Axing education

As a story in the Courant made clear this week, the Board of Education managed to slice the $1.8 million from its proposed spending plan that town councilors demanded. But they could only do it by slicing away muscle and lean, not just fat.

According to the paper, “In a 4-3 vote, the board chose to eliminate one position in the middle school Quest program for gifted and talented students. Clare Kindall, Bruce Putterman and Terry Schmitt voted against the cut. The other 4-3 vote eliminated plans to rollout $19,500 worth of new software at Aiken, Bugbee and Norfeldt schools.”

So the budget is whacking just one existing employee, a middle school Quest teacher. I’m told the teacher who will probably lose her job is among the best we have, energetic, idealistic and talented. It breaks my heart that we’re rejecting her and the kids who love the program so much. I appreciate the three board members who refused to vote for the cut.

I wish those who are so hellbent on slashing school funding would try to explain to the kids who are losing a teacher they love why this is happening. It’s despicable.




Filed under Board of Education, budget, education, Quest, referendum, Schools, town council

32 responses to “Axing education

  1. EJ

    Why not ask the BOE why they can’t let go of a VP instead.

  2. Harry Captain

    The middle school Quest teacher is retiring and not being replaced. There are currently 2 people (1 KP and 1 Sedgwick) running the middle school Quest program. Next year, it will be run by the remaining 1 dedicated person with assistance from the Districtwide Quest person.

    We whacked new positions we were told could wait and are not filling some secretarial positions of other retirees/open positions.

    Please watch the tape to get the complete story.

  3. I’m glad to hear nobody’s losing her job. But the middle school Quest program is still getting shortchanged.
    Losing one full-time person when there can only be a tiny number of teachers for the three middle schools is still awful.

  4. Gary Reger

    There will be 1.5 Quest teachers now to serve all three middle schools, where a total of several hundred children take Quest every year. Fifth-grade children in Quest now in elementary school will enter a different landscape, probably able to take Quest only half the year. No more year-long projects — this will mean a different type of Quest.

  5. Lori

    I’m told there are now 2.5 Quest teachers for middle school. Next year, there will be 1.5 plus however much time Dr. Eastlake, the supervisor, can put in.
    How you divide that up between three schools, when one of them is smaller than the other two (though I have no idea what number of Quest students are in each, which would matter).
    Really, 1 out of 2.5 teachers is a terribly high percentage to slash. The town council and the Board of Education should be ashamed and embarassed — and so should the “taxpayers” group that doesn’t represent taxpayers at all.

  6. EJ

    The referendum was brought on by TAXPAYERS who are disatisfied with the situation in this town, not the WHTA. If the petitions were not signed there would be no referendum, and there were well more than enough taxpayers who signed petitions.

    It is the town council that is supposed to represent the taxpayers, and it is our right to petition that council for reconsideration of the budget.

    Just as it is your right to vote yes on Tuesday.

  7. Lori

    I agree with others here that a no vote doesn’t necessarily mean people want more cuts. I think it’s just as likely it means they want more money for education.

  8. John Hardy

    But at risk of putting the same post on every thread throughout this blog:

    Only a YES vote on June 12 assures no further damage to the West Hartford Public Schools.

  9. EJ

    Lori, then by all means vote NO. And please bring all your friends to vote no as well.

  10. wh teacher

    Is maintaining QUEST a higher priority than elementary class sizes? Classroom teachers are being cut and class sizes are going up. As the parent of a gifted student, would you really prefer to keep the 2 hours of QUEST with the compromise that your child is in a class of 27 students all the remaining hours of the week?
    Personally, I don’t find myself too concerned about the QUEST cutbacks, especially at the middle school level where honors classes are available.

  11. Harry Captain

    Thank you WH Teacher.
    We did NOT increase class size at 6 grade by reducing 1/2 a team at KP and Sedgwick. This would have effected an entire cohort and followed them thru 7th AND 8th grade in subsequent years.

    We decided to keep the FLAP grant and have world language K-12.

    We did NOT raise “pay to play” for sports/activities.

    We did NOT raise class sizes in “Northend” elementary schools and pit schools against one another.

    $1.842M was reduced beyond ~$2M that the BOE had already reduced. Judge the body of work in its entirety and not just one item.

    And PLEASE – could we stop screwing around with how a YES or No vote is interpreted?
    If you don’t like this budget because you want more money for education, than you need to hold your nose, vote YES, and convince others to vote YES. To do otherwise continues the bleeding.

  12. Joe Visconti

    Hold your nose and vote Yes, The Education Cartels latest propoganda.

  13. Quest4More

    When pressed my the School Board regarding the impact of reducing the number of teachers dedicated to middle-school Quest by one, the school administrator who was being questioned unambiguously responded that the impact would be that Quest could only be offered to our most gifted middle-school children for 1/2 the school year.

    Instead of then voting to maintain the status quo for Quest, the School Board chose to fund several new enhancements to Charter Oak and Smith, including $ 232,000 for new technology and a technical support staff position at Charter Oak and Smith (something that none of the other elementary schools in this Town enjoy). And to make matters worse, $ 49,750 of these amounts are being funded by raiding a reserve fund meant to pay for emergency expenses.

    While the decision to enhance Charter Oak and Smith’s technology is certainly consistent with the decision to name our latest middle school after a run-of-the-mill dirt farmer–rather than a distinguished Nobel laureate probably inspired by our schools back when this Town placed more value in encouraging our most gifted students then they do now–does anyone who reads this blog sincerely believe that this expenditure of $ 232,000 is going to do anything to raise the academic performance of the Charter Oak and Smith community one iota?

    I agree with “wh teacher” that maintaining a small class size is more important than a fully funded Quest. But that wasn’t the choice facing this School Board, was it? They made their choice clear—rather than inspiring our best, they prefer to continue the practice of offering a blank check to the whiners from the Charter Oak and Smith communities who refuse to accept any responsibility for their kids’ poor academic performance.

    Thus, I’m plugging my nose on June 12th and voting “NO” in protest of this Town’s on-going march to politically-correct mediocrity.

  14. Joe Visconti

    Bellisimo Quest 4 more!!!

    Peeeeeeeeuuuuuww this budget stinks!

  15. WH Alum

    Harry –

    “Next year, it will be run by the remaining 1 dedicated person with assistance from the Districtwide Quest person.”

    (Thank you, Lori, for pointing out some of the errors in his original statement.) Do you realize that the Quest department was actually reduced by 1.5 FTE because the district-wide person was also slashed, back when the budget was first written? Dr. Eastlake’s supervisor time is only going to be .5 next year, and possibly teaching .5, which would put someone out of a job.
    So how is she going to help assist at any of the middle schools if she is trying to do the job she has done for however many years at full time, at half time, and possibly running her own classroom to boot?

  16. Lori

    It becomes ever clearer that our town’s leaders are not among the gifted and talented.

  17. EJ

    Gifted & talented? Best & Brightest?
    Looks more like individuals who want to move up the political food chain.

  18. Quest4More

    Ouch, Lori–I beg to differ. I am still impressed by all the hard work and conscientious effort of West Hartford’s elected officials.

    But I think Kevin Sullivan has hit the nail on the head in his comment under the “Budget referendum is MEANINGLESS” post:

    “…And it does not create a healthy totality of discussion when some in our school administration treat the school PTO’s as their preserve by actually discouraging direct connections and conversations with the fiscal policymakers…”

    I encourage the School Board and Town Council to come meet with the PTOs at Aiken, Braeburn, Bugbee, Duffy, Morley, Nordfeldt, Morley, Webster Hill, Whiting Lane, and Wolcott to discuss the decision to short-change the gifted children that will be moving on to our middle-schools, while unnecessarily expanding the funding for Charter Oak and Smith. Only then will they hear the honest concerns currently being withheld by those too timid to speak their minds in a more public forum.

  19. WH Alum

    I agree with you there, Quest4More – the officials have been working very hard for many months and should not be slandered. But I think there were some details that were not entirely understood when the vote was made, and repercussions that we have yet to conceive.

    Once gone, how hard will it be to get full coverage for g & t back at the middle schools, and how far behind is the elementary program in getting slashed if we don’t pass the referendum? Do we really want to lose this population from our schools? Aren’t they the ones pulling our scores UP?

    Years back, we had “Project Challenge” in WH. Somewhere along the line it went away, and I think it took a long time to get g & t back in WH. Maybe someone else out there knows the details on that.

    Interestingly, rumor has it that Manchester is starting up a K-12 talented & gifted program. Our 3-8 program can hardly compare to that, especially now.

  20. Joe Visconti

    EDUCATION CARTEL = Limited Communication
    Joseph Stalin would be proud of the way the school administration conducts itself.

    Cartel- (Websters)n. 2. a coalition of political or special interest groups having a common cause as to encourage the passage of a certain law.

    Also in the case of Education, a Cartel can also work against repealing such laws as binding arbitration and collective bargaining.
    Want to really save money and lower taxes? Lets get our authority back, lets make CT a right to work state without binding arbitration and other special interest group schemes.

  21. Joe Visconti

    Mr. Sklarz

    Tear down this Wall!

  22. wh teacher

    I’m very disturbed by the suggestion that the increased funding at Smith and Charter Oak is unnecessary. These two schools are part of our WH system and the idea that those requesting the funding are “whiners” and “not taking responsibility” clearly shows a lack of understanding about what takes place in our schools everyday.

    It’s a matter of priorities. We are all affected by this financial situation. Tough decisions need to be made. But I strongly believe (and know from experience) that the best way to meet the needs of ALL the kids in a classroom – special ed, ESOL, gifted, whatever – is a small class size. With a smaller teacher to student ratio, teachers can supplement the curriculum for those who need modifications and enrich it for those who need the extra challenge. It benefits everyone and maintaining small class size should be the top priority.

  23. T.W. Carroll

    I share your concerns, wt teacher, regarding the need to maintain small class sizes in ALL our schools. But please explain to us how the dramatic increase in funding for new technology at Charter Oak and Smith will decrease class sizes in these two schools (or any other school).

    Absent your explanation, or some other compelling reason to commit these funds, this expenditure sounds pretty “unnecessary” to me—particularly in what should have been foreseen as a tight and contentious budgetary year like this one.

  24. WH Alum

    T.W. – I have to agree. I am well aware that we need to support the “needy” schools, but we also need to support ALL of our children across the entire spectrum. Yes, a great teacher can accomplish much of that with a smaller class, but most are over 20 kids anyway, right? (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) And it takes very experienced, well trained teachers to do that… how are we going to attract more of those and retain them if we keep talking about slashing their salaries?

    To add new initiatives while cutting back on current programming is a sad state of affairs. We’re all paying our taxes here, and it feels like a slap in the face to those of us not down in the southeast corner. I’d have rather seen the increase in $10 for pay to play than see the Quest program being reduced.

    By the way, my kids are NOT in Quest. One is too young since we don’t have a K-2 program. I know one woman who pulled her very gifted 2nd grader and sent him to Talcott Mountain. Not an option on my budget. Maybe if we did go to Smith or Charter Oak my kids would be in, but since we are in a “higher achieving” school the competition is tough and the program is overcrowded. What I want to see is more time for the Quest teachers to work with all students and classes for more enrichment across the board for all kids. That’s not going to happen if they keep cutting back the program. Those 4 hands went up awful quickly at the board meeting.

  25. Joe Visconti

    Well it sounds like everyone is very educated in this debate, but with all the pseudonyms used I can see there is no courage to stand together and come out of hiding to go to the State for our ECS ($30plus million and growing) payments shorted. No, we cannot do that, not now it’s too late for that, next year, yeah maybe next year we can get our leaders and ourselves to come out of hiding and demand our MONEY, lets just keep sticking our fingers in the holes in the boat and hope we don’t sink, or maybe we can push overboard the weak so we can float longer until “The USS Never Gonna Happen” comes to save us.

    Good intention’s plus no courage over the wrong plan= Vote Yes

    Foreveryone else- Vote NO on June 12 to send a loud and clear message to the Education Cartel and our Puppet Leadership that the “Show’s Cancelled”

  26. WH Visionary

    All of West Hartford’s students deserve the very finest educational experience that can be offered given the budgetary constraints that invariably fall upon educational programs, staffing, and every other particle of the fabric of an educational system. West Hartford Public Schools has been sailing along for some years, seemingly having it all perfectly together. That perfection has taken an immense amount of work on the part of everyone who touches WHPS. There has been a well machined team effort at work. Now the school system has hit some strong cross currents, sailing isn’t smooth, and the well machined team is fraying, exhausted, angry and sad. One might even say, with the reductions that have occurred in educational programming and staffing, there are piles of rubble beginning to form. Hardly the perfection that WHPS knew so recently.

    The team, still well machined but cranky, really needs to hang together, to think creatively about meeting the needs of all of our students. Maybe this is a problem that the gifted and talented kids could solve – grades 3-8 – given appropriate time, space, adult encouragement and guidance to collaboratively pursue this crucial issue, one upon which their future depends.

  27. Joe Visconti

    What’s with this well machined stuff? You mean the Education Cartel, AFSME ,Teachers Unions, Construction Unions like Turner all who MAKE MONEY AND A GREAT LIVING.
    You make it sound like everyone is working soooooooooo hard for free and therefore cranky, there not, just the school Board, and planted PTO Union shills.
    Your no Visonary your just another Delphi Technician for those of you who know who they are.

  28. turtle

    They made their choice clear—rather than inspiring our best, they prefer to continue the practice of offering a blank check to the whiners from the Charter Oak and Smith communities who refuse to accept any responsibility for their kids’ poor academic performance.

    Excuse me, but my child goes to Smith, and he and many of his classmates rank with “our” best. You can just put that dog to rest. Test scores at the magnets reflect the disproportionately high number of ESOL and low-income students at these schools. Low-income kids consistently test lower than middle-class kids. How to bring these children up to speed is a national issue. As it happens, today’s New York Times magazine is devoted to the income gap. Enjoy!

    The enhancement funds for the magnet schools, as has been explained many times in the press, on this blog and elsewhere, are intended to revitalize programming and make the magnet distinction meaningful enough to attract out-of-district families. The board of ed determined that, among other benefits, such refinements would best address the state’s contention that Smith and Charter Oak are out of compliance with racial balance regulations. Perhaps you would prefer West Hartford to redistrict. But then, your children might have to submit to the Svengali-like influence of us whiners from the Smith and Charter Oak communities!

  29. Joe Visconti

    Hey Turtle

    Where you been?

  30. turtle

    I took my ball and went home.

    But then Quest4more dissed us so I had to charge.

    Oh, I’m not happy that middle school Quest got hit, either, but am unfamiliar with alternatives at that level. How might the honors program fill the vacuum? It may have been Rich Liftig who suggested establishing a relationship with the Children’s Museum, for instance, to open up new opportunities for gifted students. I was skeptical at the time, but maybe he’s on to something.

  31. Edith Doherty

    Interested party

    Could a compromise be considered? State law says that the Board of Education determines the line items of how the money will be spent. The town determines how much will be spent. A vote of “yes” for the budget means that the BOE gets that much money to spend and can change some of the line items if the public deems that it is important to do so.

    Both projects need to be in place if West Hartford is going to be attractive to a diverse group of families. West Hartford is special in that it is showing that a diverse community can exist with high expectations for cultural exchange, educational opportunities, and special commercial outlets. The Smith/Charter Oak technology needs funding to promote families looking at the magnate schools as a place their children will receive a core focus on science/social science education. The middle school QuEST program offers students an opportunity to direct their own year-long or more study in a special interest area, like writing a book, genetics experiments (Science and Engineering contests), robotics design, vehicle design, photographic essays, creative problem-solving (Odyssey of the Mind) or National History Day research.

    Could the Smith/Charter Oak project be completed in two stages — part this year and part next year? Because a QuEST teacher is retiring, even a new dedicated QuEST teacher will save the town some money. The two coupled together in a creative plan will further important goals of the town and continue West Hartford’s reputation as a special place to live.

  32. turtle


    The board of ed has already extended the Smith/Charter Oak enhancements to two years from the initial proposal of a one-year rollout!

    I would strongly support the availability of mentors to gifted students for long-term projects. Isn’t that the essence of Quest, anyway? There must be a way to still have Quest without 1.0 of Quest.

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