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Ciocci: Proposed Magnet School 'Bad' for Trumbull

by Chadwick Ciocci

Trumbull’s Town Council will soon vote on an inter-municipal agreement for Bridgeport to build a new high school within our town. I have spoken out against this proposal on a number of occasions and for myriad reasons, but I would like to raise two issues which have not been given due attention. 

The school is to be built in Trumbull, specifically a residential neighborhood near Quarry Road. This neighborhood has over 100 homes and families who love, respect and cherish their surroundings. They are proud to be Trumbull residents and proud to live where they do, and for good reason. 

Unfortunately this neighborhood already deals with the ramifications of being so close to Bridgeport, and as a result of its location, Trumbull officials have on numerous occasions proposed to dump unwanted projects in the area.

The UI substation comes to mind as the most recent historical example.  Somehow it is acceptable to undermine one neighborhood near Quarry Road but not Nichols or other parts of town. And now Bridgeport is practicing the same tactics that past Trumbull elected officials have: pick on the little guy.  

Currently our town is having conversations about not only building a Bridgeport high school in the neighborhood but potentially a sewer treatment facility as well. It is high time that Trumbull stopped treating certain neighborhoods differently than other neighborhoods. We all live in Trumbull and should be treated equally as such. 

While I do not believe that municipal governments should actively try to increase property values by their decisions or indecisions, it is even worse policy to actively undermine the quality and property values of a neighborhood by building unwanted and unneeded non-residential structures in residential neighborhoods.

If we want homeowners and developers to invest in the neighborhood in question, and as a result increase the quality of life, these same people must be assured that our local government will do everything it can, on a long-term basis, to ensure that their neighborhood will be protected against intrusive non-residential construction.

It does homeowners and others who might improve the area no good- and it does Trumbull no good- to live with the fear that if they do invest in their property, that a year or two down the line, there is sure to be another proposal that might negate everything they have improved.  

On a related note, I urge everyone who is enticed by the idea that some Trumbull students will be able to attend this school to think twice. It strikes me that if this school is built that we will have sacrificed a neighborhood in the name of giving a handful of Trumbull students an inadequate education when they could receive a more than reputable one at our own high school.

Remember, regardless of the fact that this school will be located in Trumbull, students will be receiving a Bridgeport education. Parents, would you send your child to any of Bridgeport’s other high schools? Of course not! That this school will be new and beautiful does not negate the fact that it will be run by Bridgeport’s failed board of education. 

This high school is bad for its Trumbull neighborhood, bad for Trumbull students and just plain bad for Trumbull. 

Sincerely,

Chadwick Ciocci

[Republican] Majority Leader

Town Council

Richard W. White April 03, 2011 at 03:13 AM
If Mr. Ciocci wants to make a site suitability case against this specific location, fine; the school will be built somewhere regardless. However, he stepped way across a line when he condemns these Bridgeport schools. As Lisa mentions, Trumbull parents are already sending their children to other Bridgeport magnet schools -- is Mr. Ciocci, in his capacity as town council member, majority leader, and former campaign manager for a statewide senate bid discouraging Trumbull parents from sending their students there? Personally, I know the quality of the Discovery School and I know that there is heavy competition admission among Trumbull students for admission.
Lisa Labella April 03, 2011 at 03:27 AM
My understanding is that the heirs of the Fairchild family were contacted and gave their permission to have the land re-deeded specifically for the use of the magnet school. They believed that was a better use than the current situation.
Jim Sullivan April 03, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Thanks for these numbers. I was curious whether there was interest in leaving the Trumbull school system. There has to be an infill opportunity somewhere in Bridgeport. The Park City is pretty much paved, so I don't think they should be targeting the first significant stand of trees as you head up 25.
SoccerMom April 03, 2011 at 01:07 PM
What about creating strong technology and STEM programs in our existing high schools? Given the increased usage of technology in our world plus the already demonstrated expertise of our teens, why limit this education to just a select group? Students today have more access to technology but yet it is used sparingly in the classroom (example - poster board projects instead of Prezi/multi media presentations). There are wonderful on line resources (Blackboard and Moodle come to mind) that allow for blended classes (mix of online and in class sessions) which will be handy when the state increases the number of credits for graduation. How about we start creating programs for the mid section of students? We have specialized programs for the top students, TAG students and special needs students but we settle on cookie cutter text book company driven programs for the middle. I’d be more impressed with small magnet-style programs at the local high schools in Bridgeport and Trumbull vs. any state-of-the-art new building smacked in the middle of the two towns. However, if you are convinced we need a new school, why not check out the empty hospital in Newtown? Large already built stone building on a grassy hill. Or how about any of the abandoned buildings inside of Bridgeport? Why are we always creating from scratch when properties to be renewed already exist?
SoccerMom April 03, 2011 at 01:07 PM
One last note - re: building businesses in Bridgeport - how do you inspire a child to learn when they are surrounded by abandoned businesses? We’ll spend a small fortune educating our kids and the first thing they will do is run far, far away because of the lack of opportunity in their own city.
Concerned Parent April 03, 2011 at 04:18 PM
I'm going to respond in a manner I hope is impartial. I see some valid points in Ciocci's response, and also some things that raise questions. I do think his point about sticking certain properties (power substations, cell towers, malls) closer to the Bridgeport line simply because they are closer to Bridgeport and further from the majority of Trumbull homes is a valid one. However, I can't really think of a time where putting a magnet school (or any school) would be sacrificing a neighborhood. In fact, usually homes closer to schools increase in value and elevates safety levels with increased law enforcement. Maybe I am missing something. I do agree with Mr. Ciocci that Trumbull is not exactly in need of a magnet school to save the town's education. I would be reluctant to take the risk of sending my children to the magnet school in lieu of Trumbull High, but others may not share that view point. Having said that, it may present an opportunity to others. Would hosting this magnet school provide any income to the town? If not, that would also be a concern as it would primarily be giving land freely to Bridgeport. I assume that for offering up this land we are getting something significant in return (since a negligible amount of Trumbull students would be using it). Just my thoughts and questions.
Lisa Labella April 03, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Trumbull is not "offering up this land". Although physically located in Trumbull, the land is owned by either Bridgeport or the State of CT. And one of the agreements being proposed including offering 150 slots to Trumbull students, vs. the 50 that are being offered to other participating communities. Moving 150 students out of the Trumbull system (which would happen over time, not right up front) would ultimately provide revenue (the state provides something like $1,300 per student as a transportation reimbursement) and also ultimately savings as a reduction of that many students at the high school would reduce the number of teachers needed there.
Mark E Smith April 03, 2011 at 08:05 PM
Lisa, I have been told that Bridgeport for the first 10 years will be "covering" the cost of Trumbull students attending this school. After which time Bridgeport has the right then to charge the taxpayers of Trumbull for the number of students attending. I was told that Bridgeport could after the first ten years that this school is opened could charge around $20,000 per student attending this school. If that is the case then in ten years the taxpayers of Trumbull could pay $3.0 million to send 150 students there. This would be on top of our Trumbull BOE budget. What have you been told about what we in Trumbull pay in the first ten years, then after. Mark Smith
Lisa Labella April 04, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Lisa Labella 4:45pm on Sunday, April 3, 2011 Mark, this is not the case, and I am very interested in the source of this mis-information, which seems to keep resurfacing. The state is funding the cost of this magnet, not the city of Bridgeport. All members of the Trumbull BOE received a copy of a letter written on letterhead of the Bridgeport Board of Education to Trumbull Assistant Superintendent Gary Cialfi and signed by Bridgeport Associate Superintendent Robert Henry that reads, "This correspondance is in response to your inquiry regarding our ability as a District to guarantee, in writing, that tuition charges will not be incurred now or in the future by Trumbull residents whose children attend the pending Multi-Magnet High School slated to come on-line for the 2013-2014 school year. Please be advised that the plan submitted to and approved by the State, based upon the formula for host magnet schools, has a provision that tuition will not be charged. Should State law formula change, that would be beyond the District's control; however, this is not anticipated. Further, dollar amount funding is the only monetary change pertaining to magnet schools that has occurred in recent years in that it has increased gradually." Therefore, legislation would have to be passed by the General Assembly to allow for the charging of tuition for students attending this host magnet school. I hope this puts this matter to rest. Lisa Labella
Kristy Waizenegger April 04, 2011 at 11:54 AM
Many of the comments here clearly illustrate how political correctness is used as a means to shut people down. Whether you agree or disagree with his letter, Mr. Ciocci raises some points that are worthy of some honest discussion - but the political correctness police don't want that. Using political correctness in this way just prevents us from moving forward and solving problems that can't be solved without some honest discussion. I'm not sure what people are afraid of. Topics like illegal immigration, consumer debt, welfare and yes, the overall failure of inner city school districts, including Bridgeport, are topics that are worthy of honest dialogue - we can't solve problems until we are willing to get at the true causes of these problems. That even our State Senator is not willing to have an honest dialogue about this topic is very disturbing.
Tom Kelly April 04, 2011 at 12:18 PM
Kristy, I agree that honest dialogue is needed. I thought that was what was happening between Trumbull and Bridgeport town leaders and the State of Connecticut. I hope it is. That said, when someone opens the discussion by stating that a neighborhood has suffered ramifications simply due to its proximity to Bridgeport, that's not a good basis for open and honest discourse. To further opine that a neighborhood would be "sacrificed" if a magnet school were placed there goes further beyond the limits of open and honest discussion. Those types of statements indicate such a bias against the proposal, and the reasons stated go beyond education. Every single school in Trumbull is located in the heart of a residential neighborhood. Every one. No one has ever suggested that a neighborhood here was "sacrificed" to build those schools, and any of those neighborhoods would be very displeased if their school were to be closed. I live within a mile of the Bridgeport line, and I am still wondering what those ramifications are. I also would like to see the same type of zeal from our elected officials concerning the 173 foot Cell Tower which is still slated to be built behind the police station. If there was a better use of the phrase "sacrificing a neighborhood," I think it would apply to this monstrosity. 173 feet high, 4 feet in diameter, and right in the midst of of a beautiful neighborhood (which wasn't "sacrificed" when Frenchtown was built).
JR April 04, 2011 at 12:35 PM
If the State ponies up $5.2 million, does that make it OK to build the school? Will that make it easier to put up with "the ramifications of being so close to Bridgeport"?
M Shapiro April 04, 2011 at 12:52 PM
I would expect another Republican member of the Trumbull Town Council, Kristy Waizenegger, to defend Chad Ciocci ignorant remarks. This has nothing to do with political correctness but rather the fact that many Republicans on the Trumbull Town Council appear to have no understanding of the facts behind this and other town projects yet don't allow that failure in their education to cause them to delay comment. Chad compared this school project to the power substation proposal. The fact is the UI was about to install a power substation smack in the middle of a residential community so the First Selectman at the time tried to get them to move the substation into a commercial area on Quarry Road. This was no where near the residential community in discussion and would have been a win -win had it been economically feasible but sadly it wasn't. Chad's comment that this school will be an intrusion in this community in fact just the opposite. Almost invariably an active and engaging school is often the basis of a very strong neighborhood. There are reasonable basis to find against this project such as the preservation of open space or the distance this school will be from residents its meant to serve but the blindly ignorant rants of Chad Ciocci against the residents of the City of Bridgeport are completely unwarranted especially in the opinion of this Central High School graduate and long time Trumbull resident.
Kristy Waizenegger April 04, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Hi Tom, I think the difference here is that this is not a Trumbull school being built, it'a a Bridgeport school and whether we like it or not, we have to be willing to accept there are some Trumbull residents who are concerned about this. I'm not saying it is right or wrong, I'm just saying that we should all be willing to have an honest dialogue instead of shutting people down with words like ignorant, shortsighted and bigoted.
CTPati April 04, 2011 at 04:13 PM
The "state funding" issue seems rather a red herring, because the state is BROKE! Business owners and job creators are leaving the state, causing further drops in revenue. IF there is adequate "state funding" for this school, it is only going to come through massive state TAX INCREASES, to Trumbull taxpayers included, which Malloy has called for. With the legislature overwhelmingly in DEM control, don't look for any fiscal sanity there to overrule Malloy, and Sen. Musto has certainly given clear signals as to which town's interests take precedence with him. Does anyone really believe we can count on Malloy and the DEMS in the legislature to fulfill promises made? Just consider the fact that Malloy's "Budget" offloads the responsibility for the states' trade schools onto the towns and communities in which they are located!
Thomas Tesoro April 04, 2011 at 04:25 PM
I would imagine that the Democrats will fulfill their promises to Education. Your question about fulfilling promises should be direted to the Republican Administration in Trumbull Town Hall that has not fulfilled many promises of any kind. Now that the partisan remarks from both sides have been heard, let's get back to a discussion of the Magnet School, a project I fully support. The impact on the neighborhood will be minimal. I remember concern when my hometown planned (and ultimately built) a new High School in one of the best neighborhoods in Town. As I said, the High chool was built and lo and behold, it is still one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Town. For those who may be concerned, I grew up in a very diverse Community. This project should be done. Whether lands gets swapped or not, the project should be done. Tom Tesoro
Tom Pieragostini April 04, 2011 at 04:58 PM
We should preserve what few parks and open space are left in Trumbull's District 7, especially near White Plains Road, Quarry Road and Reservoir Avenue. The air in that area was at one time one of the most polluted in CT.
Charley Pitcher April 04, 2011 at 06:23 PM
I am shocked at the letter Ciocci wrote. Are we to believe that we only care about children in Trumbull? And we parents are we to believe that we are better at parenting our children because we choose to live in Trumbull and not Bridgeport? What are we saying about parents of Bridgeport? Both my parents were from Brook Street in Bridgeport and my Grandparents lived on Huntington Road Bridgeport till the day they died. And what about the Teachers of Bridgeport? When did Chad become better than the rest of us? This letter should state that it “Only” represents Chads feeling and not the rest of the Republican Party, the town of Trumbull or more importantly, my district #7. What would Chad do if Bridgeport said it would no longer take our sewage starting tomorrow? Or we could no longer go to the hospitals, use the train station or the ferry. No more games at harbor yard. No events at the Arena. No longer welcomed at Sea Side Park. Forget going to the Zoo. No restaurants, public transportation, electricity, forget taking the kids down to Captains Cove on Sundays. There is so much more. Instead of running out of the gate with guns blazing I would think that as Majority Leader there would have been a better thought process. Instead of saying its “Bad” there is always a way to make the best of a situation. When I was on the Council I worked with the neighbors in the neighborhood where French Town School stands today. I believed it all worked out for the best in the end.
Carol Hudak April 04, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Bravo, Charlie! Another GOP 'leader' clearly too young for the position he holds. Huntington Rd. and Brooks St.? We have a lot in common, Charlie. I hope we will talk some day.
Tom Pieragostini April 04, 2011 at 09:25 PM
What's shocking to me is how the state has failed to restore the park or to even be able to keep it clean. Is this perhaps due to a lack of funding?
Charley Pitcher April 04, 2011 at 09:33 PM
Lack of funding? CT is in the hole by about 3 billion.... you can forget the park.
Tom Pieragostini April 05, 2011 at 12:59 AM
That's what I was afraid of. We can't afford to maintain a small park. But, we can, according to the pro-Education folks here, commit to build and maintain a $120,000,000 school.
Tom Kelly April 05, 2011 at 01:44 AM
Tom, I would like to point you in the direction of Scheff v. O'Neill, the landmark CT case where the Supreme Court ruled in 1996 that equal educational opportunity did not exist in CT, and also stated that drawing school districts solely based on city and town lines was unconstitutional. Part of the State's compliance with this court decision is the magnet school program. The funding for this magnet school has already been appropriated by the legislature.
CTPati April 05, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Re: "an infill opportunity somewhere in Bridgeport" (J. Sullivan), why not in the disused, poorly maintained Bridgeport Rogers Elton Park? The northern end borders Old Town and Frenchtown Rds., and there are 73 acres, meaning less than 20 % of the park would be needed for a good magnet high school site. Since this land is totally within the city of Bridgeport (but very close to Trumbull border), there could be no legal questions over the land usage or 'first responder' liability from Trumbull officials.
JR April 05, 2011 at 12:04 PM
It looks like the land swap will get finalized. Now this neighborhood will be even closer to Bridgeport. Trumbull will lose 101 spots in the school. I guess Ciocci and Scinto will be calling a district meeting to set up the neighborhood watch.
SoccerMom April 05, 2011 at 01:26 PM
Excellent point. The "town" is built up enough.
SoccerMom April 05, 2011 at 01:28 PM
So now you want my taxes to educate another city's kids? How about you bang on the door of those who represent Bridgeport and put the owness on them? I moved here and pay a decent size tax bill to support Trumbull. My state and federal taxes are already support Bridgeport and Hartford.
SoccerMom April 05, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Bingo. Watch Waiting for Superman or the Lottery - look at the faces of the kids who don't make it into the fancy magnet or charter schools. How about we focus on increasing graduation rates for all Bridgeport high schools instead of a handful of kids who "win" a position in another school.
Charley Pitcher April 05, 2011 at 03:02 PM
To Soccermom, please be advised that in no way did i take any side pro or con. My issue is with the way Chad spoke about the situation. As Majority Leader of the town of Trumbull, it makes us look "BAD" as a whole. He could and should have choosen a better way to say what was on his mind. I am now starting to look into the situation for myself to get all of the facts. I know no one wants this in their back yard. But just like that UI substation that was built on Wildflower Ln or French Town School located on French Town Road. It's going to happen. Now is not the time to worry about what should be, it's the time to work on how it can be the best case for the neighbors that are involved. I would set up a meeting with TR Rowe of the 123rd and Sen. Musto and Councilman Robert Curwen of Bridgeport because his dist backs up to Trubulls dist 7 It's called "Damage Controll". Ive seen it all before, people get involved to little, to late. Get involved NOW!....The power in numbers is strong....and here is a little hint....it's Election Year...
Tony Scinto April 05, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Charley, Glad to see your back, but in regards to the folks sounding the school, I have all ready forwarded there concerns, and I have been working with them for over 1 year. Also, I have already Worked with T.R. And if anyone was any questions please feel free to call me or e-mail me mtscinto@aol.com Thanks Tony Scinto Town Council District 7

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