What should the school board cut?

There’s a public hearing on May 29 for everyone to make their pleas. Let’s get the ball rolling here. How do we save $1.8 million? What gets cut? What can’t be touched?

Barring a change of heart on the town council, which appears exceedingly unlikely, the savings are going to have be found somehow. So however much many of us loathe what’s happening, we need to make clear now what the priorities ought to be when the red pens start slicing items from the proposed spending plan.

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66 Comments

Filed under budget, education, referendum, Schools, town council, West Hartford

66 responses to “What should the school board cut?

  1. Peter G.

    A process otherwise known as the circular firing squad. Instead of banding together, let’s get the special education parents fighting against the music and art parents, and let’s get the ESL families fighting against the gifted and talented families.

    If people who were knowledgable about the school budget and educational priorities (I don’t claim to be sufficiently well-informed) would provide some leadership for fighting to *preseve* funding for education, I am sure there are plenty of people like me who would support them.

  2. Peter,
    I almost entirely agree with that. I’d like to see people who claim to have inside information — town councilors? — help us form a consensus on what to do. It’s awfully hard for us on the outside to know, except that we all have our pet programs that absolutely, positively deserve to remain. 🙂

  3. turtle

    I’d say ESOL and Quest are complementary, especially since they overlap (the set of gifted students who don’t speak English very well). You do need specialists to cater to ESOL, struggling, illiterate, and gifted students, or the majority of the kids get shortchanged.

    By the way, the Board of Ed has offered to take questions by e-mail about the budget cuts in advance of tomorrow’s meeting.

  4. Lori

    They should post all the questions they get online, along with any answers they can provide.

  5. Peter G.

    whdad, that’s precisely why I feel that, absent some analysis and leadership from pro-education folks with a better handle on the “big picture” my input would be limited. My sense of the best projects to preserve would certainly one-sided and probably would end up being used as an argument to slash somebody else’s idea of what the most important needs are.

  6. Osemasterofdoom

    I don’t know if this has already been posted, but the Board of Ed Budget (or at least an earlier version of it) can be found at the link below.

    I agree that we laypeople really don’t have the knowledge to have all the answers, and there is great danger of pitting one constituency over another. I’d be happy to listen to someone with an informed viewpoint on this.

    http://www.whps.org/board/Budget/index.htm

  7. How about raising rates on summer school courses and continuing ed courses? make those programs self funding for a change.
    How about cutting the meeting and conference budget and how about finding out what “special allocations” line item funds at $840,000 for next year?
    $66,000 for periodicals?
    $57,000 for mileage allowance? Where the heck are they traveling to?
    Why is replacement equipment going up 57%? to $440,000? do we need that much equipment replaced?
    Where is the savings from consolidating the BOE and Town Hall? Where was the money saved? What did we do with the money we saved?

    Just some ideas from your local taxpaying “evil public school hating homeschooler” (wink)

  8. turtle

    I meant next week’s, not tomorrow’s, meeting on the 29th. Sorry.

  9. Joe Visconti

    You gonna be there turtle?

  10. Joe Visconti

    Cutting Class

    Education took a hit
    Cause the public had a fit
    All the Council had to do
    Was just say no to Union dues
    Keep the promise if you can
    Switch your party’s hand in hand
    Reval blue’s are right in style
    Gotta pay the rank and file
    Mumbo jumbo budget spiels
    Spin the press then spin your wheels
    The sky is falling hurry quick
    Another Binding Arbitration trick
    Find a platform GOP
    And save the town from all those D’s

  11. Peter G.

    For Visconti it no doubt sounds easy
    Why worry if to most it’s also sleazy
    When the costs of education rise
    Blame it on those Union guys
    Pretend you can recruit teachers for a nickel
    Pay raises for janitors? Not even a trickle!
    Attack the people who DO their jobs
    To satisfy the WHTA mobs
    What right have they to make a living?
    They give to your kids, let’s keep ’em giving!
    Lesson learned: first line of attack,
    Balance the budget on the workers’ backs!

  12. Joe Visconti

    Peter G I must admit
    You finaly learned Visconti’s wit
    Your ryhmes don’t always flow as nice
    You must have had your School Bud diced
    But there is still no need to fear
    Continuing Ed is oh so near
    If Unions cared an itsy bit
    They’d drive to Walmart for their fix
    For Walmart holds their promise dear
    Old Sam has jobs and oh he cares
    For sleazyness at public trough’s
    Still feeds the fatest Union Boss’s
    The Public servant’s that they are
    With all the perks and Cookie Jar
    So Peter G the clock will tell
    Keep kissing up you do it well

  13. There’s nothing quite like making rhymes,
    To make me think of olden times.
    But bashing workers is not cool,
    And makes the poet seem the fool.
    So lay off the folks who work for us,
    Before you go and raise a fuss.
    The money we need to run this town,
    May keep us down and make us frown,
    But the tax man needs to get his share,
    Even if he leaves our cupboard bare.

  14. turtle

    Now the bull does tread on us:
    So we moan and cuss!
    A bear prowled Smith yard.

  15. Kevin Sullivan

    “There once was a guy named Visconti….” Oh, hell, I’m no good at this poetry. Guess I will leave him to his muse — Erato by the way, root word in “error” and usually depicted with a “lyre.”

    More seriously, the last thing we all need right now is more Neo-Republican politics of blame or any sense of blame for that matter. It’s not the teachers’ fault or the fault of town employees (already more scaled back than in any comparable city or town). It’s not the “evil” binding arbitration that the non-partisan legislative research in our state shows coming down in favor of employers (!) over 60% of the time. It’s not a Town Council that doesn’t care about kids — they do. It’s not a School Board that doesn’t care about taxpayers — they do. And it’s not Joe Verrengia.
    In truth, it’s just a uniquely tough situation driven by state-mandated revaluation that demands sacrifices all around so our town can get through this one painful year. Who knows, maybe the State Legislature will still hold Governor Rell to her promise of much more increased school funding.
    Unlike folks like Judy Aron, I am reflexively pro-public schools so I feel the pain of these choices. And as a taxpayer and Town Council spouse, I see the agony this year of our local leaders trying to find the “right” balance — especially for property taxpayers of more modest means. I also know that but for revalution, this would be a year when the Town Council’s achiement of a an actual tax increase at less than inflation would otherwise be hailed as now small miracle in a town also known for it’s fiscal prudence.
    All that said, maybe folks like whdad have persuaded me that there is something to be said for the Town Council going public with the administrative (not classroom or student) savings being shared in discussions with the school administration. Not right now in any way that would preempt the School Board’s own process, but at some point before it’s all over just for the sake of mutual accountability.
    Meantime, let’s all back down the blame-game, school parent and taxpayer-baiting, and all the very transparent Neo-Republican politicking. This is much too serious a debate about what kind of community we are to let all that other nonesense go too far. (Yikes, a rhyme after all.)

  16. EJ

    Mr. Sullivan you don’t want to play a blame game but you seem be using terms like “tranparent neo-republican politicking”. Your party you seem to view as error free and non-political.

    While you were Senate Pres Protem and Lt Gov did you help the town get the $30 mill in ECS funding owed us? How much would those funds help the current crisis.

    The Taxpayers are taking a heavy hit bot because of spending and reval. The town is spending $12K/child, but this is still viewed as inadequate. And no one wants to talk to the unions about some sharing of Med premiums or a slightly scaled back raise as the free world is seeing.

  17. Joe Visconti

    Kevin, in all seriousness would you join me, Scott and others to lobby the State for substantial ECS this year before time runs out?, as Citizens ?
    Yesterday is over but we can start a new day here collectively as Town residents. Then my friend we do not have to politicize the irresponsibility of the State Government as a whole. I promise to tone down and wear a suit, I already cut my hair, what more could you ask? (Don’t say it). For the Kids and Old Folks in Town. Please.

  18. Captain Neo ( Joe Visconti)

    Kevin
    Lousiana had Katrina, we get reval

  19. Captain Neo ( Joe Visconti)

    Whdad
    “The cash we need to run this town” goes better than the Money we need to run this town, yet it’s a little more neoish.

  20. Yeah. That’s true.

  21. Peter G.

    I am sometimes called on to explain to urban friends the tone of political life in small(er) towns such as many of our Connecticut communities. One thing I always point out is that when there is a real political issue in dispute, expect hyperbole to be the order of the day.

    In many small towns, a fight over the hours of town dump (excuse me, transfer station) will be discussed in apocalyptic and extreme terms, e.g. “Joe Bagodonuts must be an admirer of Hitler, the way he runs that dump!”

    So in that context I understand Monsieur Visconti’s comment “Lousiana had Katrina, we get reval” as hyperbole and that it was not intended to actually compare West Hartford’s tax reevalation with the deadly plight of millions of residents of Louisiana and Mississippi, many of whom continue to suffer.

    I will therefore refrain from uttering “Visconti’s comparison of his tax bill with the devastation of the victims of Katrina shows that he is an insensitive monster second only to Nero!”

  22. Harry Captain

    “no one wants to talk to the unions about some sharing of Med premiums or a slightly scaled back raise as the free world is seeing” ?

    Fact: The cost share % of medical premiums paid by WH teachers has increased each and every contract year from 2005 – 2009.

    Fact: The salaries paid in the current three year teacher contract (2007-9) were the result of decisions made by an arbitration panel.

    We’ve talked with the unions and maintain an open dialogue. Here’s a few more factoids:

    Fact: For 15 years (1970-1985) West Hartford was ranked in the top 10 of 169 districts in CT for the highest expenditures per pupil. In 2006 – WH is 85.

    Fact: From 1995-2005 while WH’s per pupil expenditure ranking declined from 48 to 79 – Connecticut Mastery Test scores increased by ~10 percentage points. Costs down, scores up.

    Fact: WH ranks 157, 132, and 99 in Transportation, Administration, and Instructional Program expense categories respectively. In Pupil and Instructional Support, however, WH ranks 39. WH invests its $ in the CLASSROOM.

    Since 1996 enrollment has grown by almost 1,400 students.

    33% of WH students are minority, 15% are free/reduced lunch, and 13% are special education. Many of these kids fall into the “achievement gap” and require extra needs to attain a West Hartford education.

    We’ve talked with the unions, reduced costs, and raised performance – all while our population and their needs have grown. Not too shabby if I say so myself.

    Thank you for allowing me to serve on the WH BOE.

  23. turtle

    Thank you, Mr. Captain! Facts are good!!

  24. Captain Neo ( Joe Visconti)

    Peter Peter it’s a metaphor, they must have really cut your school budget when you were a pup. Hurricane as in Reval is a hurricane economicaly as compared to better weather years, sheesh.
    And by the way, I do like Monsieur but in “Ceasars in the Underworld” a farce I played in at the Hartford Childrens Theatre, I was Valentinian not Nero, know who he was?
    Harry, oh Harry, free lunch? here is some hyperbole for you…. When Residents of CT wakes up and bury Binding Arbitration and restore the Constitution State to a “Right to Work State”, watch Education get some good old fashioned American Pie Competition and Iron’s out all those Underfunded Mandates that Retired band leader ( metaphor Peter)Mr. S like’s to set to Hypnotic Union Propoganda! ta da more to come on Union facts, gotta make dinner for the kids!!!!, before I burn Rome

  25. GOP Joe (Visconti)

    Quick note while the water’s boiling for pasta, I dropped my partial pseudo handle of Captain Neo because we have a Wonderful Guy on our school Board whose last name is Captain. I don’t want the Vote Yes for Millions more in Higher Tax’s folks along with the Sky is falling because they cut Education parents to think they lost one of theirs… sorry Harry

  26. You know what Kevin Sullivan.. You can stick it..
    “Unlike folks like Judy Aron, I am reflexively pro-public schools so I feel the pain of these choices.”

    You used to support homeschoolers wholeheartedly – at least that’s what you told us to get our votes..and support on other issues, but I always knew you for double talking politician that you are.. smiling and waving at homeschoolers from the parades and then stabbing us in the back with feigned support in the chambers.

    You once publicly called me liar.. I can say the same of you sir.

    I am pro public schools when the public schools aren’t being dumbed down and erode parental rights among other things. We have good schools in West Hartford, despite the $30 million or so in ECS money that you failed to deliver over the past decade. West Hartford gets approximately 12 cents back for every tax dollar sent to the state. It’s the taxpayers that have had to make up for your failings.

    How dare you claim that as a citizen living in this town that I don’t care about our schools.. you wouldn’t say that about people who send their kids to private school.. oh no.. because they are the moneyed and powerful that have bankrolled you and your proteges. You need to suck up to them.

    But no matter .. I recall reading your political obituary not too long ago.. Yeah.. as you recently said .. you should just change your name from Kevin to Former.. because everyone now always refers to you as former this or former that.
    Hey.. you said it .. not me.

  27. turtle

    Charming.

    Can we talk about the budget cuts? If we’re as conscientious as Peter G., we’ll get nowhere. If we worry about not knowing enough, we’ll get nowhere. Can we just start somewhere?

  28. Harry Captain

    Somewhere to start:
    1.) Understand that reducing $1.842M from the education budget is not an easy task. Contractual teacher salaries are rising 4.75% next year and the total budget increase is 4.25%. Yeah, I know teachers aren’t the total budget, but they’re the biggest component and every other contracted employee gets a raise too. More than 80% of the total budget is salaries – Do the math.
    2.) We probably won’t break a sweat on the first $300 – $500K considering new assumptions for energy and workers compensation recommended by the Town. The next $1.342M is where the tough decisions begin.
    3.) Go to http://www.whps.org/board/Budget/Reduction%20options%20-%20May%2008,%202007.pdf to review the administration’s recommendations of where to reduce. Understand that categories 1-4 get us to the $1.842 reduction. Categories 5-7 are other administrative recommendations for the BOE to pick from in the event there’s a line item we want to keep in from the first 4 categories.
    4.) Write to boardmembers@whps.org to let us know where you think we should cut. Either from the list, or from other suggestions you have.
    5.) Participate in the public hearing on Tuesday, May 29, 7:30 at Town Hall.
    6.) Don’t tell me what to keep without telling me what to cut. $1.842M MUST be reduced and I need to know where you think it should come from.
    7.) Don’t panic about ½ day Kindergarten – I don’t think we’re there yet. A second referendum would be another story.

  29. GOP Joe (Visconti)

    Turtle
    Somewhere is nowhere when no one knows anything and everyone knows someone who doesn’t know everything.
    Sounds like a budget to me.

    Of course we don’t know what to cut, we don’t know how the Arbitrator Calculators figured in the Educators.

    Let’s just phase in common sense and Outsource Unions.
    “Connecticut is not a Right to Work State but a Right to Tax State” Copyright Joseph Visconti 2007

    The Tax’s increase the day the Town Council approves the Union Contracts with their Wage increases, where’s the Public then, Watching American Idol?

  30. David Jones

    Harry, thank you for the info.

    I hope those on both sides of this debate recognize Harry Captain as a very reasonable voice on the board. Good luck with a tough job.

  31. Ryan

    I’d like to echo David’s comments, Harry’s got a tough job, as do his colleagues. Thanks harry for taking the time to post and getting some much needed factual, useful info out there.

  32. GOP Joe (Visconti)

    Harry
    Factual information on the school budget should be made public day one in the process. No more hide and seek for info from this School Board.
    This outdated process you have been a part of along with other Board Members leads us to these days when we are forced to play pin the tail on the donkey. It’s time to take the blindfolds off, this is a budget not a Blind Trust Fund!

  33. turtle

    I too am grateful to Harry Captain for appearing on this board with the hard-boiled facts of the matter (I trust you’re wearing a trenchcoat, Mr. Captain). I would highlight the following:

    33% of WH students are minority, 15% are free/reduced lunch, and 13% are special education. Many of these kids fall into the “achievement gap” and require extra needs to attain a West Hartford education.

    Let’s see:

    Smith School
    65% minority enrollment
    30% qualify for free or reduced lunches
    72% participated in a preschool program
    36+% from non-English speaking homes

    Charter Oak
    74.8% minority enrollment
    38.5% qualify for free or reduced lunches
    -70% participated in a preschool program
    approx. 30% from non-English speaking homes

    I’m a Smith parent, and as I’ve said many times here, for all the inequities Smith is a wonderful school (Charter Oak parents are likewise enthusiastic). Granted the enhancement funds for these schools were part of the budget increase this year. But the south end schools are obviously taking the biggest hit from the proposed cuts.

    People like Judy Aron keep howling about the number of administrators in the system. (Just out of curiosity, aren’t the taxpayers shelling out for administrators to oversee homeschooling?) Given the percentages of children in the south end who do not participate in vital pre-K programs, are you going to tell me that somebody like the Group 3/Group 5 parent educator is “fat”?! (Don’t bother answering, Judy.) What about Group 2 ESOL? Too bad, kiddies?

    West Hartford, please explain to me how schools like Morley or Bugbee are going to be affected by the cuts? Is this town just going to maintain the status quo until the State forces West Hartford to redistrict, or are we going to get down to business?

  34. Linda DiNapoli

    I attended a slient auction with a huge number of people and placed the minimum bid of $10 for lunch and a tour of the capitol with then Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan.
    I won, he lost! Enough said on his popularity!
    West Hartford politicians should take a lesson away from this. Your fall from grace can be swift and painful!

  35. Osemasterofdoom

    At the risk of being accused of sounding anti-teacher, does anyone else see the automatic granting of a 4.75% increase in teacher salaries as a large part if this problem? We seem to just accept this as an inevitability and move on to other issues. I know, I know, the raises are contractual and there is no way of getting around them. However, those of us who work in the non-profit world know all to well what it is like to wait for some reward (such as a raise) from the State for the work we do and more often than not we are passed over, especially in so-called “lean” years.

    Don’t get me wrong: our teachers do a great job and are as deserving as anyone of a raise. I also appreciate that teachers need to be treated differently than other municipal employees, because you don’t want to put them at risk of their jobs being treated as so many political footballs. But surely there are enough allies of teachers on the town council and the board of ed to ensure that teachers would get a fair shake when it comes to annual raises. I guess my question is: why do we accept these annual raises and their percentages as etched in stone before the discussion about where to find savings even begins?

  36. turtle

    Question: 4.75% is how much above the rate of inflation?

    Otherwise, Glenn Shafer in the West Hartford News reports:

    Already, the Board of Education is considering cuts in the number of teachers, language offerings, technology funding, and QUEST, a program for gifted and talented students.

    “These are scare tactics,” said Aron. “They cut in the classroom but keep administration costs in the budget.”

    As Harry Captian demonstrated above, Judy Aron’s statement is false.

    Judy, why are you making false statements to the West Hartford News?

  37. turtle

    Um, Captain Harry.

  38. 4.75 percent does sound excessive. But you can’t take it in isolation from many factors about which I know nothing including the salaries compared to surrounding districts, benefit changes and whether we’re getting the types of teacher applicants we want. I do know that we can’t pay less than the going rate, however much we might want to cheap out.
    Even so, I haven’t personally seen a raise above 2.5 percent in years, though I realize I work for a notoriously cut-rate outfit.

  39. As a matter of curiosity, do we have a count of qualified teachers who are eager to accept jobs without union protections and better-than-inflation raises? Hands? Anyone?

    I know that there are news stories every twenty minutes or so about how few elementary school teachers stay in (public-school) teaching more than five years; do the people leaving tend to give as a reason for leaving that they can no longer stand the union protections and fat raises? I forget.

    Thanks,
    -V.

  40. Harry Captain

    Here’s a very high level summary on the binding arbitration process and how it played out with the current 3 year teacher contract.

    3 arbitrators hear both sides of the issue at hand. The arbitrators then rule, usually weeks later, in favor of one side of the argument. There is no “deal” made where the arbitrators come up with a compromise position – either side A or side B wins the argument and both parties are bound to the arbitrator’s decision.

    We went before the arbitration panel late in 2005. The only issue was salary for three years – 2007/8/9. Technically, that’s three issues because the arbitrators rule on each year separately.

    The arbitrators ruled in favor of the Union for 2007, the BOE for 2008, and the Union in 2009.

    2008, next years budget @ 4.75%, is the lowest salary increase of the 3 year contract period.

    I agree with you that “we can’t pay less than the going rate” because we need to be competitive to attract and retain the best teaching talent.

    The root of the problem is that teacher raises (going rate) statewide have been consistently higher than raises received in the private sector (including mine). The majority of people paying the taxes aren’t seeing their private sector pay increase at the same levels. This majority is also being squeezed by increases in utilities, fuel, and healthcare expenses.

    Either the growth of teacher raises statewide needs to slowdown, the private sector needs to catch up, or we need to get to some place in between. As the “spread” between public education and private sector salaries and benefits widen, more gas is thrown on the fire of a taxpayer revolt. If a revolt results in reducing teachers – neither the students nor the teachers that remain win.

  41. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m impressed by Harry Captain.

  42. Osemasterofdoom

    Amen to that, whdad. I really appreciate the summary of the administration’s recommendations. Very educational, and it really gives me pause regarding the choices the Board of Ed has to make.

    One question, if Mr. Captain would not mind responding: has the Board been able to look at how other towns have dealt with these issues at the level of detail present in the recommendations you linked us to? I am assuming it would be difficult for you to do, given that you all have full-time jobs in addition to your board responsibilities. If this is indeed the case, what about having some parents like us take on the job, and then come back to the Board with the results?

    I know it’s too late for this year, but just trying to think outside the box…

  43. Harry Captain

    Looking at how other towns have dealt with these issues at the level of detail present in the recommendations is very difficult, and almost impossible to do. This is due to both the uniqueness and offering of WHPS.

    WH is unique in both size (almost 10K students), physical composition (2 high (rare), 3 middle, and 11 elementary schools), and elementary schools with differing needs based on the students being served.

    WH has robust offerings – full day K, early reading intervention, foreign language beginning in elementary, gifted and talented, fine and performing arts, middle and high school alternatives, advance placement, and strong pupil services to name a few.

    Many districts have opted to discontinue or pare back many of the programs we are very fortunate to have. I believe, as one of my former colleagues once said, that should we go down that path we will “take the West out of West Hartford” and do long term damage to the future attractiveness of the town. Taxes also play into the viability of the town so we must find the right balance.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are other quantitative comparables that we do look at. You can find many at http://www.csde.state.ct.us/public/cedar/districts/index.htm?sdePNavCtr=|#45480

    GOOD NEWS for the Day – Congratulations to Conard and Hall for making Newsweek’s rankings of top 1200 public schools! This is based on the number of Advanced Placement, Intl. Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2006 divided by the number of graduating seniors. Conard ranked 250 countrywide (#1 in CT) and Hall ranked 635 (#8 in CT).
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18757087/?sort=State&count=1257&search=&start=200&limit=100&year=2007&

    (Apologies in advance – I could not get hyperlinks to copy in. Cut & paste to your browser if interested)

  44. B

    I think there is some general misunderstanding here about how salary increases are calculated. Most union contracts, and all teacher contracts, have a scale. Each year, teachers who are not on the top step move up a step. The idea is that teachers with more experience deserve higher pay (or, consequently, that less experienced teachers deserve less pay). Once an employee reaches top step, they no longer get new steps. When making a budget, the employer takes into account the cost of advancing all those on step to the next one. For example, if half the employees are owed a step and the steps are each 2% higher than the previous step, the step cost is 1%.

    In addition to the steps, the contract will also have a “general wage increase” (GWI). This amount, usually a percentage, is added to all of the steps on the scale. Those on step thus get two raises (one the step and the other the GWI) while those on top step only get the GWI.

    The 4.75% figure being talked about is the combination of the step cost and the GWI. The GWI, which is the actual raise received by all the experienced teachers in our town, is 2.7% for 06-07, 2.4% for 07-08, and 3% for 08-09.

    It is true that the employees on step are getting bigger annual raises than that, at least on a percentage basis, but that is how step systems work. These are employees who are making substantially less than those at the top step, and somehow they have to catch up.

    Sorry for the length of this, but I think the perception that teachers are getting these fat raises really poisons the debate. I hope this helps focus us on the bigger problems.

    And by the way, thank you Harry for your great work, and Kevin, I’m glad you are moving towards backing up your words here with some real data. I’ll be even happier when I see it.

  45. Thanks, B. That information is helpful.

  46. turtle

    Mr. Captain,

    As you know, curriculum specialists are the kind of administrators that make the West Hartford Taxpayers Association howl in the night.

    What do curriculum specialists do? Why do they have to be in-house? I have a vague notion that they are responsible for assessments (NCLB?) and professional development, and that the administration defends their contribution wholeheartedly. But… the ambiguity of this role (for me anyway) and the fact that curriculum specialists are often former classroom teachers, warrants a doubletake, if only for clarity.

    Thanks!

  47. It does seem like some of them are ex-teachers who weren’t so great who are learning to be not-so-good principals, hopefully in other districts.

  48. EJ

    Wow, I thought we had to pay top dollar to attract the best. You mean that isn’t the case?

  49. Harry Captain

    Sorry you have to hide behind your “B”.

    B is correct that teachers on the top step get GWI (general wage increase) and teachers below the top step get GWI + Step (averaging 4.75%).

    In either case, that’s more than most of us, including WHDAD who states “I haven’t personally seen a raise above 2.5% in years”. And let’s not forget the lower cost health benefit package, a defined benefit pension plan (who gets that anymore?), and job security found in no other profession (Law, Finance, Medicine).

    I love my teachers and know that most of them work very, very hard. CT teachers are the highest paid in the nation and at some point, they (you B) need to realize that you’re pricing yourself out of business.

    Curriculum Specialists direct curriculum and instruction at the site level. Yes, they are responsible for much of the paperwork associated with IEPs (Individual Instruction Plans), NCLB, Special Ed, etc. They also are a “proving ground” for building the bench of future principals. It’s very hard to find good principals.

  50. Harry Captain

    Compared to other districts, WH pays more at the top steps, competitively in the middle, and slightly lower at the beginning steps.

    We invest alot in our teachers and they are very well trained professionals. So much so that other districts try to poach our less experienced staff. We do lose some, however, some come back when they see $ they got was not worth the new environment they’re in.

  51. B

    True Harry, the defined benefit plan is unusual, but of course teachers in CT don’t get social security, which is the defined benefit plan that everyone else gets to supplement their other retirement plans.

    Also, compared to other towns, the insurance plan for town employees has higher co-pays than most. The three tier prescription plan AFSCME just negotiated with the town is one of the costliest in the public or private sector.

    The bigger picture here is the cost of health insurance, which is driving the total employee package for everyone out of control (look at GM), and the crazy reliance on property taxes to fund such a high percentage of education costs.

  52. Kevin Sullivan

    First, kudos to Harry Captain for being part of an extended and detailed dialogue here. More important, Harry is also a very positive link between the Board of Education and Town Council at this difficult time of decision.

    It’s probably too late for this budget round, but service consolidation needs to get another look. It’s always more a question of turf but that turf is expensive when it means significant duplication of costs. There is no reason why every aspect of core services (information technology, buildings and grounds, purchasing, utilities and more) should not be consolidated and at the generally lower personnel and other costs on the town side of the ledger — leaving the enterprise of teaching and learning to the school administation.

    And Joe, I’m happy to join you and anyone else in continuing to lobby the Governor and Legislature for our fairer share of state education aid. This hiatus from public service is not a hiatus from public advocacy. The problem right now, with so little time left, is that the Governor has backed off her commitments, the Democratic majority is over-committed to too much other spending, and the legislative Republicans are left mostly playing partisan games. In my time there when Bob Farr and I changed to ECS formula to median family income wealth measures, West Hartford went from full but very little school funding to significantly more but not full funding. Now, while our town legislators are trying hard again this session, every plan so far still leaves us short.

    Finally, I’m sorry Judy Aron forgets that I did fight for the rights of home-schoolers when no one else cared. I believe parents have a right to choose home-schooling or private schooling, as long as it’s not at public expense. Where she lost me, personally, is when she signed onto (as Rep. Fleischmann documented during last fall’s campaign) that national rightwing campaign actually calling for government to get out of funding education — the same kind of funding she now complains the state is not providing.

  53. Kevin.. I forget nothing .. What did you do exactly to help homeschoolers? Did you organize the 1500 homeschoolers that showed up to the Capitol to protest restrictive legislation in 2002? CT legislators almost crapped their pants when homeschoolers had 4 overflow rooms to the hearings. Yeah you only supported homeschooling when you saw 1500 of us in your face. Since then did you do anything to stop the State Board of Ed and DCF from harassing homeschoolers and preventing those parents who want to leave the system? Even when we came to you, when you were Lt Gov, to tell you how parents wrote letters of withdrawal to take their kids out of school to homeschool them, and schools kept their kids on enrollment lists, and then reported kids truant and then DCF got called in and parents were hauled into court.. You DID NOTHING!!! You ignored us.. I guess it wasn’t an election year! Yeah you protect the right to choose all right.. what a load of crap. You didn’t care then and you certainly don’t care now.

    As for me signing the proclamation on Separation of School and State – they aren’t “right-wing’.. they are Libertarian and you are a fool for thinking that my signing that online proclamation means anything other than protesting the federal government dictating NCLB to us, yet another unfunded mandate. Read the 10th amendment for a change; the feds have no business in education. But being the statist that you are I can see how you’d disagree.

    Ahh.. and now I can see how you helped Fleischmann craft that load of crap as his ONLY campaign message against me. Did you help him make his stupid little phone calls too? I guess you also supported his coercing HARC into unionization. Good thing Fleischmann had Harris campaign for him as well. The fact is there are so many people (including many many democrats) who hate him up at the Capitol, and he has had no position of party leadership in all of his years there.. but so what, he has his mommy to help him out. He even calls her from the well of the chambers to make sure she watches him when he is on TV. LOL .. but that’s all water under the bridge.. I had fun with it. All I wanted was for him not to run unopposed, because I actually care about the democratic process.

    Oh, and you know when you lost me? When I found out what a typical double-talking politician you are.

  54. Joe Visconti

    Kevin& Judy
    What Post’s; I don’t have all the experience as you both but I believe it is never too late to ask for what we are owed. Let’s ask the Governor and Mr. Aman for help directly immediately, although as it always seems to go we will be asking too late. Asking for more now could help us for the time being get close to the 1.8 million the School Board is hunting for.
    My schedule is open next week, who can I say to the Governors staff will join me? If you can make it Kevin then could you seek an audience with Mr Aman for us?

  55. Joe Visconti

    The request is in to the Governor for a meeting, let’s see if her schedule permits it for next week.

  56. Joe Visconti

    Got this back ( below) from the Governors office- standard response, I will call when I get Kevin on Board and any others from West Hartford to join me. If anyone wants to join please respond by 3pm today via this blog or email me at Viscontimg@aol.com

    Thank you very much for your email. It is important to me that I hear
    from constituents on issues that matter most to them and I appreciate
    you taking the time to contact me. My Constituent Services staff and I
    will review your correspondence and respond to you as soon as possible.
    If you are in need of more immediate assistance, please call my office
    directly at (860) 566-4840 or 1-800-406-1527 and my staff will be happy
    to assist you.

    If you would like to view a video message from me, please follow this
    link
    http://www.dir.ct.gov/governorrell/video_response/video_response.html.

    Again, thank you for contacting the Office of the Governor. Your
    interest in my administration is appreciated.

    Sincerely,

    M. JODI RELL

    Governor

    Please note: Electronic mail submitted through this web-site may be
    considered “public records or files” as those terms are defined in the
    Connecticut Freedom of Information Act, (the “Act”). By operation of the
    Act, public records and files may be subject to disclosure to persons
    other than the addressee. The marking of an electronic mail message
    submitted through this web site as “personal” or “confidential” may not
    prevent disclosure of certain public records governed by the Act.

  57. I feel a little better about Jodi Rell knowing that she’s in no rush to talk to Joe. 🙂

  58. Osemasterofdoom

    B:

    I’m curious about the cost of the three-tiered prescription plan you mentioned. What are the co-pays? I work in the non-profit sector, and my copays are $15/$30/$40.

  59. My co-pays are $30/$50.
    But, as I said, I work for a notoriously awful outfit.

  60. oh and another thing:
    Kevin wrote, “the same kind of funding she now complains the state is not providing.”

    You are mistaken sir… we wouldn’t have to beg for our money back if they hadn’t taken it from us in the first place!

    The state isn’t providing education money and other revenue to us out of benevolence… it is our money in the first place.

    Hmm.. how about I reach into your wallet take $10.00 and give you $1.20 back? That sounds fair, especially since you had a hand in creating that “Robin Hood” scheme.

    Joe.. forget the Governor .. she’s not interested in talking to you or to Kevin especially about the ECS money.

  61. B

    Osemaster, I don’t have the figures in front of me, but the top tier was $50. Certainly not unheard of in the (generally non-unionized) private sector, but really high for municipal workers. And WHDad, sorry to hear that.

    (and why do I get constantly picked on for my incredibly uncreative use of a letter, when no one attacks either of you for, what I assume, is not your real name?).

    The reality is that many bloggers and blog participants chose to remain anonymous, for lots of different reasons. Participants in on-line discussions should respect the desire or need for privacy some of us have.

  62. Joe Visconti

    Whdad et al

    I am formalizing my request in writing to meet the Governor, at the request of the Governors staff (hope I can Capitalize ok in the letter). Any citizen who would like to join me including Kevin Sullivan( I need your email address) please let me know ASAP so that I can include them in the hard copy letter. The Governor will meet with us and it is important to have those in the know about the changing demographics in our Town and what it means to the future of Education for us to participate at the meeting. Lets stop arguing and go there already.

  63. I have no problems with slightly veiled identities, B! I hope mine’s hidden enough to keep it to myself.

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