Category Archives: Schools

CAPT scores up across the board

It’s nice to see that West Hartford’s sophomores raised their scores in every category this year over last year’s performance.

Here’s the results:

MATH – 59.3 percent at goal this year compared to 56.8 last year

SCIENCE – 64.6 at goal this year compared to 63.9 last year

READING – 64 at goal this year compared to 62 last year

WRITING – 69.8 at goal this year compared to 68.3 last year

In terms of proficiency, a lower standard…

MATH – 88.5 percent this year compared to 86.9 last year

SCIENCE – 92.4 this year compared to 90.3 last year

READING – 91.1 this year compared to 87.9 last year

WRITING – 93.8 this year compared to 90.7 last year

I know the results can fluctuate year to year because classes differ, but it’s still good to see that in every major category, West Hartford students improved.

48 Comments

Filed under education, News, Schools, West Hartford

Vacuuming up the leaves

Is there anything more ridiculous than the West Hartford Taxpayers Association?

It demands that we cut, cut, cut and then, when cuts are made, it screams NO! NOT THAT!

For Judy Aron, its vice president, to tell The Hartfor Courant that eliminating curbside leaf  vacuum truck pickup is “a direct hit on our senior citizens” is both silly and stupid.

To use it as justification for seeking another budget vote is so stunningly obtuse that I can’t believe even this group could make the argument.

First off, the vacuum pickup is a luxury that most towns don’t do. We’re constantly told by people like Aron that we can’t afford these extra anymore, but when one is cut, she howls. Give me a break.

Even more than that, though, is the simple reality that the service should be stopped. Why should the town go around sucking up leaves? It’s far better that they get bagged and hauled off instead of blowing all over the neighborhood, clogging up storm drains, and presenting potentially deadly piles for children to hide in IN THE STREET. Plus I won’t miss the whirring noise of the damn things on otherwise delightful autumn days.

Anyway, Judy, your credibility is shot now.

The town made a reasonable decision on how to save some money without hurting the community. It’s a harship for some, sure, though I don’t think the elderly are taking a bigger hit than anyone else on it. Perhaps it’s just that you want the cuts to hurt only the children?

 

27 Comments

Filed under budget, education, News, Schools, town council, Town government, West Hartford

The budget debacle

There’s something seriously wrong if taxpayers have gunned two straight budgets by wide margins.

So what is it?

One could argue that the problem is that town leaders are simply trying to spend more money than residents are willing to support. This clearly has some truth to it, but it’s simplistic.

Another alternative is that people are struggling financially and, given the choice, are going to try to lower what bills they can. Again, there’s truth in that. None of us want to pay more, particularly when the cost of everything seems to be rising a whole lot faster than paychecks.

But I think the real reason that the budgets are getting clobbered is that we generally don’t feel as if we are getting the information we need before we agree to pay so much more. Sure, the town puts budget information online, but it’s presented in a way that only an accountant could love. And nowhere do we get simple data on the questions people are always asking – how much do employees make? What kind of health care do they get and how much do they pay? What kind of pensions are we handing out and how much does that cost each year? And on the education side, we really want to see much more, because it does seem preposterous that the charges go up so much every year while student numbers stay relatively stable. Explain that to us, please, in painstaking detail.

I’m a supporter of the schools, a backer of the budget, a yes voter to my core. But I’m also confused and upset that my neighbors have so many questions and there are so few answers. Relying on us to trust our elected leaders obviously isn’t enough to get a spending plan passed.

Give us some help, town council members. Let’s delve into the details, school board members. Make it possible for those who want to see the required spending supported to sell skeptical friends, neighbors and others.

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Filed under budget, education, News, Schools, town council, Town government, West Hartford

The budget. Round One.

I need to get caught up on what’s happening with the budget so I won’t venture any opinions other than this: I know a fight is looming.

But I’m sure those who are paying attention would like a new thread that focuses on the issue, so here it is.

Here are some key documents, which I need to read:

Town manager’s proposed budget

School superintendent’s budget proposal

Town manager’s March 11 budget presentation

Budget in Brief

Capital Improvement Budget

I do have to give credit to our town officials for putting all this information online so that we can easily dig through it.

Property tax estimator

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Filed under budget, Schools, town council

Goodbye, Superintendent Sklarz

 The town’s $188,000-a-year school superintendent, David Sklarz, is retiring in June 2009.

Sklarz, 61, has done a commendable job dealing with the town’s conflicting demand of maintaining a great school system without hitting people up for more money to pay for it. That’s tough work.

But he’s also been too secretive and too polarizing, failing to pull everyone together to support what is, after all, our town’s pride and joy. He’s also headed a system that hasn’t done enough to break down racial divides.

I am glad, though, that he’s giving the town lots of lead time to find a successor. Superintendents mostly suck, but since we have a pretty attractive job for someone, perhaps the months ahead will bring the right person to town, someone who can keep the schools humming for all of our students while remaining supportive of our teachers — and, somehow, make taxpayers content with the hefty tab for everything.

In any case, Sklarz goes out with his reputation intact. That’s never easy these days.

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Filed under education, Schools

One big happy school district?

In yesterday’s Courant, Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez called for “a radical departure” to address the racial isolation that has helped keep his city’s students from greater academic success. He said that Hartford County, which exists only as a line on the map, should be one giant school district.

Forget the districts in West Hartford, Farmington, Simsbury, Avon, Newington and so on, just lump ’em all together in one massive bureaucracy that would have the oversight clout to ensure a more fair educational system.

Now this proposal is, of course, going to have just about zero support in West Hartford. After all, what do we gain from it?

But there is something in Mayor Perez’s plea that we really ought to take to heart: that Hartford’s woes are not its own, that we also have a duty to students there, that we are we not truly in a world apart. It’s not that I’m in a hurry to see my children buses off to Hartford, naturally, but we do have to find a way to help.

Here’s what Perez wrote in the Courant: 

It is time to make a radical departure in how we as a state address the historic and continuing segregation of our schools in Hartford County.

Over the years, Connecticut has made numerous decisions on housing, land use, education funding and taxation that have isolated students of color and poor students in certain schools and school districts. Eleven years after the state was ordered to desegregate the Hartford schools, they remain as segregated as when the Sheff v. O’Neil case was decided.

The state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a voluntary magnet school program, and yet the progress toward desegregation is barely noticeable. If we are truly committed to our court-ordered obligation to break down the barriers of segregation in the Hartford region and are committed to making all of our schools high-performing, we need to take bold action.

We should create a Hartford County School District that includes all 29 towns in the county.

This district should have as its core missions the management and creation of high-performing schools in every community and the elimination of the de facto segregation we now experience. In this new district, any school that doesn’t meet clear accountability measures for academic performance and integration would be closed or reconstituted, and the students in those schools would be given priority to attend any other school in the district, including magnet and charter schools.

For this new school system to succeed, the municipal cost of school operations and capital expenditures must be funded fully by the state. Hartford County towns annually spend more than $1.5 billion operating public schools — a cost of about $11,000 per student. Towns participating in this new school district would be relieved from funding schools through the local property tax.

For many towns this would mean cutting the average homeowner’s property tax bill by as much 50 percent.

Additionally, tens of millions of dollars would be saved by the streamlining of dozens of redundant school district bureaucracies, the elimination of duplicate buildings and the efficient use of excess capacity. The best public schools and facilities would constitute the backbone of the integrated school system. Those that need help would have adequate resources devoted to their improvement and those that fail to meet standards in a defined period of time would be closed.

In a Hartford County School District, inclusive and capable governance would be a critical component of garnering public support. The regional school board would have an appropriate mix of elected and appointed members representing the diversity of our communities, all committed to high-achieving public schools.

Additionally, every school would have a local governance committee. Parents would be urged to participate and become fully invested in the success of their child’s school. District schools that are already successful would have the autonomy to continue their success.

Connecticut cannot rely on a court order to fashion a comprehensive solution to economic and racial isolation and its effect on achievement and the future economic prospects of our region.

In Hartford, we are pushing forward with our plan to close the achievement gap and restructuring to create a system where parents and students can choose among a portfolio of high-performing schools. Without a comprehensive regional solution, the integration order by the court in Sheff will not become a reality and Hartford’s momentum for positive educational reform could be stalled.

Fundamental change is necessary if we are to fully integrate our schools and provide the high-quality public education the students of our city and our state deserve. This change is long overdue.

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Filed under education, Hartford, Schools

Meet the school board candidates Tuesday night

West Hartford SEPTA (Special Education PTA) is pleased
to invite everyone to one more opportunity to meet the
Board of Education Candidates, at Duffy School on
Tuesday October 30 from 7-9 pm.

This event is for everyone in the community, not just
for those interested in special education.

Please spread the word!  Attached is a flyer you can
reproduce.

Don’t be complacent…
 Show your interest in our schools

BOARD OF EDUCATION – MEET THE CANDIDATES NIGHT

Tuesday October 30, 7-9 PM
Duffy School Auditorium
95 Westminster Dr

Sponsored by West Hartford SEPTA

You are invited to submit questions for the candidates
to info@whsepta.org prior to the meeting or bring them
with you.

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Filed under Board of Education, education, Schools, SEPTA