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Trumbull Residents: Support the School Budget, Full-Day Kindergarten

One resident opposed full day kindergarten.

Several Trumbull residents at the first public hearing on the budget Thursday told the Board of Finance to support all-day kindergarten.

But it was how to pay for it that was a concern at the hearing at Trumbull High School. About 25 people showed up and six spoke.

Parent Teacher Student Association Council President Lainie McHugh praised First Selectman Tim Herbst's budget proposal for supporting all-day kindergarten and core school district costs.

Herbst's budget proposal would give the Board of Education a 3.47 percent increase and the whole budget would increase by about 4.2 percent. The Board of Education had recommended a 5.07 percent increase to its budget.

McHugh said she was glad he was thinking "outside of the box and working with the Supt. [of Schools Ralph Iassogna] to make it happen."

But she acknowledged that some of Herbst's ideas to fund the program are unorthodox and cautioned they could create a funding cliff next year.

McHugh also criticized the Board of Finance for not questioning administrators and school principals who attended a meeting at Town Hall Wednesday night.

Cindy Katske, a tri-president of THS' PTSA, said, "I'm skeptical but I will try to remain optimistic." She wanted the 5.07 percent increase.

A funding plan for all-day kindergarten "must be sustainable, but not through shell games or gimmicks."

She was referring to proposals such as supplemental appropriations after the Town Council approves the education budget.

She also had other concerns.

  • The number of teachers has not grown with student enrollment. Some seniors pondering science majors have not been able to take extra science classes that will help them get into good colleges;
  • Guidance counselors are spread too thin with the "highest guidance counselor caseload in the state";
  • THS does not offer SAT preparation courses any more;
  • The technology teacher splits time between THS and Madison Middle School. THS students use technology "all the time," she said.

"Subsidized Babysitting"

Following her was Art Mikucki, a 21-year Trumbull resident. "I think full-time kindergarten is full-time subsidized babysitting," he said.

He cited a Connecticut Post article that said, "by second grade, all advantage is lost," referring to early childhood education. "So how effective is this?"

Teachers got raises in the two years before last, taking a zero last year, he added. "The taxpayers have sacrificed enough. Why not let the teachers sacrifice?"

He concluded by noting that taxes would increase under Herbst's proposal due to debt service for bonding for THS renovations.

Tony D'Aquila followed with an attack on the school board's decision last year to fund freshman sports, sophomore football and ice hockey over reading specialists at both middle schools.

"The board's highest priority was sports and not academics," knowing CAPT scores showed problems in the reading category at the 10th grade level, he said.

"The board obviously felt that it was more important to teach a student how to kick a football 50 yards than to teach the same student how to read a paragraph and understand what he read," D'Aquila said. "This is an example of a runaway board appeasing a special interest group."

"Best Return on the Investment"

Dana Misner, a cost-efficiency project manager, supported full-day kindergarten.

"I like to think about needs and I like to think about what's going to give me the best return on the investment," she said."Full-day kindergarten to me is exactly that." The town gets $3 for for every $1 spent, she estimated.

"Kindergarten has changed quite a bit over the years. Four-, 5- and 6-year-olds need to know how to read by the end of kindergarten," Misner said, adding that there isn't much time in 2.5 hours of half-day kindergarten for children to develop social skills and learn their ABCs.

All-day kindergarten also attracts people to the town, the mother said. She admitted that while 5.07 percent is high, she was "irate" that there are 16 cooking classes but not extra science classes for seniors.

John Pappas, whose child is two weeks old, said he moved to Trumbull in 2010 because of the high quality of living, property taxes and school system.

All-day kindergarten is also a strong point, he said.

Pappas added that he was concerned that school board wanted to add personnel while enrollment has been flat.

"As anybody in business knows, when you have less product to sell, you do not hire more people," he said. "We have to make sure we're not over-hiring."

The Board of Finance Responds

Finance board Chairwoman Elaine Hammers addressed one point after the speakers finished.

"This board has no say in how the Board of Education spends its money," Hammers said, adding that comparing districts can be difficult because each one operates its finances differently.

For example, some districts let their towns handle health benefit costs. Trumbull tried that but an attorney hired by the school board said it was a violation of state law and could lead to a lawsuit.

The next budget hearing will be at Trumbull High School on Feb. 25 at 10 a.m.

Cindy Katske February 17, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Kristy, (and Gail), I hope that these comments are not in response to my comment made earlier today. I was sincerely trying to respectfully provide information that questioners may not have had. I was not trying to tell anyone what to think or see, or trying to be contentious or to make derogatory comments (or even insinuations) about anyone. NEASC, the high school accrediting body, is not the government or an arm of the government, so I'm not sure if the comment about government overstepping was directed toward me. I'm kind of scratching my head, to be honest, because I don't see where these comments are coming from. I am sorry if my comments were unclear.
Cindy Katske February 17, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Tricia, I do not know how many sections of each particular course are run each year, so I cannot answer that portion of your inquiry. There is one Child Development course, one Personal and Business Recordkeeping course, and one Personal Finance Course. As stated, I don't know how many sections of these courses are run in any given year.
gail jarvis February 17, 2012 at 10:39 PM
On another Patch Topic.............. "Trumbull Finance Board Meets the Ed. Budget" When you read the posted article, you will see that BULLYING took the Top Spot on funding and considerations. WOW WOW WOW What a Good Idea!!!!-----We should all benefit!!!! And with the "It takes a Village" article and the comments posted--- and many times personally directed to writers Me thinks "Stop the Bullying" should start here on these sights. If WE stop doing that then the schools job/concerns should be that much lighter.
Cindy Katske February 17, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Kristy, I disagree with your statement about coddling, but I don't think we are going to see eye to eye on this one. Have a good evening!
Lisa Labella February 17, 2012 at 11:11 PM
In addition to Gregg's points, NEASC "recommends" that schools have "school-to-career" clusters, the purpose of which is to "help students make the connection between the classroom and the world of work." Many electives, including most of those in the Family and Consumer Science area, are part of these clusters. There is more information about this in the Program of Studies http://www.trumbullps.org/ths/pdf/POS_12-13.pdf, pp. 8-9. NEASC only makes recommendations, it cannot require schools to do anything. However, failure by the schools to meet the recommendations could result in loss of its creditation, which reflects poorly on the school and the community. This would have been a great question to pose to the educators that were in the room at Wednesday's presentation. Kristy, I do hope you will forward your questions to the TC Finance Committee, and I'm sure they will be addressed at that presentation. Gail, while the Patch article listed bullying as first on the list, that does not mean it is necessarily the top priority of those listed. It certainly is not the top in terms of funding. However, there is funding necessary to comply with the new state mandate around staff training on the reporting of bullying. That training is in the 12-13 request at $7,500.
Dana February 18, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Although it was discussed and covered, I do not believe that it was satisfactorily discussed to all parents. While I fully understand the need to provide a diverse course offering, we should also ensure that students are being challenged and receiving courses that will prepare them for college. Within the budget arguments, we constantly hear people saying that FDK will not get a student into college, quite frankly, neither is bake shop.
Meghan February 18, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Thus far I have not seen the level of pettiness, bitterness and ignorance that was regularly on display in past year's debates. Although a few earlier posts make me realize that the ingredeints are still there! For example, the focus on the few courses or teachers in Family and Consumer Sciences (the former Home Economics.) It's not "reserach", it's scapegoating and trying to play "gotcha!" In reviewing the Program of Studies, Trumbull doesn't offer many specialized courses like other public highs schools. Choices appear to be rather conseravtive and traditional especially in the area of Fine Arts, World Languages and Family and Consumer Sciences. Programs like Biotech/Agriscience, Acquaculture and the Regional Center for the Arts are great, but not designed to accomodate everyone as I understand it. Much of the problem is that for years (10, 20, or 30?) the citizens of this town wasted precious time to reinvest in many facets of the public school system. Other suburban communites have since caught up, maybe even surpassed in both building, staffing and curricular investments. We are spending too much time in desperately defending and holding on to what we have. I can only hope that enough parents, whether your passionate for all day K or better programs K-12, rally together and basically say, status quo is not acceptable!
Cindy Katske February 18, 2012 at 02:05 PM
This focus on Family and Consumer Sciences courses like bake shop and culinary is perplexing to me. We offer FCS at the middle schools; should we not offer them at the high school? Why then bother at the middle schools? What about art and music? Many students take those as electives rather than bake shop and culinary. Why aren't those targeted? You could argue that those won't get a student into college either, unless that's their major. I think the focus is misplaced. In any event, in the last few years, enrollment at the high school has increased while teaching staff has not kept pace, and that is the root of the problem. If funding had been provided for staffing increases commensurate with enrollment increases, we would have that extra science teacher and this entire point would be moot!
louis February 18, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Meghan, 'pettiness, bitterness and ignorance', well we are glad to oblige. We are speaking of great things, things that will determine the fate our our future, of our interests of our town. Some people are not used to such passion, vim and vigor, well, I would rather have that than what happened in many other nations, foreign to democracy, and that is silence, servitude (in the name of civility) and powerlessness.
Joe February 18, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Mitch, I think you should take your own advice. That's no way to talk to someone. These sites afford everyone an opinion regardless if it's deemed ignorant or off the wall by others. Most of us ARE missinformed about many issues locally, yet don't mind voicing our opinions arrogantly. Yet, listening to these discussions gives us an opportunity to see different perspectives. That's not a bad thing as long as everyone remembers basic civility, manners. I have read some things in other publications that Louis has commented on, and I think he's right on about the corruption in our local politics. Sad but true.
Roy Fuchs February 18, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Louis - I was part of discussions about extended day kindergarten elsewhere in Faifield County the better part of 20 years ago in a community with Norman Rockwell, English speaking families. The idea was solid then, but ahead of the curve, and rejected. The term "Achievement Gap" had not been coined, schools weren't addressing students' social and emotional needs and para-professionals were still volunteers. Today's students' needs are greater, curricula are broader and more parents spend less time sitting on the floor reading to their children. Perhaps, in fact, the question is not whether All Day Kindergarten is advantageous, but whether half day has exceeded its useful life?
Roy Fuchs February 18, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Funding for our schools is shrinking while demands on the system, most external, and many mandated, have tightened the focus onto the three Rs and raised costs. Nevertheless, Trumbull, as our Superintendent often says, continues "to do more with less." At the same time courses that may open up a career path - cooking and baking - may be threatened. More narrowing of our focus. Lost in this conversation is that we fail at the three As - arts, activities and athletics. We have deemed them to be unessential to a well rounded education, and unlike English, Math and Social Studies, we assess a user fee for participation. Why should students pay to play football, act in the senior musical or play a violin in fourth grade? We should be opening doors for our children, not shutting the. Nor should we convert doors into toll booths. What's next? Bring your own flour to baking class? Major in Study Hall at THS?
Roy Fuchs February 18, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Kristy - It ill behooves me to tell you how to see things. But let's, to overwork a trite phrase, cut to the chase. In each of your years on TC, have you supported the FS's budget line for the BoE, have you cited needs of the system you thought were not being addressed by his recommendation and spoken out for an add back you hoped would address the issue, or have you been mute on that line?
louis February 18, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Well, that's just great Roy. I'm telling you all day K is a stupid idea. The idea originated in the spanish islands, and was only accepted because there they have to learn everything in two languages. But apart from its origin there, you do realize that is what the fascist government did to you back in the 30's. They took your children from you so that they could be indoctrinated by the state as early as possible. Mothers didn't have the choice, they also did that in communist regimes, there sometimes as early as age 3. Now our culture, Roy, values individual cultural identity and the ability to meld different groups into one nation, e pluribus unim. I don't think when things go from choice to compulsion you can achieve that ideal. It is also helping to create an economy where people have no choice. Both parents have to work, which justifies employers paying you less. That means they have more control. Now you and I both know the reason the Republicans are for this. It is to corporatize the five year olds, it is to take away that innocence that they used to have when they walked to their neighborhood elementary school. I would love to hear which areas of Fairfield county originated this, why we have gotten away from curricula and the main objectives of education, teaching our children the fundamentals of western civilization, how to be a strong individual in our democracy, and giving the skills to get a job in this increasingly Byzantine structure
louis February 18, 2012 at 08:20 PM
And remember the days when as a child you felt your home was the most wonderful place in the world? Remember walking through the field to get to school, the pathway, the patch now blocked by some un needed strip mall, justified because some folks in town elected to a various planning board said we needed more tax revenue so they could piss it away? remember coming home from lunch and your mother cooking a nice meal for you? Well those days may be gone, but we can say, know what, were still going to allow our 5 year olds the chance to have a mother and a father or a grandparent. We are still going to create that place where they can feel completely secure, in our homes, before the state gets to indoctrinate them. That is why we have half day Kindergarten, folks, cause those years are lost forever, once they are gone, and no spelling exercise or alphabet lesson will ever replace what their own kin can do for them
Kristy Waizenegger February 18, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Hi Roy - No, I have never recommended adding money to the BOE's request. I have been very vocal about areas in which I believe there is an opportunity to save money. I have also been very vocal about the importance of focusing on looking for different ways to do things to maximize every dollar. I have heard the phrase "fixed costs" used over and over which I think is misleading because there are ways to reduce the costs of benefits and operating costs of the district. Unfortunately, people like me who talk about spending money differently are labeled as "anti-education", whatever that means. And, members of the public who dare to speak at public hearings are scoffed at and met with heckling and huffing by people who have posted right here about civility and respect for others.
Tricia G. February 18, 2012 at 10:55 PM
"Why should students pay to play football, act in the senior musical or play a violin in fourth grade?" Umm--could it be because there is not enough MONEY for everything that is desirable and of worth? Also, I believe most people see the common sense of expecting those who receive/use programs that are not CORE education--and provide extra benefit to certain students--to pay a fee to offset the costs. When I was growing up and my parents paid for piano and dance lessons for me, they did not expect the school district and taxpayers to cover those costs; and now the economy is such that tax payers are even less able to accept these extra burdens. Cindy K. asked this a.m. about "courses like bake shop and culinary...should we not offer them at the high school?" And "What about art and music? ...Why aren't those targeted?" Answers: 1) Parents can, and should teach their children how to bake cookies at home! I am not saying that all "culinary" classes should be eliminated, but 16 sections is excessive, and imo shows a lack of enough other more worthwhile alternatives. Is there even a nutrition course, for instance? No one answered how many sections of "Family and Child Development" are actually taught in the THS school year. (The "Program of Studies" gives very limited information.) 2) Art and choral music are subjects that cannot be effectively taught at home by parents, in most cases, and they look much better on a college application than "Bake Shop"!
Roy Fuchs February 18, 2012 at 11:46 PM
So Trumbull taxpayers should fund reading', writing' and rithmetic, and participants everything else? Fat chance of getting THS grads into selective colleges, thank you.
Gregg Basbagill February 19, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Tricia- I'll try to find out the number of sections, but I'm not really sure why. The answer to your question won't provide you with a budgetary solution. Perhaps you think kids should be taking Latin instead of Bake Shop. Fair enough. But you would be swapping out a Bake Shop teacher for a Latin one, and so it's budget neutral. That is, of course, unless you are saying get rid of the bake shop altogether. Fair enough again. But if you take away those electives, those kids have to take something else to fulfill the requirement. That is, of course, unless you are saying get rid of the elective requirement. But then you have kids taking four or five classes a day and then going home. Perhaps they would be taking only three years of high school. How they get into college? No question we value various electives through our own personal lens. I'd love to see more physical education, and I have no idea what people see in psychology (and I'm a Social Studies teacher!!!). But at the end of the day, the courses that are run are based upon the demand of students who are fulfilling a requirement that I don't think can be changed for lots of very boring, uncontroversial practical reasons.
Gregg Basbagill February 19, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Okay, Tricia- I fetched some info. There is currently 1 class of family/child development. However, you also asked about personal finance courses, of which there are many and take many forms. As you saw in the Program of Studies, there is an entire business department offering courses in a wide arrange of courses. For example, there are three sections of personal finance running this year, 4 sections of entrepreneurship, five sections of accounting, two sections of personal and business record keeping, five sections of Topics in Math (includes significant units on mortgage amortization and other personal finance issues). Also, every THS senior is required to take Economics. Looking at it from a different angle, there are two teachers on contract in the (for lack of better term) Home Economics genre. There are at least five in the business department. If you look at the actual budgetary allocations, you will find that the emphasis is on many other things than just the 16 culinary/bake shop sections. Now I'm going to go make my Facebook more appealing, because I clearly lack a meaningful social life if I looked all this stuff up at 10:23 on a Saturday night. Cheers!
Tom Kelly February 19, 2012 at 10:02 AM
With 16 sections of culinary classes, less than 15% of the student body can take this elective each year. This is not a new class. I graduated from Trumbull High School in 1978, and I received 1/2 credit for Home Economics in 1977.
Roy Fuchs February 20, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Kristi - Perhaps the reason you are called "anti-education" is because many believe you focus too much on cost and too little on value. With regard to "fixed costs," salaries and benefits account for some 50% of the education budget - the large majority multi-year union contracts, the remainder year-to-year, though relatively non-negotiable, medical benefits. 20% are the costs of running the district - communications, electricity, transportation, gas, oil, et al. These are the system's fixed cost base. Consequently the administration controls only 5% on a day-to-day basis, line items that include most of what our kids see and use in their classrooms - textbooks, software, paper and supplies (and flour for the baking classes) - plus curriculum writing. So where will we find the almost $900,000 the FS seeks to fund Full Day Kindergarten? He seeks one time costs. But the system has been so starved in recent years that the real struggle is just to return the discretionary dollars needed to make the system whole and avoid another funding cliff. And the restorations being sought are another part of what will make Trumbull attractive to the young families that will buy the seniors' homes. This cost focus has pushed increases in pay-to-participate fees to the point that Trumbull now has the fifth highest such costs in the state. To place this in perspective, we are the 39th wealthiest community in the state, yet our cost per pupil is the 110th highest.
Roy Fuchs February 20, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Ooops - 50% is the cost of certified staff. Other personnel costs are another 25%. So personnel is is 75%, other fixed coats are 20%, discretionary costs approximate 5%.
louis February 20, 2012 at 01:31 AM
There'll be no chance of getting THS kids into select colleges, they will not even be allowed to try. Yale is busy letting in former spokesmen of the Taliban (to bring democracy to the troubled parts of 'Ghanistan). Essentially it is a mess, our kids will not be able to afford it and that is how they figure the elite educators will ruin themselves, once the economy collapses. Our elite education institutions, fostering the greatest barrier to employment, qualifications (when in the 19th century, Lincoln certainly would never have been president had he been forced to law school, then the provision of apprenticeships) have left their high ideals and have become practical. Since tuition is so pricey, they have resorted to letting in asias who can pay in cash. Sorry americans, your country don't belong to you any more
IHT February 20, 2012 at 12:09 PM
My 10th grader is forced to lanquish in study hall because THS is underfunded and doesn't have enough teachers/classes to meet demand. To make matters worse, this student is not being allowed to pursue an independant study project during that study hall time. Find the money to make THS the educational institution that Trumbull students deserve.
Tom Kelly February 20, 2012 at 12:50 PM
I have known Kristy Waizenegger for years and she's not anti-education. She is a fiscal conservative who is trying to find a different and/or more efficient approach. I do not agree with her on many topics. That means she doesn't agree with me on many topics. She doesn't personalize it and she seeks to find answers and solutions, not "gotcha's" and political victories. I have a great amount of respect for her.
Andrew Palo February 20, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Well said, Tom.
Krisa February 22, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Alright boys, lets not get crazy here. With two kids, one in preschool and one in 1st grade, personally I would love to have a full day Kindergarten. With both of us having to work full time jobs just to keep our house and paying for preschool and after school care in this economy, we need all the help we can get. We moved to this town because of the school system. I know my 1st grader really could have benefited from full day last year because he had a below average reading level when he started this year. The teachers recognized it and they gave him extra help and homework everyday until he reach the right goal. I know when I was this age I was not expected to be reading by 1st grade. I remember learning the alphabet and their sounds in the first grade, not reading. A lot more is expected of our children these days and anything that can help with the pressures of school I welcome and saving $500 a month doesn't hurt either.
Thomas Tesoro February 22, 2012 at 08:11 PM
I believe what Tom Kelly (and seconded by Andy Palo) is true. Kristy is one of the few legislators on our Town Council who actively seeks out differing points of view (David Pia is another example). However, in the next several weeks this belief (theory) will be put to the test. The budget and the selection of an alternate for the BOF will in my opinion be a defining moment for those on the Town Council who profess independent minds and a dedication to fairness. We will learn very soon whether we will have more cynical politics as ususal or if we will really move in a new positive direction. Stay tuned!! :)
Richie Albs February 23, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Absolutely!

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