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Working Together For A Long-Term Plan

To the Editor:

Below is what I shared with the Board of Finance on February 27. 

There were some generalizations made about “Newtown teachers being the highest paid in the state”.  The towns in the State of Connecticut are broken up into District Reference Groups.  They compare towns based on characteristics of their student’s families – median family incomes, percentage of families below poverty level, number of students enrolled, etc.  Newtown is part of DRG B – with our neighbors Monroe, District 15, and Brookfield and also Avon, Cheshire, and Greenwich, to name a few. 

When you look at DRG B (2010-2011 data), you find that the teachers in Newtown have, on average, 13 years of experience.  This is something that should be valued.  We rank 16 out of 21 towns in our DRG for teacher salaries.  This is not a ranking that I would consider as “being the highest paid in the state” especially when you consider that there is DRG A that includes towns such as New Canaan, Redding, and Wilton. 

I think that CEOs, athletes, actors and teachers are the only professions where salaries are so often discussed.  It is kind of ironic to include teacher salaries with the likes of athletes and actors, isn’t it?

Dr Reed began to address declining enrollment this school year when he cut four certified teaching positions that were not needed and he and the BOE have addressed this again with the reduction of 18 additional teaching positions.  Now attention is on the high school enrollment. 

The high school is beginning the current NEASC accreditation process.  If the high school does not receive accreditation, this can have a negative impact on enrollment.  In the most recent NEASC Report (2005), they noted we need to “maintain reasonable class sizes so teachers truly have the opportunity to personalize instruction and address the varied academic needs and learning styles of their students.”

These conversations about the high school concern me for two reasons; we are in the beginning of our NEASC re-accreditation and a quality high school, as part of a quality school system, will lead to increased enrollment and increased real estate values. 

I ask that you give Dr Reed and Dr Erardi, experienced educators and superintendents, time.  Time to review enrollment, schedules, student course requests and increased graduation requirements and see if there are changes that need to be made.  Time for a proper evaluation so that we don’t make arbitrary cuts that can hurt our school.  We cannot hurt our schools based on the past administration.

I have seen how well this board partners with Pat Llodra and Bob Tait.  I suggest that the BOF include the equivalent – the superintendent and director of business – as regular participants in future meetings.  What this town needs is to plan, long term, and that plan is not complete if education is not included.  Let’s work together for a long term plan – one that benefits all of Newtown.

Sincerely,

Karyn Holden

Berkshire Road, Sandy Hook                      March 5, 2014

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