"About Weston" had been asked to provide temporary hosting for WFFR...until informed that the organization no longer exists - from when it was really active here.


In the spirit of Weston For Fiscal Responsibility, a now defunct organization:
It is that time of year again, get out your calculators, green eyeshades...WFFR was a non-partisan organization for enhancing citizen participation in government...that no longer exists., that About Town is aware of! 

VIDEO OF EDUCATION REFORM FORUM: The following file is in Windows Media Player format.  Windows Media Player will open automatically if you are using Internet Explorer and click on the following link:
 http://www.aboutweston.com/WFFR3-27-12.wmv  (1 hour 49 minutes 37 seconds; 275 Megabytes)

Education reform forum: Westonites discuss changes
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Wednesday, 04 April 2012 10:36

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s education reform bill and subsequent changes were discussed at a public education forum sponsored by Weston For Fiscal Responsibility.

A panel of state legislators and town officials discussed Senate Bill 24, “An Act Concerning Educational Competitiveness,” proposed by Gov. Malloy to help fix failing schools throughout the state before a packed crowd at Weston Town Hall on Tuesday, March 27.

Appearing on the panel were Weston’s state Senators Toni Boucher (R-26) and John McKinney (R-28) and state Rep. John Shaban (R-135). They were joined by Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, and Colleen Palmer, Weston’s superintendent of schools. The forum was moderated by former Weston First Selectman Woody Bliss.

The 163-page bill would increase the number of charter schools from 17 to 22, increase funding to the state’s 25 lowest performing schools, and create a school board for technical schools.

Controversial aspects of the bill involve the evaluation, tenure, and dismissal of teachers. The bill would require the development of a statewide model for teacher evaluation, and would change the tenure process, which protects teachers from being fired.

Connecticut teachers are currently entitled to tenure after the successful completion of four years of teaching. The bill would require tenure to be based on performance evaluation, not just length of service.

The bill would also expand the probationary period for teachers from 90 days to one year. The criteria for the dismissal of teachers would be changed from “inefficiency” or “incompetence” to “ineffectiveness” and “unprofessionalism.”

Work in progress

Proving that SB 24 is not a done deal, and is still very much a work in progress, on Monday, March 26, the day before Weston’s education forum, the General Assembly’s Education Committee approved a watered down version of the bill. Many of the key reform components — including the changes to tenure — were changed and relegated to studies.

Following the committee’s vote, Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s senior adviser, issued a written statement saying the committee’s changes were just “one step in the legislative process.”

“Gov. Malloy has made it clear that he’s determined to begin fixing what’s broken in our public schools, no matter how long it takes. In the coming weeks, members of this administration will continue to work with legislators and other key stakeholders until there is a bill that represents meaningful education reform,” Mr. Occhiogrosso said.

At the forum, Ms. Boucher said 31 other states have already tackled education reform. She compared what was happening in Connecticut to a tennis match going back and forth.

Dr. Palmer said superintendents were grateful education reform was a foremost issue in Connecticut, and she would especially like the hiring process to be changed so it would be easier to hire teachers from other states. “It’s a time of opportunity, but I am watching carefully. It’s important that all our voices are heard,” she said.

Ms. Weinstein commended Weston for its quality school system and praised the governor for tackling education reform. She expressed hope that a non-partisan agreement could be made on the bill.


Several residents had questions and comments for the panel.

Megan Couch asked if Weston accepted teachers from out of state. Dr. Palmer said as things currently stand, teachers from other states would lose retirement benefits if they transfered to Connecticut, so it is difficult to attract them. She would like to see a change made so it is easier to hire teachers from other states.

Neil Horner asked what the public could do to support the schools and education reform. Dr. Palmer said she would like high-performing districts like Weston to be allowed “more latitude” and flexibility in the teacher evaluation process. She said it would be counter- productive to have guidance counselors spending days filling out evaluation forms on teachers.

Public comments then turned to the issue of tenure. Michael Carter asked what the next steps were for the bill and said he supported the governor’s changes to tenure. He was not pleased the committee had changed it to a mere “study.”

Ms. Boucher said the bill would be going to the appropriations committee then the House and Senate and there would be more negotiations along the way. She said what is eventually passed may not be Senate Bill 24. The bill must pass both houses of the General Assembly by May 8, the end of the legislative session, to become law.

“To me, this is not a good start, it is a good failure,” Mr. Carter said. “Twenty years from now, we will be still talking about this.” He said children suffer when they have bad teachers who are protected by tenure. “Why do we have tenure at all? How do you defend that?” he said.

Mr. McKinney said one of the probems was that the Education Committee sat in a closed room with members of the Connecticut Education Association to negotiate the bill and shut out Republicans as well as members of the governor’s office. He also said there was much more “we need to focus on” than tenure.

Mr. Shaban said teachers he spoke with weren’t concerned about the tenure issue and he wasn’t sure the issue was “a battlefield.”

“I think that you are all fooling yourselves,” said Bob Machson. “The greatest impediment to education is teachers unions.” He asked Dr. Palmer how principals and administrators can evaluate teachers when they are also part of a union.

Dr. Palmer said evaluations have high standards and are not done in just one announced visit a year. She said the goal is to help teachers improve. But after an appropriate time, if there is not improvement, there are hearings and the district will terminate teachers.

Harvey Bellin said Weston taxpayers are “killed” by step increases given to teachers. “You just show up to work and you get an increase every few years. That’s stupid. Where else do you get that?” he said.

Fran Blackman, a former business professional who now teaches seventh grade in the Norwalk public schools, said she was distressed by the vilification of teachers. “You can’t begin to understand what we face every day. I have never worked so hard for so little in my life,” she said.

To see the entire two-hour forum, a video recording of it will be broadcast on Channel 79 at 8 a.m. daily for an unspecified period of time.

WFFR Public Forum speakers and background:   Senator Boucher, Dr. Palmer, Woody Bliss (Moderator)...plus surprise special guests!  These were:  Minority Leader of the Senate Hon. John McKinney, R-28 and Weston's Representative in the House, Hon. John Shaban, R-135.  PLUS, Hon. Gayle Weinstein, First Selectman of Weston.  Thank  you to all those who attended - panel and audience! 

Video of March 27, 2012 event will appear on the Internet in full by the end of the week.  Picture story with captions below:

Surprise!  Instead of a cozy discussion with our Superintendent Dr. Collene Palmer and Senator Toni Boucher, Ranking Member on the Education Committee, Moderated by Woody Bliss, former First Selectman as well as Chairman of the Panel of Moderators, it was S.R.O.!!!  In came the rest of our hard-working legislative team in Hartford, Minority Leader of the Senate John McKinney and Representative John Shaban. And a very special thanks to First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, whose respect for WFFR and fiscal responsibility in general brought her in at the last!  And bravo to all from Westport, Wilton and Norwalk among other communities represented in the full Town Hall Meeting Room!

LEGISLATIVE DISCUSSION:  How do these things happen?
First off, Senator Boucher (l) went through a direct comparison of exactly what was in the bill voted out of the Education Committee Monday.  How did it differ from what Governor Malloy had proposed?  She answered that question, too!  And what about the method by which the two Co-Chairs. of the Education Committee had closeted themselves with the C.E.A. at that organization's headquarters (the building only slightly smaller than the Capitol and across the street, if memory serves)?  Copies of that JFS'd bill and/or some written material from the Legislature (non-Partisan Office) was available and went like hotcakes!  Leadership of WFFF, center and right.

EDUCATION DISCUSSION:  What do we need to do to turn around CT's public schools - once the best and now sinking lower and lower down the achievement ladder?
Dr.Palmer, with a background in CT educational achievement comparisons from previous professional experience, and on top of very recent evaluation modeling designed to find a way to help all school districts achieve to the highest levels, spells out what has to be done (l).  She analyzed what's good or bad in the Education Reform legislation and the audience hung on her every word!


The panel did its best answering questions, and Woody let the meeting run 20 minutes longer than advertised (considering that there were now five speakers instead of two), and not very many members of the audience, who were not all from Weston, left at the original ending time of 9PM!  Interesting note:  Senator McKinney reported that his brother is a long time teacher in the Bridgeport schools.


After one particularly pointed exchange, more than one member of the audience appreciated the math teacher's comment - she stood to remark as a former executive now a middle school math teacher in Norwalk, how difficult it is to be a teacher as compared to working in private industry. 

Link to newspaper articles previously posted regarding a WFFR event by About Weston here.