Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jobless Teachers, Political Recalls, and Frustrated Students and Parents

The times are upon us again, only this year many assumed that the layoff threat would be as it was last year just a threat. Over the last few weeks that proved to be a dangerous assumption and an abject failure of a miscalculation on the part of Milford's teachers union.

This year one school Simon Lake is officially closed and 25 Milford teachers are looking for jobs while seeking unemployment compensation. The city did promise "recall" rights to these teachers, but only if a vacancy occurs whereby a tenured teacher retires. This was already seen when Ms. Elmo retired, because in her words "she wanted to save the job of a younger teacher who needed it more."

For several weeks and months following the educational debates that filled the Jonathan Law auditorium not once but twice supporters of the Simon Lake school pleaded to keep it open just one more year, and the Milford Board of Education was unable to convince the the Board of Finance and the Board of Alderman to restore the funding to the school.

The Libertarian leaning Chairman of the board of Alderman Greg Smith, supported the schools closing citing that the "city could no longer afford it." However some parents disagreed and started a recall process this week against Republican school board member Robert White R3, who said he was unconcerned and a "recall effort is their right" but few are convinced the recall will resolve anything since Milford has never had a successful recall of a board member.

Several parents are out collecting signatures from voters and people who agree with their view that Mr. White did not listen to his constituents and callously disregarded them when they asked for a remedy to the injury of closing a school in his district. The parents of those kids are now trying to collect 675 signatures that Republican Town Clerk Linda Stock will have to verify as legitimate. Once the signature threshold is reached a recall procedure can be initiated and early reports indicate the parents are 3/4 of the way there.

Acting Superintendent of schools, Cummings gave several elaborate presentations to the public defending his plan to reorganize Milford's schools. He promised all the affected parents of the closed school that despite a commuter inconvenience and having their kids go to multiple schools that "their kids education would not suffer."

Several Republican board members in town were satisfied that the closing of Simon Lake School is a "win win" situation whereby kids still get a "Good education" and taxpayers get a "minor" tax increase.

As a former candidate for the school board myself, it is my opinion that the very notion of change during hard economic times, is unpalatable to some parents who will be forced to redo and rethink how they get their kids off to school in the morning. Some are concerned about commuting, class sizes and of course are upset with their child's teacher being let go.

As the tumultuous nature of the Education Outrage Machine goes into full swing in the coming months and years none are less prepared for the nasty changes that will arrive in 2011 than the city government. In 2011 the Milford Board of Education is expected to lose 1.5 Million in Federal funding plus take on an additional routine increase of 3.5 Million in Cost of Living adjustments, health care costs, and contractual raises.

The 2011 Educational budget spells "DISASTER" in 2011 for all parties involved. The alternatives may require additional school closings or large increases in property taxes that may be as high as 5%. Some argued that the solution to this problem will be the construction of a new Green High School that merges Jonathan Law and Foran into a single "Green" energy efficient modern facility.

The construction of a new High School has not been pursued in many decades and most of this work will be funded by the state of Connecticut and the sale of Milford's most energy inefficient crumbling schools. As it stands Mark Stapleton the current Chairman of the Milford Board of Education said "Milford's Schools need $100,000,000.00 in repairs at the moment the current method of implementing this has been a triage system."

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