Why I’m voting “no” again
There is no joy in reporting that I’ll vote no again – for the sixth time — on the Region 1 Board of Education’s proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2013-2014.
Sadly, I’m hoping that the budget plan is defeated on September 17 and one more time in October while the school district awaits the infusion of new energy in the form of four new board members with the November elections.
There are so many reasons to vote against the budget plan until the new board comes in, but overall my reasons for doing so are the abysmal lack of educational leadership on the part of the top education administrators and the current board majority’s blind, unconditional rubber-stamping support of them. The board majority’s servitude to the two administrators is so complete – and so completely embarrassing – that they even refused to act on a board vote to ask the administrators to re-open the three-year contract extensions with 2 percent raises each year – the sweet deal they supported that will cost taxpayers around $1,000,000 ($1 million) over the next three years.
We have excellent teachers at our high school and we have an excellent interim principal in Ian Strever, who jumped in with both feet to fill the gap left by the sudden departure of the former principal. I wish Ian and the teachers all the best in this new school year and send them prayers (of various kinds!) for success, for the use of the good mind, and for the strength to stand tall and be resilient enough to face the existing pressures and still do the right thing.
We also have excellent students at our high school, but take a look at these Connecticut Academic Performance Test results from the past five years (ignore the “proficiency” scores; it’s a feel-good category that includes the percentage of students who met state goals and those who came close to – but didn’t – meet state goals). Our students are smart, but they are underachieving and it’s not because of our teachers. Because of the way our schools are structured, educational leadership – and what should be accountability — flows from the top down. Our students and our teachers deserve better. They deserve educational leaders who are inspired and can inspire others with enthusiasm and a desire to reject the easy path of mediocrity and instead strive for excellence. Leaders who can actually lead teachers and students to the high levels of academic achievement that we all know they are capable of reaching.
And what about the people in the Region 1 communities who so generously support the school year after year, decade after decade? We didn’t vote the budget down five times because of its bottom line. We voted no to the status quo of the administrators and the board majority – because we deserve better too. I have every hope that the new improved Region 1 Board of Ed will be able to resolve the problems and refocus on its mission – to provide the best educational opportunities for our students at the most fiscally responsible cost to taxpayers.
–Gale Courey Toensing