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Trumbull Resident: Vote Seaman, Ward for Ed Board

by Nikki Satin

I was in attendance at the Board of Ed Forum at Frenchtown.   

Mrs. Chory, Ms. Penkoff and Mrs. Herbst made a point several times that Superintendant Iassogna can do a better job finding “efficiencies” in the system. It’s the year 2011, we no longer have computer paras.  Last year my children’s school ran out of paper and Social Studies books. Parents donate paper towels, hand soap, and tissues.  We can’t contact our child’s school between the hours of 12-1:30 because we don’t have a secretary available to answer the calls.  “Pay to Play” is capped out at the parents’ expense. Our teachers passed up increases last year, those who left were not replaced. We have more students at the high school and less academic courses offered.

I felt strange irony when the most conservative of candidates were advocating for an estimated $750,000 Full-Day Kindergarten program. Our schools are some of the best in the country, CMT scores are some of the highest in Connecticut. (Note: The Herbst generation of children has not yet taken their CMTs). Students walk through rain and snow to a portable trailer to be educated. We are talking about expanding our kindergarten to a full day?

Several candidates who hit the Superintendant hard on his “lack of efficiencies” made proud mention of the Family Circle article that named Trumbull “Top 7 Towns for Families”- Mr. Iassogna has been our superintendant for 12 years. Should he not get any credit for this honor?  

I’m not comfortable voting for a candidate that tweets “I think I’m not a fan of PTA Moms. It’s like a gang or something that travel in packs. ” Or “Politics sucks. Why do I keep doing this insanity driven crap?” (Penkoff, Twitter, Feb ‘10). Does Ms. Penkoff realize that the PTA parents spend countless volunteer hours raising funds for programs and items that the BoE budget does not provide? Are Cindy and her running mates’ mouths and minds in the right place to earn this prestigious position?

In my mind seasoned, composed, non-divisive candidates like Seaman and Ward are trustworthy of decisions that will inevitably affect my children’s future. Mary Beth Thornton has been a supporter throughout the critical building years of Trumbull’s stellar education program; she too has earned my vote.

Nikki Satin

Jim Flynn October 25, 2011 at 07:31 PM
I cannot tell you what would be enough money for education. We have a Board of Education that has done a wonderful job that would be more helpful in responding to your question. If you want to convert education into a dollars and cents argument, let me suggest that our excellent education system has been a if not the major reason in our relatively high residential property values. You start deteriorating that school system by being cheap with education and your property values will sink faster than a stone because young families will no longer want to move in to Trumbull. Before you know it we become Startford. So, please think of the consequences of being penny wise and pound foolish.
gail jarvis October 25, 2011 at 08:12 PM
Mr. Flynn Re-Read my post--If you and I and other bloggers can solve Money=Education and More Money=a Better Education--We could take this info on the road and solve alot of problems. In Our flailing global economy that is affecting each and everyone us (some more than others) Its Prudent that we take a closer look at educational expenses i.e. teachers/administrators/state mandates/operation of buildings expenses/etc etc etc...... You mention real estate--Real Estate prices have gone down, yes, even in Trumbull--if we price ourselves educationally "out of the market" --- nobody will be able to move in or out of this town----Then it won't matter how you slice the pie!!!
CTPati October 25, 2011 at 09:23 PM
For anyone who knows Cindy Penkoff, your post is laughable! She is a very strong-willed person who makes her own decisions, and as a *mother* of a Trumbull student certainly DOES want "the best possible education" for Trumbull children. For you to say that "She is not representing our children" is just as off base as various *extremist* DEMS' statements such as that "Republicans want women to die on the floor!" Cindy, however, is smart and pragmatic enough to realize that with the current economy, even the BOE is going to have to participate in some belt-tightening, by finding further efficiencies.
LovesTrumbull October 25, 2011 at 10:27 PM
CTPati, very strong-willed is a very appropriate description of Ms. Penkoff..however; not in a good way for the Town of Trumbull and the BoE! Although she is a mother of a Trumbull student; as she has made reference to in the past that her son who has special needs is taken care of by State of CT mandates so her true interest in the Trumbull children is not a priority for her!
Richard W. White October 25, 2011 at 10:57 PM
Ms. Jarvis -- shhhhh, don't tell anyone but Trumbull has already found the solution. Hillcrest Middle School is ranked 37th out of 299 Middle Schools in our state based on performanace (yeah Mrs. Seaman!). http://www.conncan.org/learn/reportcards/school?school=Middle+School&districts=&category=field_reportcard_goal_value And Trumbull is ranked 118th out of 169 districts in per pupil spending. http://sdeportal.ct.gov/Cedar/WEB/ct_report/FinanceDT.aspx Great results for a great value.
gail jarvis October 26, 2011 at 12:24 AM
Mr. White I am a pro education mother/parent. I am also a citizen of this Town/State and Country. Nothing can be so singularly focused in view of a World Wide Economy. Re-re-read my post(s). I am not advocating that we not fund Education---I am asking "at what cost"? I do not live in the Town of Board of Education Trumbull---like you I live in the Town of Trumbull with a great education system. Is this town only for the people with children--all others please move out or don't move in? My intent is not to inflame but to offer a bigger picture of the economy. I think that is a fair argument.
Ray R. October 26, 2011 at 01:13 AM
First, I love this article because it is not written by the candidate and shows that there is no ego despite the credentials. I believe most of the previous Republican candidate articles were written by the candiate or campaign themselves. This was such a turn off as well as a red flag. Second, thank you Richard White for not twisting data, like that Herbst campaign does so well, and showing that we actually spend below our demographic average on education by comparison to similar towns. Third, comments such as the ones from Gail Jarvis, Mark Smith and Ct Pati demonstrate the dangers of free speech. They are convinced they know what they are talking about, but don't show any evidence of either having first hand experiences as educators themselves or knowing that Trumbull remains one of the most affordable suburban Fairfield county towns. If you applied their logic, then a BOF member doesn't necessarily need knowledge in finance or accounting. Lastly, this town needs to move forward and build on its assets. That coudl have happened in the last 2 years, but we were mired in conflict. Trumbull is attractive only as a better option if you came from Stratford, Bridgeport, Norwalk, Stamford, and parts of Long Island. Yet, Trumbull will only achieve further prosperity when we have elected members who can cultivate a long term vision. That can't happen when the leader and his cohorts are constantly campaigning.
Carol Hudak October 26, 2011 at 01:50 AM
Loves Trumbull, Mrs.Penkoff does not understand the mandate of a BOE member. It's to advocate the best education for Trumbull children. Her statements that I have read are about cutting BOE costs. This, plus her comment quoted here about PTA members, is quite disturbing. In the past two years, FS Herbst has made the BOE the enemy of the town. The tone and actions of Tim and his TC have been combative. The letter written by Republican Majority Leader, Chad Ciocci (running again in D-7) concerning the Magnet School was divisive and offensive. All of this combativeness serves no one. Mrs. Seaman is clearly the exceptional candidate. I will be very happy to vote for her.
Joan October 26, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Well, Ray R., if you believe that a Board of Finance member should have a knowledge of finance or accounting, we have to wonder why Herbst appointed Cindy Penkoff as an alternate to that board! As far as I know, she has a background in neither.
gail jarvis October 26, 2011 at 02:29 AM
Ray R. "the dangers of free speech"............ I was just blogging about obvious observations and comments from other bloggers. (You know---Free Speech) (Free Thought is not such a bad idea either) $$Money$$$ and budget concerns all of us. I have questions and concerns like most people...don't you?
gail jarvis October 26, 2011 at 02:34 AM
RayR. Trumbull ".better option if you came from Stratford, Bpt, Norwalk............" Is this "Town Class Warfare"? Just asking!
Tom Kelly October 26, 2011 at 06:57 AM
Ms. Jarvis, no, the town is not all about funding education. But I think we, as a community, have to have a reasonable expectation regarding how much a quality education costs. It's obvious to me after hearing many Republicans talk about education that they simply dismiss the fact that Trumbull spends about $1,000 less per student than the state average. They don't seem to know that Trumbull spends less than the average of the towns in our District Reference Group (DRG). They don't seem to be aware that Trumbull is ranked 17 of 21 in Fairfield County in per pupil spending. They don't seem to be aware that Trumbull ranks 118 of 169 in per pupil spending in the State of Connecticut. All of these figures I have just quoted point to one thing--Trumbull taxpayers are getting an outstanding value for their investment in education. And the school system is excellent in terms of quality, scoring highly across the board and with a graduation rate of over 99%. And the quality of our school system does, indeed, support our property values in this town. Republicans seem to discount that, as well. We have seen taxes go up because we have 800 more children in our school system and two new schools between 2000-08. No matter who was First Selectman, those costs could not have been avoided. Now that enrollment projections are stable, we will see more predictable increases as well. Suffice it to say that Trumbull has not had a blank checkbook when it comes to education.
Tom Kelly October 26, 2011 at 07:03 AM
I would also like to point out that taxes are NOT lower in Monroe, or Newtown, two neighboring towns similar to Trumbull. Taxes are NOT lower despite the fact that these towns have an AUTOMATIC budget referendum each year. And their schools are not as good as Trumbull's, their roads are not as good, they do not have golf courses or a park system like Trumbull, or other amenities, and they don't have sewers. And STILL their taxes are not lower. Herbst and the Republicans are taking us down the road Monroe and Newtown paved, and it is not a better road for Trumbull. In the interest of saving a relatively small handful of dollars every year, if property values decline by even 5% due to lower property schools, it will cost every homeowner in this town thousands and thousands of dollars in property value. This administration is penny wise and pound foolish and are taking these actions in the midst of an awful economy but those charter revisions and poor investments in education will hurt this town for years to come. Make room, Shelton, Monroe, and Newtown...here comes Herbst and Trumbull to join you.
Tom Kelly October 26, 2011 at 07:05 AM
this line above should read "if property values decline by even 5% due to lower quality schools,"
Mark E Smith October 26, 2011 at 11:00 AM
Ray R, Board are the People's oversight to the town government. They are the checks and balances that gives the residents representation in the decisions in our government. They should be balanced and diverse as the community they represent. No, the BOF shouldn't have all Accountants, the BoE shouldn't have all Educators. They should represent the community. Second, I am married to an Educator, a Teacher who teaches Reading and CAPT review in Stamford. Many of our friend if not most are Teachers and Educators so I get some pretty good insight from Teachers, Administrators and Superintendents some of whom work in Trumbull, some who work in Norwalk, some who work in Stamford and many who live in Trumbull. As for your comment about the "dangers of free speech", you do have other options to live in other counties where you don't have that. As a former Marine who has been to some of those countries believe me you should appreciate the so called "dangers" you speak of. Recently I was in a country where they monitored and filtered all you internet activity, your mail, your medical records and even your driving patterns. You can't have websites that speak against the government, if you do it is shut down. Is that what you want. Or, is it you just don't like listening to people who have different points of view then yours. Sounds, like a real Trumbull Democrat.
LovesTrumbull October 26, 2011 at 11:08 AM
Perhaps you misundertood my comment, I see what Ms. Penkoff stands for and it is very disturbing that she is even running for this position! Her comments regarding the PTA are not only disturbing but her tone is nasty and demeaning. Does she not realize the role of the PTSA as advocates for our children as well? Mrs. Seaman is by far the choice candidate for the BoE... We are on the same page........
Mark E Smith October 26, 2011 at 11:08 AM
Tom, You keep focusing on how much we spend compared to other towns. Yet, isn't it our performance that we should be concerned with? Over the past ten years the BoE has requested $860 Million Dollars and Received $846 Million. That means that the BoE has received 98.4% that is has requested. Yet you tell us that because the BoE this past year didn't get it's status quo that it is going to be less? We spent $860 Million and that doesn't include new school buildings! What kind of infrastructure have we invested in that if we have a year of two of below status quo our education system is going to be the worst in the state? I don't see the logic, unless that $860 million spent over the past ten years has been spent incorrectly.
Trumbull Supporter October 26, 2011 at 12:03 PM
"Make room, Shelton, Monroe, and Newtown...here comes Herbst and Trumbull to join you. " Mr Kelly this is a very scary reality IF Mr Herbst gets elected. Thank you for the reminder. This is exactly why the citizens of this town are becoming involved and are paying attention. Politics are normally a taboo subject on such places as the soccer field , school events, grocery store, neighborhood parties. But not anymore! We are waking up and will be there on November 8th in support of our great town and its education system. We thank you for your support of education!
Tom Kelly October 26, 2011 at 12:07 PM
Mark, unfortunately, the "infrastructure" in education is people. 81% of everything that is spent is simply salaries and benefits. As you know, paying someone's salary and benefits doesn't carry over from year to year. When we look at the remaining 19%, paying the bus company to transport our students, or the oil, electric, and natural gas companies to pay for energy, those things don't carry over from year-to-year either. So in this business, that theory doesn't work. I will say that due to the excellent quality of the schools, the deterioration begun under Mr. Herbst had lowered the quality, but good quality is still there. I have not been advocating for new programs or positions...I'm just trying to preserve the current quality of our school system. Regarding your comment above about free speech, I hold that freedom very dear and while I have disagreed with you in the past, and really disagree with some of the quotes recently attributed to Mrs. Penkoff, I will always defend your right to state your opinion and Mrs. Penkoff's as well and thank you for serving our country for four years to protect those freedoms.
Joan October 26, 2011 at 12:16 PM
Don't like listening to people who have a different point of view than yours? Mr. Smith, you just described the Herbst administration to at "T." Even members of Mr. Herbst's own party have been publicly berated in the local media, just for having a different opinion. Look at the REPUBLICANS who have run afoul of the Herbst machine and are now supporting Mary Beth Thornton. Look at Mr. Palo and the way he was treated by Herbst and company for daring to work with Democrats to find a compromise on the Board of Finance. Look at Ted Lovely, Herbst's handpicked candidate for the Board of Ed two years ago, an experienced and revered educator, who has left the Republican party because of Herbst's broken promises. We had the First Selectman send a threatening letter to a private citizen because of a private Facebook posting (that wasn't even critical of him). We had his mother leave an intimidating message on another private citizen's voice mail when she was critical of the First Selectman. We had both Herbst and his mother call the school superintendent and a school principal to try to get a school secretary fired for commenting critically about Mr. Herbst during her lunch break. We have had a private citizen's employer called the day after she spoke at a public hearing in support of education. We have had a private citizen escorted out of a Town Council meeting by the police for speaking "out of turn." And that's not even the whole list. We need a change on November 8th.
Mark E Smith October 26, 2011 at 12:59 PM
Tom, But you have been walking around telling people that Tim has/will decimate the school system when there is no evidence of that. Scores are still tops in the state, graduation rates are almost perfect. How can two budgets that were still budget increases decimate our BoE program? And at the end of the year the BoE STILL gives back money. Second, yes salaries are a big issues. In these economic times we take a THS House Principal give her a new job and a $13K a year raise. Then because her new salary is higher than the Deputy Superintendent's salary you have to raise his to be 3% over hers. How is that responsible in these times? How about Health Insurance costs and the hard time the BoF got from the Superintendent on doing a Health benefits audit? Where their friends/family who didn't qualify getting free health care from Trumbull Taxpayers? Why was doing that simple audit so contentious by the BoE? Yes we need personnel, however we to do more than just throw money at it. It needs to be managed with more common sense. Does anyone look at the variances in accounts from what is proposed in the budget process to what is actually put as a budget to what is actually spent? I have and there are a few large accounts where the Budget account changes significantly especially when it comes to adding more to the Salaries account after budget season. So, please don't tell us that Tim is decimating the school system.
Momof3 October 26, 2011 at 01:38 PM
Quick point Mark- Tim Herbst can take absolutely no credit what so ever in test scores. Those children that have started under his policies and budget have not yet started testing. Those test scores and graduates are a product of the 12 years Mr. Iassogna has been superintendant, as well as, our strong history of First Selectmen that have advocated for education including Baldwin and Wilson. Note: 12 years is consistent with the length of time it takes to be prepared for college or moving on to a be a positive contributer to our society. Herbst's 2 years as FS in no way deserves the accolades Mr. Iassogna's history of advocating and building Trumbull's education system does. He has not earned the right to take credit for test scores or graduation rates, nor will he after the November election.
tchatter October 26, 2011 at 01:47 PM
If Mr Smith is looking for "common sense", here's a BOE that's been recognized by Governor Rell and the FEDERATION OF CONNECTICUT TAXPAYER ORGANIZATION (FCTO) for: "the school district's cooperative efforts with Citizens Review and Advisory Committee (CRAC) to bring taxpayers and public officials together to enhance the policies and procedures of a school district for the purpose of maximizing all school resources." Dr. Fusco who ran the CRAC has developed an index to measure a school district on its policies and practices that would: - indicate its level of accountability to the community in being answerable for the use and maximization of school resources - determine whether the district fulfills its obligation to be transparent for its decisions - indicate its commitment to participative inclusion of the community.  This towns CRAC with the cooperation of its public officials has earned 22 commendations representing full compliance with the criteria demonstrating its commitment in providing accountability, transparency and participation to its community of citizens. "The Federation is very pleased to have them become the first school district in Connecticut to be placed on its School District Honor Roll Hall of Fame in the GOLD category." Any guesses which town? TRUMBULL! You can't get any more rabid when it comes to taxes than the FCTO, so with that head start all you "efficiency experts" should be coming up with examples of "waste" in no time flat!
Mark E Smith October 26, 2011 at 02:18 PM
Momof3, I Never said he did. When did I say that? Stop assuming things. M
Thomas Tesoro October 26, 2011 at 02:34 PM
I think benchmarking, that is, comparing ourselves to other similar Towns is an important element in any disucssion whether it be the BOE or other Town Services. Such exerecises should not be selective, by that I mean we should look at everything not just those things that fit our particular point of view. In the case of the BOE, benchmarking should give our taxpayers great comfort. Our scores are above average and our costs at or below average. In most places that is considered good performance. In addition, as noted above, our BOE is very transparent in it's fiscal dealings. It welcomed Citizens Review, posts it check register online, and through good management and a bit of luck generally spends less than allocated to it. Once again, in most places this is considered good performance. I, like Mr. Kelly, feel this is a system worth fighting for. It gives our children a chance to reach their potential and provides the foundation for strong property values over time. Sure the Town and the BOE can collaborate to merge services, that is a very worthy idea supported by both candidates. The Republican approch to this good idea was to try to ram it down peoples throats and engage in illegal sequestering of funds. The result, no progress. The Democrats will engage all the stakeholders in the process, and I predict will achieve the result the Republicans failed to accomplish.
Ennis B October 26, 2011 at 02:54 PM
No matter who gets elected (and I suspect and hope it will be Thornton), there will be tough decisions to make in the coming years about education. Does everyone know we are starting out this year in the hole already? Contractually, teachers salaries will go up 1%. Where's the money for TAG coming from since, I think, it was some federal one-time grant that kept it going this year? Of course, the sports were only awarded on a last-minute budget appropriation with some surplus money. Curriculum writing, the core of any educational endeavor, has been neglected for over a decade in some subjects!!! And on top of this, the Trumbull Republicans re-promise for this campaign is to get us in a deeper hole with a new program for all day kindergarten that doesn't come cheap AND will make all children shift school districts and grade configuration (meaning K-3, 4-6, 7-9...or something similar.) ....I guess he must be planning our bonding our teachers' salaries and calling it savings. I don't think Herbst has the following or skills to weather these upcoming storms. For sure, the parents in this town all hate him and don't trust him. He is poor leader, with poor social skills, and will not be able to successfully get us through these trying times ahead. And, about the curriculum writing, what happens when Trumbull goes through a lengthy accreditation process in a year or so. How will we fare and how will we fall, when our curriculum is given a detailed inspection?
trumbulite09 October 26, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Mark - I'm a little confused from your post to Momof3 because I interpreted your below remarks that same as she did: "walking around telling people that Tim has/will decimate the school system when there is no evidence of that. Scores are still tops in the state, graduation rates are almost perfect." Those comments assume that the scores are good because of Tim and is a blatant mis-representation of the Herbst stand on education. Please don't insult us, we were there, we spoke at the meetings. We went through the budgets with a fine tooth comb. I was also there the night Tim gave his HR director a 10% raise so spin as much as you want, this past year happened. As for your service in the Marines - thank you from the bottom of my heart for protecting our country. However, doesn't it bother you in the least that Mr. Herbst has tried crushing one the most important freedoms we have, the freedom of speech? I know my heart twitched when my work was called after I stood up for my right to speak. I couldn't help but think of my best friend's brother who is in Afghanistan now or my cousin that served as a nurse in Iraq or my grandfather who fought in World War II. This administration is not good for education, Trumbull or the fundimental rights you fought for.
Momof3 October 26, 2011 at 03:45 PM
"But you have been walking around telling people that Tim has/will decimate the school system when there is no evidence of that. Scores are still tops in the state, graduation rates are almost perfect."- are you saying that you are not using test scores and graduation rates to defend Tim in this quote?
gail jarvis October 27, 2011 at 03:07 AM
Mark Smith. Ten years of requested monie$ for the Trumbull Board of Education --and 98.4% of the requests honored.!!! This should be Published on the Front page of local Newspapers. It should also be published on the Board of Ed Bulletins here and around the state. This information should not just languish on a blog/comment space. Thank you Thank You Thank You for your due dilligence. Somethings are not perfect--but this information is as close to perfect as it can get.!!!
Renee October 27, 2011 at 09:34 PM
It's absurd that the posts below cannot link the budget increases to the significant rise in the school age population. After all, a new, large elementary school was built, special ed pre-school, and classrooms added to the high school prior to the current renovation. Both the middle and high schools are still growing according to enrollment, but there were no new poisitions added in the last few years. Therefore, people have been doing more with less before it became fashionable to say it! Why such distrust and cynnicism towards education?

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