Guest commentary: Gale Courey Toensing — Why I’m voting “no” on the Region 1 Board of Ed Budget Proposal Reply

Why I’m voting “no” on the Region 1 Board of Ed Budget Proposal

Two years ago voters in the area came out in droves six times to vote down the Region 1 Board of Education’s proposed budget for 2013-2014. Why? Because the board had extended administrators’ contracts until June 30, 2016, and given them raises again. Voters clearly, unambiguously and repeatedly said they wanted new educational leaders at the top – a new superintendent and a new assistant superintendent.  This wish for new top administrators was expressed over and over again in news reports, at meetings, in letters to the editor and in editorials in the local media. Half of the demand for new administrators was met when the former assistant superintendent left her job at the end of October last year.

Traditionally, the ABC Committee completes its annual review of the superintendent’s job performance and makes a recommendation to extend the superintendent’s contract and give her a raise before the budget proposal is voted on at a regional referendum on the first Tuesday in May.

This year the ABC Committee, apparently with the acquiescence of the Region 1 Board of Education, has decided to postpone its review of the superintendent’s job performance evaluation and contract recommendations until after the budget vote. It’s my understanding that the majority of the ABC Committee intends to recommend extending the superintendent’s contract beyond June 30, 2016 – despite voters’ clear message two years ago that they want a new superintendent.  If the budget passes at the referendum on May 5, the majorities on the ABC Committee and Region 1 board will be able to extend the superintendent’s contract without any objection from voters. They will have made a successful end run around voters’ ability to be fully informed about what they were voting on and voters’ right to weigh in on decisions supposedly being made on their behalf by elected or appointed officials.

That’s why I’m voting against the budget.

But beyond this lack of transparency and end run strategy is the superintendent’s history of actions and non-actions including in part: failing to improve academic achievement of a significant number of students who consistently do not meet state standards on various assessments (which doesn’t seem to interest or concern the board at all); preventing students at the high school and in the elementary schools, with the exception of Kellogg, from watching President Obama’s pep talk on education in 2009;  recommending the hiring of an assistant superintendent she knew was under investigation in another school district for bullying and intimidation, which led to the Pingpank Report documenting the dysfunction in the administration; and being sued by an employee on various constitutional allegations as well as assault and battery.

It’s time for a change.

Gale Courey Toensing

Falls Village, CT

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