Some thoughts on the budget from Ed Epstein a retired principal, retired teacher, current substitute teacher in all six elementary schools of Region One, and part-time employee of the State Department of Education, working as a scorer of the Connecticut Administrators’ Test, a licensure requirement for future administrators.
I have lived in this region for 45 years, am a property owner in three of the six region towns, and have been interim principal in both Falls Village and North Canaan since my retirement in 2002. I regularly attend meetings to remain current on changing trends in education.
I could write volumes about why I am opposed to this budget. My major reason is the extension of administrator contracts (for the Superintendent of Schools and the Assistant Superintendent of Schools). My views on this topic are well-known and that is all I will say about that.
But I do not agree with your comment that this budget is an “educationally responsible budget.” Let me very briefly outline some of the reasons I feel that way.
—I believe far too much money is being spent for substitutes so teachers can attend workshops.
—Substitutes can never do as good a job as the regular classroom teacher, and in many situations, there are not even enough substitutes available.
—I realize that the Common Core curriculum must be implemented but this district is going too fast. The meeting the region held last month with state representatives convinced me that the state would be reasonable with local districts.
—While I have seen where Power School is essential at the high school level, I am not convinced about the need at the elementary level, and the expense and time that it requires.
—I still believe that the Student Success Plan coordinator position is not needed, and that students would be better served by working with personnel in their own buildings.
—I always have been, and continue to be opposed to closing schools early for teacher workshops, and these workshops are becoming more and more prevalent.
—I still believe an Early Retirement Incentive should be implemented if this budget fails. There are no rules for Early Retirement Incentives—they can be for one year, they can be modeled to meet the needs of a particular school (as I did in 2006 in North Canaan). This should have been a priority months ago! If one teacher retired early, it would save as much money as eliminating two teacher positions.
Finally, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, I believe teacher morale is at an all time low in Region One. Yet teachers are afraid to speak up for fear of retribution. Many parents of kids in school are afraid to speak up. And retired teachers, who are still affiliated with the Region One system, are also hesitant to come forward for the same reason.
The Board of Education held a budget hearing and received a petition from 220 students—it convened its meeting and ignored the comments of over 100 people.
The budget got voted down by the widest margin ever. Then at its last meeting, the Board receives a student petition, now with over 300 signatures. Once again, the Board makes minor adjustments (cutting $30,000 from unemployment is not a budget cut). This is not being educationally responsible.