Weston" providing temporary hosting for WFFR - our older WFFR page here.
Weston For Fiscal Responsibility: It is that time of
year again, get out your calculators, green eyeshades...
non-partisan coalition for enhancing citizen participation in
We are providing hosting for
respected community organization. About Weston does not agree
with WFFR...our opinions can be found elsewhere on
In light of the cut by the Board of Finance, prior to ATBM, (to a level
under which it is illegal to go in CT), it is no surprise that very few
Westonites came out to vote.
ATBM APRIL 24, 2013
OPENS WITH ELECTION OF MODERATOR. "NO QUOROM" DECLARED AS OF 8PM.
qualified Town Meeting
voters allowed in afterward, but with the understanding that it would
only be discussion, no voting on the budget. In previous ATBMs
the Town Attorney was present on the stage. WFFR went immediately
to the mic to ask a question on procedure for determining a quorum
since the Charter was silent. Upon further questioning the
Moderator said he would consider the matter as the meeting went along,
at which point the First Selectwoman reported that the absent Town
Attorney had told her that one quorum call would be sufficient.
MESSAGE TO ALL WESTONITES FROM
Wednesday, April 24, 8:00 p.m. for our Annual Town Budget Meeting
(ATBM), which will be held in the Weston High School Auditorium - At
this meeting, Weston citizens have one last chance to weigh in on the
Town and the Board of Education budgets. Only reductions can be
Last week the Board of Finance approved a school budget of $45,575,418
- $11,744 or 0.03% less than the current year’s budget. By state law,
the town is allowed to reduce its school budget since enrollment has
declined. The BOS town operating budget shows a 3.52% increase due to
workers compensation that came in higher than expected, the capital
budget showed a decrease from current year, and debt service shows a
Due to Weston’s Charter Revisions approved in November 2012, requiring
a 2% quorum of qualified voters who intend to participate, check-in
will begin after the Citizen of the Year Award. Once the budget numbers
have been established by the ATBM, voters will then have an opportunity
to vote on the budget by machine (referendum) in the Weston High School
library. Please remember to bring your id/driver’s license.
Those unable to vote that evening, absentee ballots can be obtained in
town hall beginning Thursday, April 25, during regular business hours
(9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
Regular referendum voting will continue on Thursday, May 2, in the
Weston Middle School gymnasium from noon to 8 p.m. At the end of this
session, all votes will be tallied and the moderator will read the
total results of the referendum.
referendum provides a better means for more Weston taxpayers to vote
and be heard.
OF FINANCE 'DELIBERATION' APRIL 4, NEXT NIGHT - CUTS SCHOOL
TO SMALL DECREASE...BELOW LAST YEAR'S NUMBER.
OF FINANCE PUBLIC HEARING, WFFR COMMENTS, THE NIGHT BEFORE. ALL
OTHER COMMENT (JUST ABOUT) SAID "DON'T CUT..."
OF EDUCATION APPROVED FY13-14 SUPERINTENDENT'S BUDGET
BELOW, RIGHT - BOARD OF SELECTMEN LOOKS AT SCHOOL BUDGET TONIGHT,
asked about possibilities for change in State Statute re: MBR ("minimum
budget requirement") of our Senators present, as well as commented on
what happens if Grand List shrinks vis a vis amount capable of
supporting school system getting squeezed...
SEASON UNDER NEW CHARTER
3, 2013 (Wednesday) will be the Board of Finance Public Hearing
on the Town, School and Capital Budgets. After ATBM there will be
a Referedum held according to specific rules
in the new Town
of Weston Charter.
LWV of Weston held a forum entitled "Town Affairs
Update" on the
Saturday after election, Nov. 10, 2012, at Town Hall. After
presentations (description on LWV of Weston website here) the
was invited to ask questions. So WFFR members did!
question and a comment:
What if all 4 school buildings were one structure? Would this
require less management staff? Town Administrator earns less
than the Athletic Director.
TRI-BOARD MEETING WEDNESDAY,
OCTOBER 10, 2012: W.F.F.R. PRESENT...
Green is the Town of
Weston's official color. EXCELLENT STORY ON SCHOOL ENROLLMENT HERE.
Report below courtesy of "About Town" -
WFFR members were present.
BOARD OF SELECTMEN, BOARD OF FINANCE AND BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 10, 2012, 7:30pm; more on Friday
Report from watching the last half-hour on Channel 79. Sound
was much better than usual from the Library!!!
Town TV only began broadcasting after the first half-hour (began @8pm)
so guess what? We don't know much more about enrollment than we
before the meeting! However, this subject is expected to be
at the Board of Education meeting this coming Monday.
attendance, if what I saw on Town TV from the Library was any
indicator Weston For Fiscal Responsibility (WFFR) membership was
there, but fixed cameras in the rear are not capable of showing
audience in this room, and
additionally, at the end, when comment was permitted, there was none
from anyone present.
Last night we watch the segment from 8pm to 8:30pm. This was very
enlightening, because we now understand that Hurlbutt and its
facilities, with new windows and doors, are up for grabs. In no
uncertain terms, it was said that the Middle School (pool, other
special facilities there - the portables will be GONE soon), the "gem"
of the system, Weston High School, and the newest, most efficient
building, the Intermediate School, are fixed into any strategy for
education. However, depending on the scenario re:
enrollment - we
don't know for sure more than 5 years in advance - either of three
options appear available:
LOW ENROLLMENT CONTINUES (1800 kids, 2016): Much of Hurlbutt
could be turned over (temporarily) to other Town of Weston uses;
ENROLLMENT STABLIZES BY 2016-17 at a figure over 2000 kids;
ECONOMIC "UPTICK" by 2014-15: projected enrollment back up to
2500 or more kids.
A Board of Finance member made the best observation - what was the plan
for closing or leaving "dormant" a school building, or was there a way
to convert on to another use? The Superintendent responded that
possible to keep a building not in use in "sleep" mode, but it also
seemed, as the First Selectman said, that there are other town needs
that might come first. A member of the Board of Selectmen
community center and was assured that this was not in the forefront of
our needs considering that the portable structure now ten years old
that houses education/town staff on School Road ("Town Hall Annex")
must serve, with excellent Board of Education mainenance, another 5
Which brought the discussion to the initial request by the Town for
more of South House for the seniors. Use of rooms (such as the
mini-gym) by seniors only after school was out for the day, of
Same for a North House option for the first floor. A parking
no doubt to be added to the Capital Budget if reconfiguration of the
Senior Center area comes to pass. Dr. Palmer noted that the
could always reconfigure with buildings to make room for classrooms as
What we did come home in time to see was the tail-end of
indicators." First Selectman Weinstein had collected assorted
of numbers which traditionally show where the Town is headed: We
believe we heard that various items have either bottomed or are moving
in the positive direction: Foreclosure-related indicators,
building permits (for additions, pools, etc.) and home sales
("transfers"). New house construction permits are still almost
I would argue the these might all be considered signs of recovery,
because new house permits
would, in this economy of tight money, be expected to lag.
The Board of Education members on their committee assigned to reach out
to the real estate market insisted that there is progress convincing
real estate agents that our taxes are not that much higher than in
surrounding towns - but we
still cannot appeal to those buyers who want proximity to train
Since we had recorded this program, we watched what we had missed
OUR THOUGHTS AFTER
For "About Town" this began to make us think that there is a plan
afoot, or that there should be one, to bring town and school employees
together in a structure attached or within the Town-School campus on
the superblock. This plan should perhaps employ adaptive reuse of
historic structures with additions. (In fact, another, long-planned-for
wing on the west side of Town Hall - as suggested by a former
Selectman, now Board of Education member, was discussed at thhis
BACKGROUND: And then the Town Engineer spoke.
The Selectmen ordered a town-wide survey to find out how many children
were living in Weston, who were under school age...but before this
there was the quick addition to Hurlbutt North House...
REMEMBER THE OTHER FOUR ROOMS UNBUILT, ON NORTH HOUSE?
No one seemed to recall that in the earliest efforts to deal with the
boom of children coming - review of the Board of Education numbers were
wrong two years in a row, and a Committee was formed to figure out what
to do. This website did not exist then - and in fact, the
a techie curiousity. As best as pre-"About Town" could find in
population estimates and projections extant, we should have built at
least 6 rooms. The builders on the committee came up with a
solution: add a two-story addition to North House totalling 8
classrooms. Building foundation was strong enough to support 8
but the first 4 rooms could be free standing, able to be replicated
easily. They could be added with limited expense. This was
Town decided on at the advice of the Board of Education. As soon as the 4 rooms were added, they
The "Census of Children 1995 and the Census of Children 1997" estimated
@800 kids under the age of 5 in Weston. Later the Town did the
survey in 2000,
and confirmed this number - which, as it happens, was proven correct by
the enrollment figures to come!
FORUM SUMMARY OF
ENROLLMENT STORY HERE.
open and close this Selectmen's Public Hearing
another's testimony by request (l), WFFR leadership
points out that if nothing else, Town and School have chosen
reasonable budgeting without increases (r). With Referendum built
Charter, this should continue.
OF SELECTMEN'S PUBLIC
HEARING ON PROPOSED NEW CHARTER THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2012 AT
7:30PM, TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM
This is the last
chance to be heard on the subject of including mandatory referendum in
the Town of Weston's budget process, as written in the Town Charter
(proposed). No decision by the Board of Selectmen is expected
before June 21st, their regularly scheduled meeting, but your presence
on Thursday, June 14th, whether you speak or not, is important.
Naturally, you will want to speak, but it will probably be replicating
another's words - so be present if only to sign in to say "ditto!"
The above notice is not officially approved by WFFR
BOARD OF EDUCATION LEADERSHIP PLEASED...
WFFR speaks positively about Board of Education budget at ATBM April 4,
2012. REFERENDUM April 12, 2012 with absentee ballots available
April 5th at Town Hall.
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)
reform forum: Westonites discuss changes
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
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
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
“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
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.
speakers and background: Senator
Palmer, Woody Bliss (Moderator)...plus surprise special guests!
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!
W.F.F.R. EDUCATION REFORM FORUM -
STANDING ROOM ONLY!!!
Video of March 27, 2012 event will
appear on the Internet in full by the end of the week. Picture
story with captions below:
PANEL AND THE AUDIENCE
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!
DISCUSSION: How do these things happen?
off, Senator Boucher (l) went through a direct comparison of exactly
was in the bill voted out of the Education Committee Monday. How
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.
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
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!
ANSWERING TOUGH QUESTIONS AND
SUPPLYING FACTS ABOUT TEACHER CERTIFICATION IN CT
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.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
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
Link to newspaper
previously posted regarding a WFFR event by About Weston