Mr. Jubrey writes in his op-ed in the Windsor Journal that the school board vote was not a "foregone conclusion." I disagree.
All-day kindergarden is a concept of addition to the Windsor school district offerings going back at least three years.
Consolidation of the elementary schools, though a relatively recent initiative, also reflects the desires of the majority members of the school board over the past two years. I contend that the members of the board of education, after hiring the school-consolidation specialists from Drummey Rosane Anderson (DRA) of South Windsor and the geographic-statistical analysis firm of Cropper GIS Consulting, had already decided to go forward with their agenda, regardless of the input offered by Windsor parents who object to this plan. It is incumbent upon members of the Board of Education to prove no predisposition to pass the current budget and plan.
DRA has a substantial financial interest in seeing school consolidation passed by this board. The school board hired an interim superintendent who oversaw similar consolidation of Newington schools. Prior to the final, unanimous vote to pass the proposed school district budget, one of our school board members made the statement at a recent public meeting that, "We don't care what the parents think," in response to questioning from the audience.
Many Windsor parents support the concept of all-day kindergarden; many do not. However, an overwhelming majority of parents and other knowledgeable citizens reject the wisdom of school consolidation at this time. Many citizens were unable to attend the several public forums conducted by the school board. Mr. Jubrey accurately reports that few people who attended were afforded the opportunity to fully express their opinions due to board rules limiting commentary time.
There are many townspeople who reviewed the proceedings on our local TV channel and also followed the deliberations by way of the meeting minutes. The school board provided no opportunity for anyone to present an in-depth, scholarly rebuttalto their plan.
The Board of Education senior members recently presented their proposed budget and school consolidation plan to our Town Council. Although no one from the public was given the opportunity to question and/or comment on the presentation, several members of the Town Council penetratingly inquired on major subjects. The responses to those questions from the four members of the school board were not specific. Most answers included the words "may", "might" and "we hope" to produce higher quality of education to our children. As respects financial matters, the "may" and "might" save money was the rule not the exception.
The proposed all-day kindergarden requires additional teachers to be hired. Class sizes will increase, thus diluting a teacher's ability to be responsive to our children's learning needs. Consolidation will cause wholesale disruption of continuity in relationships amongst children and parent-teacher groups. There are substantial costs not specified in the board's budget for consolidation start-up One slide in the presentation listed as "fact" that the proposed plan would save about $375,000 per year out of a budget projected to be greater than $65,000,000 - an amount of only half of 1% per year.
At the bottom of that slide, there is a footnote in small print revealing that no projection of start-up costs is included in the budget document. This footnote refers to high start-up costs without any monetary forecast. Town Councilmen who asked, "…how much are the start-up costs," were not given any specifics or even a “guess" projection by the school board members.
Several members of the town council asked, "When the number of children in our school district has declined by 600, and student achievement results continue to decline year-to-year, how can the Board of Education request an increase of $1.5 million for the coming year?" The Town Council reports that the school budget will equal 50% of the tax increases to be put on the backs of our townspeople. The answers from the school board representatives amounted to a dance around a theory, the typically vague constructs of politicians.
In his first paragraph Mr. Jubrey details the egregious negatives contained in the proposed school budget. He reminds us that bussing will continue with increased travel times for the students. There will be more pupils in class with less teacher availability. The concept of "neighborhood schools" will be eliminated. There will be dramatic, disruptive repercussions for students transitioning within the district.
Will the proposed elementary school consolidation remedy the state-documented failure of Windsor teachers and administrators to produce students who can meet on-grade-level performance metrics? No.
Will the increase in class size improve the learning experience for our children? No.
Will the plan from the school board result in all of the tribulations detailed by Mr. Jubrey? Yes.
Will the budget proposed by the school board mandate a significant tax increase on residents? Yes.
Over the last twenty years Windsor became one of the most diverse and accepting towns in the state. Bussing children cross-district is no longer necessary to achieve state-mandated "racial balance" in our schools. A closer look at the study performed by Cropper GIS proves racially balanced, diverse neighborhoods in Windsor that conform to state "integration" guidelines. Is race-based balance the over-arching criteria, or instead should we use the better term, minority-inclusive classrooms? Less than 40% of our students are Caucasian.
I respect, support and actively endorse Mr. Jubrey's commitment to helping our Wilson-district children learn about the principled life-style of our African-American Founders. This is a worthwhile project. I believe it should be extended to inspire children in all our Windsor neighborhoods!
Respectfully submitted by L. Samuel Cashwell, Ph.D., Windsor, CT