Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Milford Embraces The Idea Of One High School.. Chaucer Miffed.

Nothing less than the complete reorganization of the city's public school system, including the possibility of one high school, will be needed to resolve long-term budget issues, school officials said Monday night.

Under one plan being considered, the three middle schools would be closed and the two high school buildings, Joseph A. Foran and Jonathan Law, would be converted to middle schools, school board chairman Mark Stapleton said. "That's the current thinking, but we have a lot of ideas to explore," he said. "Part of that would be a new high school to serve the city; that isn't a conversation I am looking forward to having."


MY Previous post on this JonathanForan High idea:

"Perhaps the High School name is a bit odd but it is the only play on words I can think of when it comes to the very idea of merging the two schools into one.

Milford's budget continues to be hampered by the economy, its associated deflation in tandem with long term unemployment, and of course taxes, taxes and ever increasing property taxes.

Well last week after looking at the city's proposed budget and reading the repair and improvement costs on Milford's schools I had to pinch myself. The nightmare of $100,000,000.00 in repairs just seemed like I was trapped in a taxpayer nightmare, a nightmare where everyone gets 3%-5% raises while massive teacher layoffs loom on the horizon yet again. Only problem was... well I am not dreaming and yes I was very awake and if you are not, then you need to wake up for this one.

Today I made several hasty phone calls, sent lots of e-mails, spoke to countless experts and concluded that our two High Schools will have to eventually merge into one. The benefits of doing so are immense. The risk of not doing so and applying expensive "band aids" certainly not a smart option.

The green movement in town has been pushing for more ecofriendly projects, and with the "skyrocketing" cost of school repairs a "green Leeds" certified "world class" high school is starting to make sense. A Leeds certified High School would be the first of its kind in CT and would save the city a great deal of energy costs.

The best way not to throw away good tax dollars on crumbling buildings, is to challenge the logic of spending the equivalent of a new school, on two old energy inefficient buildings that need endless and costly repairs.

The epiphany is coming, and when it does our leaders will hopefully realize it is more cost effective to build a brand new H.S.from scratch. Milford's schools I believe have entered into this reality, but has yet to embrace enough conservative proponents.

The main challenge (at the moment) is to locate a suitable building site. Thankfully I did some research and found a good candidate. The building site that I propose involves the recently purchased 7.6 acres on Burnt Plains Road. The property abuts other sizable lots, also owned by the city and is right near the Milford YMCA of which offers a great Indoor swimming pool, and a soccer field. It would also be in the company of Platt Tech and far away from the fast food chains that tempt our kids into poor nutrition.

This would certainly be the best answer for a new school that would house apx 3,000 kids in a centrally located part of our city. Since Milford already owns the lots land costs would be minimal to none. Some costs to the taxpayers, could be recouped by leasing out the old High Schools, relocating crowded middle schools, or converting them into senior living centers.

The, consolidation would be costly at first but over time would save Milford's taxpayers millions of dollars, while in tandem increasing our local property values. Fewer resources and personnel will be dedicated to the maintenance, and daily management of a well designed facility.

With strong momentum, favorable support, and a serious effort Jonathan Foran High School could be a reality within four or Five years if we start taking education costs seriously now."


Anonymous said...

Mr. Frank, not all of Milford embraces the idea of one high school, and not just Mr. Chaucer is miffed at this.

I was driven to find your blog based on this morning’s CT Post article. I have been following the Independent Party from the sidelines and respect your values and your obvious love for Milford and your willingness to speak out with your opinions. I too consider myself independent, but not Independent. (I have been involved with politicians of all flavors for many years and choose, at least for the time being, to remain a witness to the process rather than a card carrying participant; aside from voting, of course.)

And so I read your blog to hear your arguments for the single high school solution to fixing the budget. On the numbers, and if I were an urban planner and not a Milford parent, I would agree that you make a good case. But do you realize that not once in your rationale for having a mega school did you mention the children?

Yes, a mega school might make for good sports teams. And yes, there might be more offered for struggling children and maybe even for “gifted” children (recently another school topic). But what about the vast majority of Milford students who will be thrown into the sea of what could be 3000 children in one building?

Or what about the time of day some of them will be forced to get on a bus to ride to this great site that you found? I live in in the southwest corner of Milford; you can be sure that I’m not putting my kids on a bus ride for that long, they’ll be driven until old enough to drive themselves (pass that factoid on to the green movement in town.) Is that really the best way for children to start their day? As commuters, having to wake up so long before the sun rises?

On that note, I don’t believe a single mega high school will have a positive impact on our property values (except for maybe the homes within a mile or so radius of the new location). Yes, a good school system can do that, but not this building. Instead I envision the conversation being one of “What, my child would have to travel how far to get to school? And how many children are in that building?” Hmm, maybe Fairfield is looking better.”

There are times in life when a decision is based solely on the numbers. By no stretch of the imagination is this one of them. It might not make logical sense to fix old buildings at a cost higher than a new one would be, but it makes practical sense. I need a new kitchen; a ridiculously astronomical cost for one room. But do I tear down my whole house because it makes better financial sense at the bottom line to do so? Or because it would look prettier in the long run? Or that I can spend money on energy efficient appliances (toys) that some day eventually might pay for themselves? No. (By the way, I’m not getting a new kitchen because I can’t afford it.)

Thank you for reading the proposed budget. I’m embarrassed and humbled to say I have not. But what else was in there aside from repair and improvement costs? Am I to believe that there is nothing in there except hard and fast costs? What, no more smart board requests? (Ok, ok, I know, those in the end don’t add up to much; but they’re in there when they shouldn’t be.) Get that stuff off the table before you take the kids off the table, because that’s what happening in this discussion.

The pros of this idea just don’t outweigh the cons.

You finished your blog by saying ”we need to start taking education costs seriously now.” I whole heartedly agree. But a mega high school cannot be the only solution to this annual problem.

Thank you for hearing me out.

Bridget Lawless
(Simon Lake School District)

Anonymous said...


Thank you for being part of the debate, I am really talking to all sides on this issue and I am humbled to say that there will be many issues that must be addressed.

I will forward your information to the School Board Chairman for inclusion in the discussions that will be taking place.

Yesterday, I also spoke with Tim Chaucer who has similar concerns to yours, and I also spoke with Susan St. pierre the head of SEPTA or the Special Education Parent Teacher Association.

The issues in education are GRAVE, Special ED lawsuits are mounting, taxpayers cannot afford to pay more taxes as became evident last year when Mrs. Garcia committed suicide over the loss of her home.

The cost of education is threatening the job security of jr. non-tenured teachers who are frustrated with the constant job insecurity they are dealing with.

I do not advocate firing or laying off teachers especially those who are this towns most valuable assets.

Our teachers can gain desperately needed job security and economic stability by deploying a 21st century school with the latest construction technology in Milford. The standard is called "Leeds Certified" and transfers big savings on energy, construction maintenance, and repairs long into the future.

The issues of 3,000 kids are certainly cause for alarm, but not so much that this problem cannot be solved with a properly compartmentalized school with an offsite detention, and learning center for those students who demonstrate criminal behavior. Those students ought to lose their right to be educated with the general student population and I will be the first to advocate their removal.

While some believe suspension is the answer, I advocate prolonged detention so we know those problem kids are locked down and learning rather than home playing x-box or are out bullying other kids.

Just because everyone else failed at this does not mean that we cannot succeed.

Part of success is facing our adversaries in the wake of such challnges and solving those complex issues that the staus quo is demanding we keep.

This project idea demands that everyone, all advocates, objectors, special ed educators, parents, taxpayers and politicians take part in.

I believe we can succeed in solving all the challenges that are being initiated against this project. I also believe that Milford's kids deserve a longterm vision on education that creates a rewarding, calm, enriching environment for them to succeed in their future lives.

The single greatest asset we have in Milford is our children, and with over a Billion dollars expected to be spent on them over the next 6 to ten years we should deliver in a way that redefines the standard for every town in our state.

It is a BIG challenge and I believe we can do it if we all unify as a force for our kids and community. Milford could easily be that city who succeeded when everyone else failed.

We can do this and we must do this for the sake of our children and community.

Rocco J. Frank Jr.