Tag Archives: schools

Challenges and Changes Ahead for Public Education

school-buses-005-2xThe decision on CCJEF (Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding) vs Rell lawsuit was announced and should have significant impact on educational funding in Connecticut.  The decision is far reaching and looks to change not only how schools are funded but also priorities in funding allocation.

Here are the key components of the decision:

  1. A ruling that it is NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL for the state to have a public education financing system that is NOT based on the amount of money it takes to provide every child equitable access to an adequate educational program.
  2. A ruling that the present system for funding public education in CT is unconstitutional because it is irrational.  The judge gave the State 180 days to submit to the plaintiffs in the case a system that is rational.
  3. An apparent ruling that the State has to develop a system for requiring students to actually demonstrate that they have mastered specified content and skills before being awarded a high school diploma and a requirement that there be a State graduation exit exam established for this purpose.
  4. An apparent ruling that the current system for teacher evaluation be revamped so that compensation is based on the results of teacher evaluation.
  5. An apparent ruling that would require the State not to program for children whose special needs are so severe that education cannot materially influence the quality of their lives.

Appeals in the case are likely but it would appear at this juncture all school districts will face significant changes in the future.  Under the ruling, gone would be the days of social promotion and high school diplomas presented with little basis in merit.

Teacher compensation currently structured by contractual obligations rather than individual productivity or merit would be changed to a system based on results of teacher evaluation.  In the land of steady habits, it will be difficult to facilitate real change and not window dressing to institute a realistic system of evaluation and compensation.

Special education would no longer be required for children whose needs are so severe that education cannot materially influence their quality of life.  This may not be as clear cut as it sounds and remains open to some interpretation.  Currently special education costs for a single student can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The “irrational” system for funding education must be changed in Connecticut.   The new formula, under this decision, will not be based on a false premise of a constitutional guarantee to provide every child equitable access to an adequate educational program.

One thing for sure lobbyist and special interest groups will be active to pressure our legislature to preserve, protect and promote their positions as new policies are written.

Leave a comment

Filed under CONNECTICUT ISSUES, COVENTRY EDUCATION, CT issues

Changing A Generation A Challenge For America

Labor force participation from WSJ

 

 

 

For those old enough to remember the 1950’s you remember the typical American family where, you walked to school, mom stayed home and dad lived with you and had a job. The economy was driven by pent up demand for consumer goods after a World War which brought sacrifice to every home.

 
A lot of men spent their late teens and early 20’s in the harsh conditions of war in Europe or facing vicious brutality in the South Pacific. Their dreams for the future were formulated not within the ivy halls of a university, but in foxholes, and craters of destruction. It was the school of hard knocks, filled with an overdose of reality, an atmosphere that causes a man to grow up fast.

 
When the war was over America had a generation of men that had learned the value of team work, they were full of motivation and dreams. Working hard was not an issue, they had already faced a depression and war, and they knew what it was like to do without. Now was their time and America was their place.

 
Neighborhoods were carved out of farms to satisfy the dreams and demands for home ownership. The camaraderie of military life extended to the neighborhoods where you knew your neighbors, they were a real part of your life. There was a strong moral fabric underlying life in America, people took responsibility for themselves and their neighbors it was the natural thing to do.

 
Today we talk about climate change as if change is something new, academic study will tell us the climate has been in constant change for billions of years. The climate is never static, like the tides and the waves of the sea it forever moves. The more important change we need to discuss is the change in our social fabric, our moral foundation as a nation, by comparison climate change is merely a diversion and distraction.

 
Times change, I get it, and nothing stays the same but the questions I must ask are these, as a society are we changing in the right direction? Are we walking a path of convenience and comfort on the road to complacency and collapse? Have we passed on to the next generation the lessons of life, the moral character and an understanding of their personal responsibility to their family, to their community and yes to their nation?

 
Surely life is different for the youth of today, times have changed. Life has changed and we must change, but because we live in a land of liberty we can choose the change we want, we can dream and walk our own path. The path of life is an individual path of challenge and choice, it is our responsibility to provide a compass for guidance, and to teach the next generation how to choose their path.

 
Increasingly many young people are choosing not to face the challenges, not to take responsibility, not to become part of the fabric that is America. The days of volunteerism and community contribution are fading, and yet the needs continues as we go forward we are coming to a crossroad.

 
Even the basic foundation of self-responsibility is showing signs of crumbling. The labor-force participation rate (the share of people who either have a job or are actively looking for a job) has been dropping for some time. The most alarming trend however is found within the demographics of what should be the most productive workers, those between the ages of 25-54.

 
Make no mistake that trend will have a negative impact on government’s ability to cover the cost of Social Security but that is not the worst of it. No, the larger impact is the social change of not working, not gaining and understanding the values of working, not only financially but the greater values derived from the work experience in an emotional, physical and mental sense.

 

 

The tides of time and weather change, and we have little choice but to adapt to that change. The changes we can control are the changes we make along the path of life and the benefits of experience we pass to the next generation. Changing the direction of Labor-force participation should be a national priority.

 
Taking action and taking the high road will not always easy. Changing the direction of a generation is a challenge but facing the challenges head on has rewards, just ask those from the “greatest generation”. They grew up during a depression, found sacrifice in war and built a nation from experience found in the ashes of destruction, they worked to toward goals founded in hopes and dreams. They did it with hard work and labor-force participation, we need to change in that direction once again.

2 Comments

Filed under COMMENTARY, NATIONAL ISSUES, POLITICS

Armed Students In Local School Applauded By Administrators

Manchester High School Rifle Team

Manchester High School Rifle Team

Today the debate rages within our government over gun control and passion is present on both sides of the issue.  The tragedy in Newtown has ignited public hearings and stirred raw emotions.   The testimony on this issue and any issue should be on target and focused on the issue and not on our emotional response to an issue.

There have been calls for guns in our schools and calls to have schools declared a gun free zone.  I have heard and read statements by emotionally drained, passionately protective parents, fearful of any gun in our schools.  I have also heard advocates of personal responsibility and gun advocates call upon the rights granted to every citizen under our constitution.

Guns in our schools are not the problem.  I repeat that, guns in our schools are not the problem.  The problem is not the weapon, not the inanimate object; the problem lies not with what is in the hand, but what is in the head.

It was not all that many years ago that a gun in school was common.  No they were not hidden; they were not in some far off western state we equate with gunslingers and cowboys they were in Manchester High School.  Yes, they were sometimes stored in student lockers, they were carried through the halls and no student pushed a panic button.

Rifle Team Member Firing Weapon

Rifle Team Member Firing Weapon

Were these gun toting students crazed, borderline mental cases, no some were actually fantastic students they weren’t terrorists, violent gang member or serial killers.  How can this be possible?  If we are to believe the testimony of some people this just can’t happen, but it did.

Yes, Manchester High School had a rifle team and as a matter of fact they were a darn good team.  Their accomplishments were held in high esteem by the school administrators.  One member of the team later became MAYOR of Manchester.  Nobody was overly concerned with the guns being in school in the hands of students, because the gun was not a problem, it never is.  The problem is the person in control of the gun.

Infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens is not the answer to gun violence.  The act of a mentally deranged individual should not be the measure we use to determine the allowable actions of society.   If we allow the likes of Adam Lanza to determine our course of life and limits of freedom, we have allowed them to determine that we should be limited by their mental competence.

The problem is not the gun, it never has been.  The problem is within us and how we view and respond to others.  The problem is how we view and treat mental illness; the problem is how much respect we give to our neighbors, and how much personal responsibility we are willing to accept.

We can allow an anomaly to be accepted as normality and base our lives on it or we can look at it in the greater context and view it for what it was, an egregious abnormality.  In a free society we can never institute mind control but we can show compassion and treat the mentally ill.

When we limit our freedoms and succumb to the actions of the deranged, be the actions from international terrorists or a single mentally ill perpetrator we allow them to control society with their actions.  The very actions we find so offensive and the minds we find so sick will have gained some measure of control.

Leave a comment

Filed under CONNECTICUT ISSUES, NATIONAL ISSUES

Coventry Boondoggle A Monument For Government Waste

Coventry's small wind turbine

Coventry’s small wind turbine

The Coventry demonstration wind project has become the Coventry Boondoggle.  Boondoggles have been described as “a project that is considered a useless waste of both time and money, yet is often continued due to extraneous policy motivations”.

That definition describes the situation with the wind turbine located at Coventry High School.  There it sits inoperable, broken down and wasting.  Gone are all the promises of government.

Coventry was one of four (4) towns selected to receive a small wind turbine in 2009 after being selected from a field of 35 communities applying to become a host site.  At the time Town Council Chairwomen Elizabeth Woolf said, “This will also count towards the Town’s commitment to reduce energy use by 2010.”  The project never lived up to that expectation in fact it became a series of delays, false promises and ultimately a failure.

According to Town Council meeting minutes the turbine had the potential to generate from 5,000 to 15,000 kilowatts of power per year.  Councilwoman Woolf reported this “would result in an electricity savings of $5,000 to $7,000” per year.  The plan was to locate the turbine near the high school and that would allow students to learn about the technology.

During the application process it was disclosed that Coventry had a teacher familiar with the technology and council members believed this was a plus for our community to operate and maintain a small wind turbine.  The expectation as it turns out may have been beyond the realm of reality; Councilwoman Lisa Thomas called the project, “a phenomenal partnership between the Town and the schools.”

The turbine was originally installed in September of 2010 but was not operational.  There were representations of near term operation but break problems and other delays resulted in no operation during 2010.  There was no production of electricity or saving in 2010 as expected.

The turbine was finally placed in service in January of 2011 but it did not perform nearly as well as expected.  From the start date until 4/1/12 it did produce some small amount of electricity, but never reached the lofty totals that were represented.  Today the turbine still sits broken and useless producing only a small amount of shade and a place for birds to perch and watch students at play.

Where the money came from for this project is not the issue, if we spent the money from local or state funds it was still taxpayer money.  The taxpayers of Connecticut already have a high burden of taxation to live with and sitting by silently and watching our dollars wasted is not responsible government with transparency.  It is disheartening to the taxpayers to see such waste and it erodes confidence in the management of our tax dollars.

If students learned anything from this project perhaps more was learned about government than science.  The most important lesson may be that Coventry High School has what can only be described as a boondoggle on campus.

What are the future plans of our Town Council for this small wind turbine?  So far the Town Council has chosen to ignore the issue, and so it sits like a monument to government waste.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

School And Driver Safety A Concern In Coventry

Coventry is falling behind in highway maintenance and it could contribute to accidental death or dismemberment.  Accidents happen, but the community recognizes that fact and invests money on traffic control signs as a preventative measure.  The investment however is compromised if the signs are not properly visible.

A recent drive from Main Street to South Street on Cross Street was troubling and potentially dangerous.  The street where G. H. Robertson School is located, a street where safety should be of particular concern, sight lines for safety signs are compromised and in some cases rendering the signs nearly useless.

Below are pictures of what a driver’s experience may be as they proceed along Cross Street.  Not all drivers are familiar with the street and these signs are there for safety reasons, signs paid for and installed with our tax dollars.  These are not the only signs in town with sight line issues.  This is only one example near a school on a highly traveled road and it should have some priority and attention paid to it.

You may leave your thoughts, observations or ideas for improved safety in Coventry by entering your comments below.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Coventry CT

Coventry Schools Ranked After Test Results

Each year the State of Connecticut test students to measure the impact of our educational system.  Here are the results for 2012 for Coventry CT.

Out of 164 school districts Coventry ranks 79th placing Coventry in the top 50%, this ranking is based on an average test score of 76.6.  To achieve a ranking in the top 50 the average test score required was 80.1

So how did Coventry do at the various grade levels and where are the problems and where are the best performances?  Below is a copy of the test scores as reported by the State of Connecticut indicating the percentage of students performing at or above goal in each of the subjects and grades tested.

Grade              Math                Reading           Writing            Science

3rd                   78.2                 75.8                 73.5

4th                    82.6                 75.4                 73.2

5th                    81.4                 77.4                 56.7                 70.2

6th                    83.6                 87.6                 75.8

7th                    81.3                 88.3                 88.3

8th                    81.6                 92.8                 86.1              82.6

CAPT TEST SCORES

Grade              Math                Reading           Writing            Science

10                    47.0                 63.6                 81.6                 57.6

Some observations and questions based on the results:

While reading score were a bit low on the 3rd grade level the steady progress and end results is admirable.  One has to question if the ability is there why the results are so relatively low in the early years and is there a weakness in the foundation of reading learning that can be addressed earlier?

Writing scores seem to follow a lagging progression with the reading scores and one anomaly in the 5th grade results which needs some additional explanation.  The 5th grade writing score somewhat distorts the overall test score average to the low side and does not necessarily reflect on the true quality of education in Coventry.

The math scores while consistent show little progress in actual performance growth and the CAPT test score of 47.0 at grade 10 is troubling.  This is another area that should be further explained or addressed.

While test results are not the final say or measure of a student’s ability to learn, retain or perform they are one of the tools to measure our educational system and the information is important to evaluate.  There are questions that will come to mind as you look at the results and listening to your Board of Education address the issues.

1 Comment

Filed under Coventry CT, COVENTRY EDUCATION

Coventry Names New Superintendent of Schools

The Coventry Board of Education, after a nation-wide search has found a new Superintendent of Schools on their current staff. The Board of Education has voted unanimously to name David Petrone the current Nathan Hale Middle School Principal to be the next Superintendent.

Dave Petrone will fill the vacancy created with the retirement of Dr. Donna Bernard in August.  While Mr. Petrone will be the new Superintendent he is already a familiar face to the educational community in Coventry.

Over the last eleven years Mr. Petrone has served as an Assistant Principal and Principal within the Coventry school district.  Prior to his arrival in Coventry Dave was a teacher of Special Education and served as Principal of the Manchester Credit Diploma Program.

His past experience and proven abilities have been a valuable asset for Coventry.  When Dave was named to his current position he wrote, “In my many years as an educator, one truth has revealed itself over and over again: that open communication is critical for a successful relationship between student, parent and teacher.”  It is that type of philosophy and open communication that made Dave an attractive candidate for Superintendent.

There was no special consideration afforded Mr. Petrone during the search.  In the words of Board of Education member Mark Malcolm “after subjecting Dave to the same rigorous process that all other candidates completed, it was clear that he was the most well equipped individual to lead our district”.

While the selection process has covered many months the parents and taxpayers of Coventry should find some satisfaction and comfort in the words of Mark Malcolm “The process was a long one because we as a Board developed a comprehensive list of required credentials that we refused to waiver from.”   Malcolm continued, “We did not want to compromise when hiring the CEO of our district.  We wanted a sure thing.  In the end, the right guy was under our noses all along.”

In the past Mr. Petrone has set the bar of expectation high when he said, “I would like to express my belief that all students can succeed in school, given the right support and academic stimulation.”  This brings a level of responsibility and expectation to the table for those in the role of educators to expect and deliver success in our schools to every student.

It is anticipated that Mr. Petrone will actually begin his new position on January 1, 2012.  Like students on the first day of school he will start with a clean slate, dreams, expectations and challenges.

The Board of Education has given Mr. Petrone a vote of confidence and responsibility for educating future generations.  We wish him well and look forward to his guidance in providing educational opportunities for the children of Coventry.

Thank you for reading the Opining Quill you are invited to become a friend on Facebook or subscriber.  If you enjoy this site please tell a friend.

2 Comments

Filed under Coventry CT, COVENTRY EDUCATION