking at a portion of the education budget. That is not the total education budget. We don;t get to leave out the parts we want. The approved amount, I listed above, is the entire budget.
Lainie McHugh October 31, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Cindy, Mrs. Discko did not refer to the request... She says the agreed upon budget.... The allocation is $87,444,839. What's your point?
Cindy Katske October 31, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Cindy P. and Lainie, I believe Mrs. Discko is incorrect in her letter. The $96 million is approved by the Town Council, as stated by Cindy P., but is NOT turned over to the BOE. It includes items such as bonding, the operation of Hillcrest Pool, salaries for school nurses and non-public school specialists such as speech specialists, non-public school buses, and other items that are "education" related but are NOT part of the BOE operating budget. The number that Lainie is using is the BOE operating budget, that is, the amount of money that is spent to run the Trumbull Public Schools. Lainie is correct that the amount that is "handed over" to the BOE is $87,444,839. I understand that this is confusing to many people, and I urge anyone who wishes for clarification to contact the Superintendent.
Thomas Tesoro October 31, 2011 at 05:55 PM
Hi Cindy Katske, That is correct. Now, Ms. McHugh and the PTA put on an excellent program that explains the budget process, highlights the education budget and its components and shows, in detail the unfunded mandates that cost all taxpayers money. This presentation has been provided to many citizens, whether they have children in the school system or not and all have found it informative. Perhaps Ms. McHugh could put on Patch the dates and locations of these presentations so that all Citizens can get informed of this critical process. By the way, in spite of disingenuous comments made by people like Mr. London, the PTA was, is and will be a positive Community organization.
Bill Holden October 31, 2011 at 05:57 PM
No amount of fancy spin can change the issue. Either one believes voters should be able to vote for ALL their representative or one believes voters should only be able to vote for SOME of their representatives.
Tiredof October 31, 2011 at 06:15 PM
What needs to be fixed Cindy? What about the charter revision do you not like...and Cindy of course teh PTA woudl agree with what you say...you run the PTA...correct?
Thomas Tesoro October 31, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Bill, You are a smart guy, why can't you accept the fact that Mr. Meisner has raised some legitimate issues. As I said, I do not agree with him on this particular issue but he made arguments not nonsensical statements like those made by MNr. London. I would rather have a Councilperson who can articulate an agrument for or against a particular issue than one who spouts jargon or makes ridiculuous statements. By the way, not to be rude, but if the TRTC really believes in open elections, why did you nominate 3 people for the BOE then withdraw the nomination? How is that democratic? Mr. Meisner, a THS grad, has a BA and an MBA from the University of Chicage, one of the most prestegious schools in the nation. He brings incredible depth to the Town Council. He thinks for himself. We need more of that.
Cindy Penkoff October 31, 2011 at 06:22 PM
So Tom, So who is responsible for those cost over and above the "sponsored budget" amount you all seem to agree with? Even though it is not the official budget number.
Thomas Tesoro October 31, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Are you asking me? If so I do not understand the question. In Ms. Disco's article she says that 96 million was turned over to the BOE to spend as they choose, that is incorrect as Cindy K and Ms. McHugh pointed out. They gave the correct figure. So, instead of arguing the point I suggest you contact Ms. Discko and have her correct the number then we can get back to discussing the substance of her post.
Cindy Penkoff October 31, 2011 at 06:49 PM
DId you read the letter Tom? or are you just here on this subject to defend an incorrect comment? It is a matter of public and legal record that the approved amount for education is $96,006,538. Is that amount incorrect? Mrs. Discko's letter was regarding the education budget. If you are going to discuss the education budget it has to be as a whole as she did. All of those things listed are still within the education system and therefore a part of the budget AS APPROVED by the Town Council. Lainie was the one who chose to separate it, which had nothing to do with Mrs. Discko's letter. So if Lainie is correct, who pays the cost that she chooses to not acknowledge and what department should they be charged to since you seem to think this is not a part of the education budget? I mean I know it's not salaries, benefits, books and sports etc, but does that make it any less a cost and an obligation charged to that department?
Joan October 31, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Ms. Discko's letter clearly states that the $96M was "turned over to the BOE." Ms. Katske and Ms. McHugh have provided data showing that this statement was incorrect. It is not the amount that is under the BOE's purview. Why continue to debate this when it is patently wrong?
Cindy Penkoff October 31, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Joan, the BOE had alot of obligations they have no choice in. Contractual obligations that include salaries & benefits. Just as they have no choice in the cost of the bonding, unfunded mandates etc. Why not take salaries and benefits out of the "as they see fit"? Why include it in their budget? Her reference on the total budget included everything. God forbid we shouldn't follow the ABC's and admit there might be a chapter left out.
Cindy Penkoff October 31, 2011 at 07:14 PM
I was right to stay away. You people live in another world. Must be nice to be so oblivious to reality.
Thomas Tesoro October 31, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Ms. Discko wrote as follows: " The BOE submits a budget each year to the Town which appears as a line item in the Town budget." Ms. Disco further writes: "...that amount (which this year is 96m+) is turned over to the BOE to spend as they see fit with no town oversight." I did read the letter, in fact I read it twice to make sure I had the correct response. As those two direct quotes clearly show, the "96M+ number is incorrect. It is clear that Ms. Disco does not understand the process and I was recommending that she as well as other who wish to be informed attend Ms. McHugh's presentation. I also suggested that you contact Ms. Disco as I am sure you know her and tell her to correct her letter. Once that is done we can return to the substance of her post. I will ignore the unpleasant undertone of your note as I attribute that to the stress of your election efforts.
Jim Flynn October 31, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Mrs. Penkoff, You are running for a position on the Trumbull Board of Education. Please attempt to dicuss the issues with those who oppose you in a constructive manner without resorting to such churlishness. Is this how we should expect that you will deal with your fellow BOE members when there is disagreement.
Amy Palmer October 31, 2011 at 08:47 PM
"You people live in another world. Must be nice to be so oblivious to reality." Classic! May the gods above help all of the kids in our schools if this one manages to get elected.
Lainie McHugh October 31, 2011 at 09:00 PM
I hope that all voters are aware that it is the responsibility of the BOE to make decisions based on the best interest of the students. This is the reason for statutes to preserve line item control over the BOE operational budget. In a perfect Trumbull, we would have elected officials serving on boards who would work together maintaining a correct system of checks and balances to see to the needs of all groups... Be an educated and informed voter on November 8th!
Jim Flynn October 31, 2011 at 09:08 PM
Mrs. Penkoff posted the following on her Facebook page today: "OK, left tchat 10mths ago; now completely done with Patch. People are jerks. They live in a fantasy world and they are beyond abussive. No common sense what so ever." Please vote for Rosemary Seaman for the BOE on November 8. We deserve better than Mrs. Penkoff!
Lisa Labella October 31, 2011 at 09:13 PM
There are three issues here, one of authority over funds, the second over the specific numbers involved, and the third, who has oversight. In order to understand this, I suggest the reader open another window, bring up the approved town budget, and go to page 110: http://www.trumbull-ct.gov/filestorage/7112/7170/2011-2012_Budget_Level_Report_-_Final_Town_Council_Approved_with_General_Fund_Total.pdf. This will allow the reader to follow along with this information. First is the issue of authority over an appropriation. The ONLY line item that is under the authority and oversight of the Board of Education is account 01060000 522205, Program Expense. This is the line item that is referred to as the Education Operating Budget in the ABC’s presentation. The item displayed in the current file is incorrect, as the fringe benefits are still segregated out and the special appropriation is not included. At this time, the total amount appropriated to the Board of Education, and over which they have discretion, is $87,444,839.
Lisa Labella October 31, 2011 at 09:13 PM
The other accounts listed on that page are under the authority of the Town of Trumbull and oversight of the Board of Finance. At this time, Mr. Sirico has been authorized by the Town (not the BOE) to manage these accounts. However, should any questions arise with regard to expenses booked against these accounts, the questions would be directed through the Board of Finance. The Board of Education has no discretion regarding these other accounts, nor can it access any of the funds appropriated to them. With regard to specific numbers … it is true that the Board of Finance approved a TOTAL number of $96,006,538 to the Education component of the general fund (p. 12, http://www.trumbull-ct.gov/filestorage/6279/1279/1292/3589/6446/05-14-2011_BOF_Minutes.pdf). However, this number is irrelevant, as the Board of Finance deadlocked on its final vote. So this number is moot. The correct number for Total Education is $94,946,635, which is the number approved by the Town Council (p. 19, http://www.trumbull-ct.gov/filestorage/6279/1279/1312/3815/6534/04-14-2011_Town_Council_Budget_Minutes.pdf). But again, this is NOT the number “turned over” to the Board of Education.
Lisa Labella October 31, 2011 at 09:13 PM
With regard to the statement that there is “no town oversight” with regard to the appropriation under the authority of the Board of Education, I disagree. Not only does the Board of Education uphold its statutory authority by providing oversight, it does so with complete transparency. The line item request is discussed several times in public session. Thereafter, each month the Business Administrator provides the Board of Education with summary reports that are posted online. The reports are available to the public and discussed in public. There is no greater oversight than that.
Joan October 31, 2011 at 10:05 PM
I have no idea what this comment is in reference to. I was merely pointing out that Mrs. Discko was wrong as to the amount of money "turned over" to the BOE. It had nothing whatsoever to do with contractual obligations, salaries, or anything else. Do I think that line item control of salaries and benefits should be given to our highly politicized Town Council or Board of Finance? Heaven help us all!
Trumbull Supporter November 01, 2011 at 12:01 AM
Good riddance to Ms Penkoff. Hopefully when Ms Seaman wins the BOE seat on November 8th we will not have to hear from her again.
Jim Flynn November 01, 2011 at 12:21 AM
More from Mrs. Penkoff's Facebook page, posted today: "I love people who feel the need to only give half the information. Yes that is sarcastic. One would think that someone who spends so much time defending a budget would actually know what that budget is, not just the part that suites them. I hate condescending witches. (and warlocks) :) but I love when they are wrong!!" Vote for Mrs. Seaman on November 8 Trumbull deserves better than Mrs. Penkoff on our BOE!
Joan November 01, 2011 at 12:42 AM
At let us remember who is having her run on his ticket for the Board of Ed. Herbst's choice of Mrs. Penkoff for that seat should be all people need to know about his judgment and his commitment to education.
Cindy Katske November 01, 2011 at 01:34 AM
There is no chapter left out of the ABC's. There is a slide in the presentation and a page in the Citizen's Guide that clearly delineates what is included in the BOE operating budget and what is not. The items that are not included in the BOE operating budget are what Cindy P. seems to be talking about, and what Mrs. Discko referred to in her letter.
Momof3 November 01, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Ms Penkoff- You are truly an embarrasment to Trumbull.
Cindy Katske November 02, 2011 at 01:09 PM
The Charter Revision Forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the PTSA Council will be broadcast on Charter Channel 17/U-Verse Channel 99 at 7pm beginning tomorrow, November 3 until Monday, November 7. I urge all voters to watch it!


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