I Vote No
To the Editor:
I will not vote Yes on the education budget this year. The red flag for me that we went from needs to the nice-to-have is the request for an administrator for teaching and learning. The explanation for the ever-growing budget was that salaries represent 80 percent of the budget — adding to the administrative headcount ignores this issue.
The position does not respond to the need for greater security at our schools. Nor does it respond to the needs of our special education students. Newtown is a small district; we have a superintendent and an assistant superintendent. From the 5th grade on, we have a one-school model. Each school has an instructional leader — principal. The mapping and coordination of curriculum from grade 5 on is an intramural activity with the principal as leader. There are four pre-k to 4 schools, and the work of coordinating programs, as well as overseeing the rest of the program up to grade 12, is a reasonable expectation for our existing administrative staff. The final defense of increases has been unfunded mandates — this does not respond to any funded or unfunded mandate.
When I questioned this position, the response relied on the fact that other districts in our DRG (District Reference Group) have it. I think we need to be honest about the DRG and its usefulness. The whole concept of the DRG is based on the fact that the factor affecting student learning most significantly is socioeconomic status, which is at the base of the DRG identification. There is little credibility in using this as an explanation for implementing a new position or making real decisions about program. Let’s face it: education happens at the student/teacher level, and we need to focus on meeting the needs of students, not on looking good among our DRG or even scoring well on these endless tests that were designed for one purpose and are now political purposes.
I worked on the tests. The goal was to produce criterion reference tests to inform instructional practice. The goal was not a norm reference test comparing different students on different tests in different years for what purpose. This position is a symptom of the broader problem; we are not focused on needs of students or the support of staff. Let’s budget for effective programs to all students. I think Newtown has an excellent school system. Our students deserve the very best chance to develop into healthy, emotionally strong, and capable adults, whether they are challenged in some physical or mental way or struggle with emotional difficulties. This is my opinion and not in any way connected to any groups, boards, commissions, or committees on which I serve. I vote No.
John S. Boccuzzi, Sr
57 Queen Street, Newtown April 15, 2019
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