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)
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