So what happened at the hearing?

Any highlights, lowlights or otherwise? Did we learn anything? As usual, I had to be off at a kids’ activity. Maybe I can catch a rerun.

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34 Comments

Filed under budget, education, Schools

34 responses to “So what happened at the hearing?

  1. Joe Visconti

    Yeah you missed a lot,the entire school Board took a sabatical and went off on vacation to Spain to visit Jack Darcy, the junket was sponsered by AFSCME.
    Then David Sklarz was appointed Strong Mayor and acting Town Manager.
    The Teachers Union then opened their contract and cut the school year from 184 days to 64 days with a savings of $3.00. Quest was fully funded by a grant from Blue Back Square Developer Richard Heapes, Scott Slifka switched parties and is now the Republican Majority leader, I was appointed as Barbara Carpenters replacement, and pigs were spotted flying over Whole Foods!

  2. Edith Folta

    I was fortunate enough to get a chance to speak at the May 29 meeting in support of the Quest program, and all the other programs tagged as “enrichment’ but actually vital to the full and rounded education of our kids.

    I came away from the meeting with a great deal of respect for both the commitment of the Board members to look at all options, and the dedication of our community members to having a quality educational system in a community that is fair and affordable to all residents.

    I would like to speak up on several ideas of merit that were presented, and a few of my own:

    1) Look immediately at options for closing the print shop, and outsourcing work to local printers. (At my own company, Xerox has a contract to keep their staff on our premises to do printing work and also maintain the copier/fax/scanning machines.) Do the public schools purchase these services jointly with the town for further savings? And look carefully at how much printing is actually needed. In this era of e-mail, .pdf files, Smart Boards, and Powerpoint — how much printing can simply be eliminated? We need to look at wise use of technology in both the Education administration and townwide.

    2) Consolidating administrative support. As several speakers noted, most businesses have sharply cut back on secretarial and administrative services, simply because most people do their own word processing and filing and appointment keeping via PC’s and PDA’s. In my own career, I have not had a secretary since 1999 — and she was shared by a dozen people.

    3) Does the town employ the services of a qualified and certified purchasing agent/buyer for goods and services? I am constantly amazed at the savings our buyers at work manage to negotiate, while always raising the quality of services.

    4) Has the Board of Ed used process mapping and Lean organizational techniques to find ways to streamline processes and eliminate waste — done by the employees who do the work and have the best ideas for how to eliminate waste? This is a very powerful, FAST and low-cost tool which shows results immediately. There are probably town residents who are trained as Lean coordinators and would be happy to volunteer their services for the benefit of the community. We have lots of local talent and experience. In fact, WireMold is considered an international leader in Lean, and Pratt & Whitney is very involved. This works for administrative processes as well as for manufacturing. Could the Regents help us here?

    http://www.simpler.com/testimonials.htm
    http://www.gpworldwide.com/quick/jul2004/art2.asp

    5) Finally, we need to fully fund the schools while giving tax breaks to those who are in need: seniors, low income residents. There is an incredible amount of money in this town, but we want to keep all income levels here. I sincerely hope that this budget process will not drive anyone from our town. We’ve got some of the best brains in the country here (some the product of these very WH schools) — let’s find a solution!

  3. Thank you Edith.. I really appreciate your constructive comments. Those are exactly the things that the West Hartford Taxpayers Association has been saying all along… but instead we are called anti-education, racists, and a host of other unsavory epithets by American Federation of Teachers union goons like Ben Wenograd. But it is obvious that he and people like him have a vested interest in having more money in education, and par for the course for his type of tax and spend union Progressives. They aren’t looking for ways to economize … they just want more money.
    Edith – I like your suggestions a lot and I hope the BOE will use them.

  4. Ben Wenograd

    Judy, the post you praise somehow avoids personal “epithets” yet you freely call me a “goon”.
    To be clear, I did not call the WHTA racist or anti-education, and I stated specifically that we should be able to debate tough issues without rancor.

    I did, however, think it important to publicize your statements on this blog. I believe the “little Jose” line was awful, but unfortunately typical of your personal style of public discourse.

  5. EJ

    Ben,
    I read Judy’s post and she could have phrased it better and it may not have been the most brilliant thing to say in a public forum but in the context of the post it did not make her a racist.

    I also heard you last night and can only assume that your intent by pulling it out of context was to make her sound like a racist. The comment served no other purpose in the discussion, again in a public forum.

  6. turtle

    I’m ambivalent about closing the print shop. I hate all that paper and prefer to use the internet for everything, but I get the impression that in West Hartford many people aren’t plugged in (and not just in the south end). Also, I hate to think of the people who work in that print shop losing their jobs to Xerox or some other corporation. Maybe one position could be cut, but it does seem like the print shop runs a big operation.

  7. Ben (ah you finally used your real name).. little Jose, little Mary .. whatever .. it wasn’t racist.. you are the one who injected racism into it. Were you inferring that I am anti-Mexican, anti-Spanish, or anti-Portugese? or anti-Caribbean? or perhaps anti-Peruvian? Do you know that my husband was born in Colombia, South America? Would that even make a difference to your rantings?

    You totally misrepresented what I wrote in your testimony to the BOE last night by taking my words out of context, and inferring that I am a racist, which I am not. But that is typical for your personal style of politics and public discourse. An apology from you to me is in order – but I won’t hold my breath. It wouldn’t mean anything anyway.

    Be that as it may.. my point was obviously lost on you because of your willingness to attack me at every turn. Anyone with intelligence would understand that cutting any type of programs that help kids learn English or anything else is not we are seeking, and as Edith astutely pointed out above, there are many places to trim this budget without hurting kids or trashing programs. That was exactly my point.

    Continue to malign me if that makes you happy – but you are creating very bad karma. I will just ignore your infantile name calling. You are the only one at this point who I see creating rancor, because the moment you disagree with me out come the nasty names. Haven’t you heard? One can disagree without being disagreeable?

    Oh and for the word goon.. it isn’t an epithet.. it is synonymous with bully – which is something I believe you to be. Perhaps it is time that you practiced a bit of what you preached.

  8. EJ

    If you look at where the tax increases are going in the next 5 years the Council & BOE are going to have to get a better handle on their budgets. No one wants to see anyone lose a job, but I think you are going to see consolidation of departments and outsourcing as 2 options that will have to be implemented to keep cuts from hitting the classroom. They are also going have to have some frank/hard negotiations with the unions, or we will probably see teachers being let go.

    This year most taxpayers are going to see a 6.6% tax increase. If the mill rate stays the same, which is more likely than it ever seeing 29 (as mentioned by the mayor) it appears the tax increases will be in the order of 10%. These are unsustainable increases.

    The problems are only starting, and the next 5 years are going to be tough ones

  9. Ben Wenograd

    EJ, I actually tried hard not to put the comment out of context, and if I failed at that I am truly sorry. The conversation should be read in full.

    I actually agonized quite a bit about whether to make those comments last night. What finally convinced me was the reaction I got showing the statement to a mother of a hispanic kid at school. She was offended by it and urged me to go public.

    And Judy, I will indeed try to practice what I preach. Words matter and words can hurt. It is a lesson we can all learn.

  10. I understand that Bruce Putterman said that the board cannot legally refuse to make the cuts demanded by the town council. So I guess that option’s off the table.

  11. David Jones

    1) Balance is a very important thing. We have a problem if we spend too little on education and we have a problem if we tax our residents out of their homes.

    2) As a resident of West Hartford I am willing to pay higher taxes to ensure the strength of our school system. But I’m unwilling to write a blank check as some seem to favor. I think it’s unfortunate that all those residents fighting for lower taxes are somehow labeled as anti-education. I think most of the citizens fighting against these tax increases believe we can achieve our education goals at a lower cost. They may be right or they may be wrong, but it’s important to at least understand their perspective without calling them names and disparaging them. Personally I think the cuts they want are too large just as I believe the increases desired by many on behalf of education are also too large.

    3) I support voting in favor of the current budget but respect the rights of our citizens to call for a referendum. The fact that I disagree with them doesn’t make them bad people.

    4) The parents of West Hartford need a greater appreciation of the deal they’re getting. Of course you want more education spending, as a parent it’s a bargain. Of course you’re willing to pay higher taxes because it’s still a good deal for a parent. I have been the beneficiary of the subsidy from those non parents in WH and will happily subsidize the next group of parents as my days as a WH school parent end in June of 2008. But let’s not kill the golden goose. We have to be sensitive to those who are not directly benefitting from the school system. If we ask too much of them they will choose to live elsewwhere. And parents alone can’t afford to fund the schools.

    5) It’s been suggested that in a robust economy there is no reason to be so tough on spending. But what does this robust economy mean for most of us. The increased sales tax revenue doesn’t go to West Hartford. The increased income tax revenue doesn’t go to West Hartford. To some degree we are beneficiaries of a building boom, but we have very little available space on which to build. For the average person the soaring stock market doesn’t mean expendable dollars, it means an increase in the 401K balance. I think most experts would argue against using retirement money to enhance current cash flow. We also benefit by the fact we’re less likely to find ourselves unemployed, but the average employee isn’t seeing huge pay increases.

    6) It is often said that each of us benefit because of increasing home values. In the long run that is true. But once again this doesn’t translate into cash flow unless someone is suggesting you should borrow against the equity in your home for cash flow purposes. For the average person this increase in property value becomes a benefit once they move from this region to a slower growing region or when they die.

    7) As for Judy Aron’s comment regarding little Jose, I fully agree that it was an unfortunate choice of words and I believe people have a right to be offended. I found it offensive. But in a comment on the blog she was referred to as racist (anonomously), something I find even more offensive. Ms. Aron has said she didn’t mean it that way and I take her at her word. And Mr. Wenograd, I was watching when you quoted her on local access TV. In no way did that contribute to a meaningful dialogue on the subject at hand, it was intended to embarass Ms. Aron. A public hearing to discuss spending cuts to the education budget seems to me an inapropriate place for such antics.

    8) I urge everyone to show greater respect for those with whom they are in disagreement. Because someone is wrong doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.

  12. Well said, David Jones. You’ve given all of us something to contemplate.

  13. turtle

    I think it’s unfortunate that all those residents fighting for lower taxes are somehow labeled as anti-education.

    Who has labeled these people anti-education? Maybe out there in grapevine-land, but on this blog the only person who has ever accused anyone of being anti-public education is myself, and I hurled that one at Judy Aron, based on her histrionic screeds against the board of ed and the paeans to homeschooling she describes so militantly on her blog. Judy has never bothered to make the distinction between anti-education and anti-public schools, although I vaguely recall a retort in which she assured all that she has volunteered for the public schools and how unfair it is that anyone would think that Judy Aron does not care. It must be terrible to be so misunderstood!

    Since Judy typically plays fast and loose with the truth, now she’s spreading this meme that anyone worried about their taxes is assumed to be anti-education by supporters of the budget. At this point we could substitute Judy’s straw man for the towering steel bear sculpture!!

    Because someone is wrong doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.

    Of course not. But when people act badly expect a reaction.

  14. turtle

    I think most of the citizens fighting against these tax increases believe we can achieve our education goals at a lower cost. They may be right or they may be wrong, but it’s important to at least understand their perspective without calling them names and disparaging them.

    This is true of some but not others. Some of these anti-tax people are libertarians who resent paying taxes as a matter of principle. It is fair game to call such people ideologues because that, in fact, is what they are.

  15. Osemasterofdoom

    I like Edith’s idea about implementing lean processes. Actually, Connecticut already has a quasi-public organization called Connstep, which is dedicated to implementing lean principles. I know most of their work has been in manufacturing, but they have been looking into branching out into other areas. If anyone from the Board of Ed or town administration is reading, it might be worth a phone call. I know Connstep has done wonders for many CT manufacturers in cutting costs through process management.

    As to the word “goon,” I would argue that it does indeed have a negative connotation. In the world of hockey, a goon is someone who has no hockey skill (other than being able to skate) who is put on the ice only to instigate a fight. If only the Whalers would come back, more people would undertsand this.

  16. A quick scan of the ‘net seems to show that goons are not regarded well. For example:
    Goon terrorizes people in Gittikhadan:
    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Nagpur/Goon_terrorises_people_in_Gittikhadan/articleshow/2008349.cms

  17. Joe Visconti

    David
    Balance? yes I mentioned that last night when speaking to the Board and Audience, Racial and economic Balance is needed now.
    At some point during Mr Putterman’s intro I had the feeling the Board didn’t have that much authority anymore. Did anyone else noticice that? We can’t do this, that or the other thing but if we hear misinformation we will correct it? Little by little over decade’s the public has given control to way too many special Interested parties regarding Education. How did we get here? How did our elected Board members get forced onto this Special Interest controled Educational game show of Deal or no Deal, where the man in the dark room makes offers to them with inside information on what’s in each case?

    As far as the Quest Program, the Board better understand that their, on their own Quest,-(Websters def.) – 1. a search or pursuit in order to find or obtain something.
    So search and find cost cutting items as the Town Council ordered you to.

    Lastly (here), Rather than asking the public first where to cut, the Board should first ask Andrew Fleishman (co chair of the State Education thingamaging department)and other State reps who have gone MIA on getting our ECS fully funded. In their all knowing wisdom at the State level do you think Andy et-al know what affect their going Awol on attempting to fully fund ECS has done to West Hartford Schools? Look there goes Elvis, I mean Andy!

  18. turtle

    Joe, with that shirt you wore last night I thought you’d be in Vegas by now.

    And I mean that in a good way.

  19. Joe Visconti

    Turtle

    I’m Killing time right now with you guys here in West Hartford while I get some family business done, so enjoy the show while ya got me, hope I’ve helped in a small way to get this blog up there in hits. Viva Democracy!!!

  20. turtle

    You’re not leaving for the 0% increase Town of Berlin, are you?

  21. Turtle –
    Yes.. I am an ideologue – so what. That’s someone who has an ideology and principles they adhere to and work to advance. The opposite of an ideologue is someone who sticks their finger in the air decides which way the rest of the crowd is going and follows along like sheep. So thanks for the compliment 🙂

    Who are you to make blanket statements like this?
    “Some of these anti-tax people are libertarians who resent paying taxes as a matter of principle.”
    Where is your proof to this statement? Name 5 registered Libertarians who you know are these “anti-tax” people that you speak of. (Hint: I am not one of them). I will be awaiting your proof, as you continue to shoot your mouth off.

    Continue to disparage me. It just makes me all the more happier that you seem to really be bothered by me and that you take the time to let everyone know about it. Criticize me for supporting home education, which happens to work for over 2 million children in this country. Criticize me for hoping that public education can improve as it has failed so many kids (one only has to look at Hartford). Criticize me for supporting public education by paying my taxes and using NONE of the education dollars that I pay! “Fast and loose” with the truth? C’mon now.. you can do better than that..be a man and call me a liar already. You have something to say Turtle? Then get it over with and say it, but do it with a real name. I put myself out there .. open to criticism.. what does that say about you?

    Keep on banging your drum against people who think a bit differently about things than you do. I thought they taught you to accept diversity and difference of opinion in your little Liberal world.

  22. turtle

    It just makes me all the more happier that you seem to really be bothered by me and that you take the time to let everyone know about it.

    Judy! What am I supposed to do? It’s my civic duty.

  23. EJ

    Instead of ripping into each other how about ripping into the system.

    I have known home schooled kids, and it’s funny every one of them have gone to college.

    While today I hear my kid is being given the annotated works of Angela Davis to read for 4th yr English. I remember her from the 60’s and I can’t think of one productive thing she has done. I would much prefer to hear that he had been given the classics to read. Perhaps for a college course there might be some point in Davis, but not in High School English. I won’t go into the other crap he’s had passed along to him on classes.

  24. turtle

    You know, I have never criticized home schooling. At most I’m ambivalent about people withdrawing from the public sector, but it’s no mystery why they do. From time to time I have simply pointed out that a known local agitator against the board of ed and the education budget happens to be a vociferous home schooling advocate. I have never expressed an opinion or made a judgment about home schooling on this blog. If Judy wishes to feed her persecution complex by claiming that I criticize her for “supporting home education”, do you think I’m going to let that kill my buzz after the Yanks finally managed to win a ballgame?

    As for Angela Davis, I would think they would teach her in any number of subjects except English. Now I’m intrigued. What “other crap” does your kid endure in his high school classes?!

  25. EJ

    Turtle, you can be all bad if you like the Yanks.

    3rd year we had a couple of incidents.
    US History – they spent a couple of weeks on the Sand Creek Massacre (look it up). Not exactly one of the major highlights of American History, and certainly not worth the amount of time spent on it.

    My kid also complained that other material was presented in a biased anti-US manner.

    It was either English or Us History not sure which, or it may have been a combined project. They had to write a pro or con essay on whether sports teams could keep Indian images as team emblems/mascots. They were told to use only the material provided. My kid took the pro side and was not happy with his grade. I looked over the material and found it to be very biased to the con side. I called the guidance counselor and teacher and pointed out the biases in the material and the problems a junior would have writing a pro paper based on the supplied material. The response I got was – We know it’s biased, that’s just the way it is.

    That attitude really helps to promote real good quality thinkers.

  26. turtle

    I grew up in a family where any criticism of the US was condemned as anti-American. Of course it had the effect of shutting down political discourse altogether, and to this day we must abide by a “no politics” rule at family gatherings. (Naturally some of us seek to undermine the rule at every opportunity). That attitude does not help to promote good quality thinkers.

    I don’t know how much time your kid’s class spent on the Sand Creek Massacre, but it was a pretty egregious event, and the fact is that the US has engaged in all kinds of atrocities in the course of its manifest destiny. The more clarity Americans gain about the facts of our history, the better it is for our democracy.

    That team mascot exercise sounds pretty good, although I would hope your kid was graded on the strength of his or her arguments rather than on the political correctness of his or her conclusions. If not, then good on you for challenging the results.

  27. EJ

    The problem was the limited material provided to present a coherent argument for the pro side. The con side was real straight forward. That’s why I called them on it. In the end I don’t think they ever issued a final grade, perhaps because I created an issue.

  28. turtle

    Sorry! I glossed over your main point, which you explained very clearly, and I was even too lazy to scroll back to find that your kid is a “he”.

    So you did the right thing, it seems to me.

  29. EJ

    And if I recall they spent about 2 weeks on Sand Creek. I feel that was way too much time. I don’t object to the relating of the incident, but I think there are more important things to learn about US History.

  30. turtle

    Well if it was 2 weeks (as you also mentioned before) I have to agree with you. 2 weeks is too long.

    Regards,

    Sloppy Reader

  31. So Turtle – where are the names of those Registered West Hartford anti-tax Libertarians you mentioned? You made a claim please justify it with fact.

    “This is true of some but not others. Some of these anti-tax people are libertarians who resent paying taxes as a matter of principle. It is fair game to call such people ideologues because that, in fact, is what they are.”

    You said:
    “From time to time I have simply pointed out that a known local agitator against the board of ed and the education budget happens to be a vociferous home schooling advocate.”
    Gee.. I wonder who Turtle is referring to? Since I have such a “persecution complex” I would guess he means me. (I just cannot think of one other person in town that fits that description… can you Turtle?) Flattered if you do mean me 🙂

  32. turtle

    Well, Judy, I never said nor meant registered Libertarians. But some of the rhetoric I’ve heard is clearly libertarian. Go ahead and deny it!

    Gee.. I wonder who Turtle is referring to?

    It is you, Judy Aron! Now why don’t you stop goading me and answer Kevin Walsh’s question on the 6 elementary schools could get clobbered thread?

  33. Peter G.

    Turtle, you should recognize the strategy by now of NOT answering questions . . . Isn’t that the very essence of the WHTA after all — it’s not what they’re for it’s what they’re against.

  34. EJ

    Not sure what you’re talking about.
    The WHTA is simply trying to protect the taxpayers and trying to get the message across to the Council that they don’t have a blank check to spend.

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