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Patch Poll: Trumbull Schools Funding Opinions Split

Seventy-two people cast votes in an unofficial poll Wednesday, 47 percent saying it's under, and 52 percent saying it's too much or just right.

Highlighting the difficult spot Trumbull is facing now, nearly half of 72 patch users said a 3.47 percent increase in the school board is not enough.

Thirty-four users, or 47 percent, called the increase too small. Twenty-three percent said it was just right, while 29 percent said it was too much.

The 3.47 percent increase covers core items and restorations, but adding all-day kindergarten funding, $873,000, would have pushed the increase to 5.04 percent.

School board Chairman Stephen Wright has said "we owe it" to students to try and fund all-day kindergarten and he vowed to try.

But on Wednesday, Tom Tesoro, a democrat and Board of Finance member who moved to add $873,000 to the education budget Tuesday night, said, "In spite of Mr. Wright's optimism, in my opinion, without creative solutions (i.e. gimmicks or one time solutions) there can be no FDK without further erosion of the current k through 12 program."

He said he would admit he was wrong if proven so.

Tesoro's motion failed 3-3, with himself, democrat Steve Lupien and Republican Andy Palo supporting him. The three other republicans on the board voted against it.

Politics aside, the program has critics on all sides. They are parents whose children are in overcrowded classes or extra study halls (for lack of a class) and taxpayers whose children attended half-day kindergarten or who just don't want an increase in taxes.

One Patch commentator named TrumbullSr said:

"The Board of Finance seems to think that the BOE can spin gold out of flax. ADK should stand in line behind restoring all the cuts made last year. While it would be great for the kids just starting school, it is vital to prepare those in school to meet the challenges of college and the work place. It isn't fair to those who did not benefit from ADK to sacrifice again. Fund it of postpone it until we can afford it."

Added user Paul G. Littlefield, "There are schools across the country which are abandoning FDK and Pre-K classes because of the added expense without an educational component."

"This is just not the time for the BOE to introduce new nonessential innovations while previous cuts in educational curricula and services continue. It is detrimental to the older student to be denied educational advantages, which they will not recover, while the 5 and 6 year olds have 12 years ahead of them in their educational pursuits," he said.

But its proponents say it's time for all-day kindergarten so young children get a good start in an academic world that has become stricter. Kindergarteners are expected to know more as they head into first grade and an all-day program will allow teachers more instruction and review time with students.

Not so, reply critics, some of whom dismiss it as "subsidized babysitting."

And some proponents have said they would consider moving if the town doesn't implement all-day kindergarten. They said they moved to Trumbull in part because of its schools.

So far, part of the funding could come from a district surplus, a move being called a gimmick because it could create a funding cliff.

Add to the mix Trumbull High School is facing re-accreditation in 2013. And for all accusations of the high price of education, Trumbull has been described as spending less per pupil than its peers with better results.

The Town Council Finance Committee will meet before April to dissect the budget and then the full council will vote. It cannot increase the budget beyond the first selectman's recommendation.

Momof3 March 15, 2012 at 12:30 PM
The Board of Finance seems to think that the BOE can spin gold out of flax. ADK should stand in line behind restoring all the cuts made last year. While it would be great for the kids just starting school, it is vital to prepare those in school to meet the challenges of college and the work place. It isn't fair to those who did not benefit from ADK to sacrifice again. Fund it of postpone it until we can afford it." I can not agree more - this quote sums it up- a half day of K is not going to prepare your children any better for higher education than restoring critical instruction such as reading specialists and computer paras. I have yet to see any tangible proof that it would.
J. Herd Fullerton March 15, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Of course those with infants to age 5 want "free" baby sitting. Of course those who would be hired to administrate and manage FDK want it. As a senior citizen taxpayer I am fed up with paying for other's "freebie". I was not educated in guvmint schools nor was my child but never objected to paying taxes but would have appreciated a tax break. I don't want to pay for other people's condoms either. Time to say NO!
Mark E Smith March 15, 2012 at 01:04 PM
So if 47% of 72 wanted more money added to education, then that means 53% didn't want more added to education. Why Aaron didn't you write the article about the majority of those who voted against more $$$ for Education? Or, 34 people out of approximately 34,000 wanted more $$$ added to education or 0.1% of the population of Trumbull. Don't understand the reason for this article. Aaron are you bored??? Come on raise the quality of Patch's content you have been really scrapping the bottom of the barrel. There are plenty things going on in Trumbull that you can write about in Trumbull that people will be interested in. This article is a waste of your time and an attack on people's intelligence. Mark
Jim Lang March 15, 2012 at 01:43 PM
The problem with the Board of Education may have more to do with spending than funding. If the public had more confidence that the budget was spent thoughtfully we might be open to increasing funding. But I suspect that if the stewardship improved more funding might not be required. Let me use a popular example of wasted money by BOE - the new high school auditorium. Other critics have nitpicked serious design flaws (and there are many); but I think the bigger problem is that BOE built what they believe to be a state-of-the-art auditorium; but they offer no theater courses that can utilize the structure. The "Theater of Dreams" mentality only works in Hollywood. Once a year they do a musical but have to hire outside talent to produce it. A lot of the stagecraft is done by adults - both volunteer and paid. Kids could do this if they were taught the design and construction skills - and isn't that what should happen in a high school? Alternatively, why could they not have rented an outside venue rather than building such a costly auditorium? I was told that BOE is willing to rent out the facility; but that it is not being used much due to prohibitively high rental fees. This is just a single example; but it is so highly visible that it results in terrible PR for BOE. Why would we want to entrust them with more money? I wonder how many readers guessed that I was a college Theater major?
Joan March 15, 2012 at 03:21 PM
These are great suggestions, although I'm sure you realize that the funding for the new auditorium did not come from the regular Board of Ed operating budget, unless I'm mistaken. It would be wonderful for THS to offer some theater/drama courses. Unfortunately, given the recent acrimonious budget seasons which have resulted in cuts to teaching staff and curriculum--and the outcry from some quarters about existing electives being "wasteful--this probably won't come to fruition in the current environment. The new auditorium represents a huge upgrade over the very worn and outdated auditorium THS had before. Just to set the record straight, it is used for many more events during the year than just the school musical. The chorus, orchestra, and concert band also make use of this much improved facility during the year. Other special high school events, such as the recent senior showcase, are also held in the new auditorium.
Cindy Katske March 15, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Jim, I echo Joan's comments. First of all, the auditorium was not built with BOE funds at all. It was built as a town capital project approved by the Town Council, and is overseen by a committee that reports not to the BOE but to the Town Council. In addition, the auditorium is used regularly for numerous meetings and assemblies as well as the events Joan mentioned. I also have to agree with Joan that if you are talking about adding another elective, or set of elective courses at THS in theater, there would likely be a great deal of pushback from those who think that THS offers too many electives already. Theater courses would likely be viewed as frivolous by many people who wouldn't understand the benefits as well as you. And additional staff would need to be hired, when we are fighting tooth and nail to get the funding to hire teachers for core curriculum courses like science. I think the most important thing about your post is that it highlights that people are misinformed and think that the construction of the auditorium was done with BOE money and that the auditorium is used once a year. Perhaps better PR is needed to set the record straight.
Kristy Waizenegger March 15, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Hi Cindy, I seem to recall that a big selling point in building the auditorium would that we would be able to generate revenue by renting it out (alluding to Jim Lang's above) - are you able to comment on whether we have undertaken to rent out this space and do you know whose responsibility that would be?
Cindy Katske March 15, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Kristy, I recall there being talk of possibly needing to hire a manager whose responsibility it would be to rent the auditorium out. Otherwise, I have no idea whose responsibility it would be, and I don't know of anyone at the high school with enough time to take on that type of responsibility. I know that with all the construction still going on it probably hasn't been a big priority yet. And while I recall it being mentioned, I don't recall it being a big selling point, exactly, just something that could be made to happen in the future. I do think comparisons were made to the Wilton auditorium, but I think there is a manager there. Incidentally, the THS band did use the auditorium for a fundraiser when it brought in The Cast of Beatlemania. I believe the band has more such fundraisers planned for the future.
Jim Lang March 15, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Those are good responses to my comment. Yes I do realize that funding was handled separably for the high school construction work. But it is still our tax dollars and school officials are actively engaged in decision-making regarding construction.. I just used this as an example. And, yes, I know that the auditorium is used for assemblies and concerts; but none of these events require fly space, theatrical lighting, and the level of sound equipment provided. Regarding the sound gear let me be specific. The control room has both an analog as well as digital sound mixer. The analog replicates the digital mixer and any good sound engineer would tell you that this was a total waste of money.(I've talked to some AV experts about this). Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes - sometime costly ones. If the BOE lacks information about expenditures proposed by the administration, then they should get some outside expert review. In the example I am discussing I'm confident that expertise exists in our community and might even be available at no cost.
JR March 15, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I think Aaron represented all opinions in the article. Objective coverage.
JR March 15, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Mr. Lang, The original spec called for an analog sound board as was standard for most high school auditorium designs and was signed off on by school officials. The digital board was added later at the request of the teachers and students that use the sound equipment. The restocking fee for the analog board was prohibitve so it was kept.
Jim Lang March 15, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Regarding the question of adding new elective courses or hiring management staff, that is not the point I was making. What I am saying is that we should not have built a theater to support classes, programs or needs that do not exist. The old auditorium was fully adequate except for seating capacity so it needed to be replaced. But did we really need a theater...?
Jim Lang March 15, 2012 at 06:55 PM
To JR. So move the analog board to French Town or some place where it can be used. Or sell it.
JR March 15, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Mr. Lang, The BoE meets twice a month and they welcome constructive comments.
Rick Mc March 16, 2012 at 12:01 AM
It's not the first time I have heard such ridiculous comments about whether or not the high school needed a renovated auditorium. There were times I sat in the old auditorium freezing or cooking. I know someone told me that had to tape a microphone to a TV for any type of programs that required audio and video. Plus it was a fire hazard with no center aisle for appropriate exiting. I doubt you sit in your house with 1970s furniture and 1970s technology. I also doubt you host events for the community and service thousands of students and parents per year. This town can't move forward with such resistant, petty and regressive views. No wonder why so many of our school buildings are ancient and overcrowded. No wonder why the everyone else has caught up or surpassed us because they have made investments along the way. Please move to another town ASAP!
heather maher March 16, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Seriously? Are you suggesting that we should stop "paying" for all trumbull students to get a public education? Should we stop "paying" for emergency services incase you have an accident at home? Or a fire? Are we becoming civilization neandrathals? IN a civilized world you realize we are all connected. Even though your kids are grown you pitch in your fair share of taxes to help raise the next generation, and I'll pitch in my taxes so you can recieve your social security check. Wake up, Trumbull. If you want to be first class town like Darien or New Canaan or Stamford or Norwalk you need to understand we are all connected and fund All Day Kindergarten!
Jim Lang March 16, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Wow. Leave town? That's rough. You mentioned antiquated audio and video in the old auditorium. Did you know that there is no provision for any video recording in the new auditorium. Oops! So much for state-of-the-art. I never suggested that we should not have an upgraded auditorium - just that we don't need the theatrical design since we don't offer classes in statecraft. Anyway I apologize for getting us sidetracked with my example. The issue had to do with more funding for schools and several others have posted excellent and divergent comments.

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