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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.

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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