Letter to the Editor–from Ed Epstein 9

To the Editor of the Litchfield County Times:

Next Tuesday, June 25, I will vote against the Region One budget for the third straight time.

My views on specific budget items have been well publicized. But I am voting against the budget again because it is the only way I can keep advocating for a change in leadership in our Central Office Administration.

I believe the Pingpank Report, released in late 2010, to be over 95% accurate. Jeffrey Pingpank has been a well-known, well-respected Connecticut education attorney for over twenty five years.

I feel the abuses outlined in that report continue to this day in the schools of Region One. Despite pleas to the contrary, that report has never been addressed in detail in public.

I have the highest regard for David Bayersdorfer, Lucille Paige, and Choo Singer. From my perspective, their statements are factual, and they should be recognized for their courage and honesty.

I am appalled that the Housatonic Valley Regional High School Faculty Association has not said a word about teacher reductions. I attribute this to a bond between the Association leaders and the Central Office leadership, forged during the Pingpank era.

The morale in the elementary schools of Region One is poor. It will not improve until our leadership changes. I realize the All Boards Committee and the majority of the Region One Board has worked hard , and truly believe they are doing the correct things. BUT THE PUBLIC DOES NOT BELIEVE THEY REALLY KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING IN OUR SCHOOLS. Students, former students, parents, teachers, retired teachers, substitute teachers, and residents have a better understanding of the school system than the Boards do.

Region One employees live in fear of retribution. They talk privately but are hesitant to speak out in public. They are also hesitant to come to public meetings.

Perhaps the Boards and the Administration feel that eventually the budget will pass. It is up to the voting public to ensure that doesn’t happen until major leadership changes are made.

Please vote on Tuesday, June 25, from 12-8 pm.

Ed Epstein

9 comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more…especially about the relationships between the leaders of the HVRHS Faculty Association and Central office.
    ~Josh Prause

  2. The problem with the faculty association stems from their leadership and how they have abused their positions. High school faculty represent the bulk of the faculty association, and they are afraid of their leaders. This is because the leaders are bullies themselves. They have the support of administration because they help administration. Also, they are dependent on administration. Mr. Fellows is Aeron Watson, who could lose his job and possibly his career if administration acted on his having written the defamatory letter about Gale Toensing. It is OBVIOUS that is a mutualistic relationship between union leaders and administration. Instead of helping their fellow teachers, the union leaders help themselves.
    Ed, you are dead on with this post. This started during the Pingpank era, all because two administrators not liked by the union bucked against the administration – they were of course bullied out, by both administration and the power of three – Mr XX, Mr XX, and Miss XX.*******

    *******editors note, one line, and three letters were removed from this post by the editor for legal reasons.

  3. If Mr. Epstein revisits all of the years in which there have been staffing reductions at the high school, he will see that the association has at no time made public comment on the subject of teacher cuts (a decades old letter to the LJ, providing some quick math, withstanding). Why? Because it is the association’s responsibility to safeguard the contract. And these reductions in staffing, while ill-conceived to say the least, are completely within the board’s purview. I know this contradicts the larger conspiracy theory allegedly at play, but I am afraid it really is that simple.

    Hate the fact that staff has been cut from the high school? Blame the right parties. It’s the principal’s budget, approved by the BOE and forcefully rejected, twice (God love ’em) by the citizens of Region One.

    • I spoke a while back with the regional head of the Teacher Association. I asked him about the Pingpank Report. He responded the same way the Board. the administration, and the Board attorney responded—-The Pingpack Report was a pack of lies, hearsay, he said-she said, gossip.

      I find it significant the the Teacher Association leadership stopped attending Board meeting right around the time the “Aeron Watson” e-mails were revealed and traced. Coincidence? No!

      I do love the citizens of Region One. I worked with them for many years in many different towns. I still teach their kids. They have been smart to reject a budget with massive teacher cuts (and for many other reasons), and hopefully they will do the same tomorrow.

      Ed Epstein, Kent

  4. The Pingpank report is not the budget, Mr. Epstein. The latter deserved (and still deserves) to be voted down, as it does not reflect the priorities of Region One taxpayers.

    By now it is clear that you consider the prior to be a work of scripture, and you are welcome to that opinion. But it is not everyone’s holy book. You assert that we should accept the Pingpank report as the unfaltering truth. Fine. Then you must accept the report’s most cutting assessments of the high school’s previous administration, as well as its influence on the climate and culture of the high school. If you would like them posted here, I’d be happy to oblige.

    Lies and hearsay? Maybe or maybe not. Subject to the biases of its highly emotional interview subjects (on every side), the report’s lone source of reference? Absolutely.

    As for your consulting with the regional head of the teacher’s association, whom you refer to as ‘he’, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. Over the course of the last six years, which both predates and includes the “Pingpank era,” the association has been headed by two women. Should you speak to this imposter again, though, please demand to see his credentials. We may have another Aeron Watson on our hands.

    Again, be as upset about Pingpank as you’d like, but please leave it out of serious discussions of the budget. There’s simply too much at stake.

    • “He” is the CEA Uniserv Representative, working out of Torrington. I worked very closely with him while I was still in Kent, and occasionally since then. He represents the teacher associations in all seven schools. He is not an “imposter.”

      I don’t mind opposing points of view but please don’t tell me I don’t know what I am talking about. Thank you

  5. The previous poster apparently wants to change the focus. He (the proper pronoun to use regardless of gender) seems to forget that the Board unanimously agreed to conduct this inquiry, the result of which has become known as the “Pinkpank Report” and additionally, if he had followed the actions of the Board, it also agreed to address whatever the results brought. The latter did not happen. Because of this action of the Board, the public has had no way to effectively express its concerns except through the budget vote. Whether the respondents were emotional or not, the report it seems to me, reflected then and still reflects an incredibly unhealthy climate at the high school, RSSC offices and beyond between staff and at least some of the administration. That the Board was convinced by the top two RSSC administrators and those Board members who those administrators privately cultivated to take their position, and don’t kid yourself that’s exactly what happened, to essentially ignore the findings of what has become known as the “Pingpank Report” is unconscionable. Further, much of what was included in this report was also mentioned in the accreditation report conducted a year or so earlier, so there should have been no surprise here. There is every reason to believe that when people are given anonymity that they are truthful. As for the assertions regarding the previous administration, then the same standards must also apply to the current administration as it certainly appears that much of what the “Pinkpank Report” detailed still exists. The previous poster mentions the infamous “Aeron Watson”. One can only wonder why this person wasn’t held to account, if in fact, he was a member of the high school faculty who had signed an agreement about internet use which he subsequently violated. Actually, financially, there is little at stake if this “budget” fails again as the 2012-2013 budget will be in place until something is approved. I would point out that that “budget” is more than sufficient to cover costs as its bottom line number is more than what is proposed for 2013-2014. The bigger issue here is the Board’s absolute avoidance of facing the lack of educational leadership at the highest levels.

  6. Not to belabor the point, but the CEA Univserv Rep is not the “head of the local teachers’ union,” any more than the board attorney is the head of the BOE. He works for the HVRFA, and (as you rightly point out) most area associations. His opinion of the Pingpank report, then, is own, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the HVRFA’s members.

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