Friday, April 23, 2010

My Reply To Tim Chaucer Leading High School Merger Opposition

After work yesterday I retrieved my mail from my mailbox and of course threw the bills on my desk and read the newspaper. The area that I like most is the local commentary and letters to the editor that Jill Dion so very nicely posts.

Steve Borer warned me some time ago that Tim Chaucer was going to have issues with the idea of High School mergers, and his article this week cited several reasons why this is a bad idea including the "Columbine Massacre" the nature of a "well balanced school district" and of course "Sports participation."

While I see Mr. Chaucer as an important part of this debate, and in my extensive 45 Minute conversation with him last week expressed my joy at him being the "Devils advocate" on the Milford education debate, I took issue with him. I believe that his type of contribution is important and will be needed in order that the logistics of these school mergers be responsibly worked out, but challenge some of his outmoded thoughts.

Some of Mr. Chaucer's concerns in my opinion are outdated and rely on the technology and methodology of the past. They fail to take into consideration the advances in educational learning, green school design and social interaction models between kids.

While Mr. Chaucer points to the "Columbine Massacre from years back" I have been learning about more pressing and modern threats that have no boundaries. This threat aptly known as “Cyber bullying” has been a world wide phenomenon and is very dangerous for today's kids. It recently led to the induced suicide of Phoebe Prince and made national news. These problems have nothing to do with school size or the types of issues that Chaucer is concerned about.

In my previous article below it can be noted that "Cyber bullying" work in Milford is already ongoing thanks to the student efforts put forth by Jennie Sharp and Janet Gargliano of Milford. The era of Columbine mass-murders really is an invalid argument, it's more of a scare tactic that may lead one to believe in a false conclusion.

This is not to say that Milford has not had its share of young people die, however these incidents are not emblematic of our schools but rather out of town kids using Milford as a place to exact revenge against other problem youths. These incidents do not reflect negatively on our schools but rather emphasize that school security and the tenuous view of it by our kids indicates it's of minimal concern.

Certainly there are issues that must be addressed in education, but in my view the most serious problem I see is the destabilization of the traditional social model that once kept the Grand List Receipts in check with Infrastructure, Maintenance and teacher job security.

As America and Milford continues to de-industrialize and our tax base continues to endure a sustained economic attack by global forces, our little city will continue to live with an unacceptable level on insecurity. Some cases in point, the Milford Mall (the cities largest taxpayer) would have been in bankruptcy had they not won a 12% abatement in their taxes, and still yet even with that abatement one of its largest tenants who pays in excess of $720,000.00 a year in rent may face bankruptcy before years end 2010.

Let’s take this and add it to the problem of Sikorski and its associated pressure to move to a more business friendly state. Consider every shareholder meeting whereby the CEO is held to the fire about profits and return on profits to investors. Most of the United Technologies investors or Sikorski's for that matter could care less about Milford. They demand profitability and what is better for the shareholder than to compel the CEO to move our states heavy industry to Mississippi or Louisiana to improve profitability and investor return.

We all see what happens when heavy industry moves on, just look at the ghost of an economy that once lived in Bridgeport. Taxes skyrocket, grand lists plummet, and cities face severe financial strain.

This year and in today's paper our Superintendent announced he will be closing a school a decision that I support. One thing Chaucer and I agree on is that teachers not buildings are this town’s greatest asset. Buildings are expense laden places that in time develop maintenance costs that aggravate the loss of precious teacher jobs.

The epiphany is upon us, our nation is mired in debt and the nation is moving toward extremist revenue procuring methods to stay afloat. Combine this with the fact that CERC a consulting firm that makes demographic predictions is showing a population decline in Milford in the next decade.

While some may welcome population declines, others find them troubling because they represent a disproportionate share of future tax burdens that cannot, and should not, be redistributed to sustain an outmoded educational system.

Fortunately for us, the solution to these problems was developed by a Mr. Peter Caltrope who is the founder and visionary behind Smart Growth and the art of sustainable living. Peter Caltrope amid the oil shock of the 1970's saw the future that is today at our doorstep. This future encompassed all of the ailments we see today, a devalued currency, excessive foreign debt, and a dependency on non-renewable and costly fossil fuels. These variables became the inspiration behind his modern green socio-economic models.

Education should be Milford's starting point as it consumes nearly 1/2 of the entire city budget and poses the greatest risk to the future of our city. Our kids are the future of the world we live in, and aside from bringing in green sustainable technology to educate these kids we need to adhere to the principles of those schools who educate with repeated success. The following Paideia Schools quote should express our community’s goals:

“It is our dream that students will ...experience their classrooms as invigorating, even inspiring environments - places they look forward to going to and places they hate to leave. It is our dream that they will come to know themselves as masters of various crafts...It is our dreams that ...they will come to love the process of learning itself... by making it their own.”

In conclusion to this Press Release today we are at a crossroads where the status quo no longer works. Under the economic principles set forth in "Game Theory" it could now be said that the immutable laws of entropy are rudely upon out city.

The economic principles vested in John Nash's "Game theory" in this instance calls out three opposing factions representing their own "rational interests." Those variables are the Teachers, Vs. The Taxpayers, Vs. Parents of Kids. Every group wants its own interests represented to their own ends. Teachers do not want to lose their jobs, Parents do not want their kids education compromised, and taxpayers do not want their taxes raised at unsustainable rates.

"Game Theory" is crystal clear that under the present circumstances the outcome will be a "Zero Sum Game." "Zero Sum" is the outcome where there are no winners much like the futility of two supercomputers playing "Tic Tac Toe" against one another neither side ever wins unless the "Game" is played differently, the circumstances in our town must be changed and a long term Smart Growth approach adopted if we are to solve this problem.

Many times before has Milford been afraid to exact the courage required for positive reform, and every time there has been someone who said "it should not and cannot be done" but to all my critics I once again bring you the words of Nelson Mandela:

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

Milford can do that with the present tools available today. We need to act before it’s too late. Under the status quo taxpayers lose their homes and this week out of five houses sold two of those five were foreclosures.

These are indeed very troubling times and moving forward without a plan for reform will erode our local grand list and threaten the rights of property owners. We need to act now if we are to save our city from an uncertain future.


Joe D said...

I am in favor of a one high school system and to bring up the trajedy at Columbine High School is both unfair and lacks common sense. One high school built or renovated to new, using green construction would reduce fuel consumption and electricity costs. One high school also means an eventual reduction in staffing at all levels in the B.O.E. Why do we need three middle schools, now that this subject has been brought to light?

I have to disagree with with you and Mr. Chaucer regarding the schools in general. Since when do the deplorable conditions of our schools not mean anything? No one in this town is stupid enough to believe that this issue is solely about the children. The children come first, which I believe you and Mr. Chaucer fail to bring into this equation. We klnow we have a fine teaching staff in Milford and they are compinsated very well for their efforts. If you own property in Milford, or own a business in Milford, or are thinking of opening a business in Milford, do you think run down, old looking 1960's, 1970's architectural structures are going to lure new families to town when Orange has a model school system to go to? Let me answer that for you, NO. The money we are not getting from Hartford and our elected officials there is another issue altogether.

JSharp said...

Thank you for recognizing my efforts in trying to end cyberbullying in high school. It is not only in Milford but in school sall over CT. I had hoped that my efforts would start something new but unfortunetly people I thought would care about such a problem didn't seem to care as much as I thought they would. I only hope that someone else makes another try at getting the word out there.