It was an eye-opening budget season that just concluded, with the Central Middle School (CMS) construction plans thrown into disarray and potentially delayed. Call it a success for the Board of Estimate and Taxation’s Republicans who threw everything they could at the project from its inception. Except, they’re not done yet. Here are the latest dispatches:
Some people just aren’t content with doing their own job
One BET Republican has proposed that the school’s 500 students be bussed to other schools for the 21 month project. Never mind that the Board of Education (BOE), whose actual job is to manage educational facilities, already has a plan. They intend to build the new CMS at a different site on the property and to continue to educate CMS students in their existing building during the construction. The district built New Lebanon School in this manner, minimizing disruption to students.
It is expensive to relocate students. In 2021, the district paid $765K in rent to move just three grades of North Mianus students for a few months during repairs of a ceiling collapse. But even more importantly, it is extremely disruptive to students, teachers and parents to disperse students all over the district.
Did you receive a letter from the “Desk of Harry Arora?”
Wondering why the idea sounds familiar? Maybe it’s because you received an email “from the desk” of former State Representative Harry Arora, attacking the Board of Ed plan and proposing bussing students too. Harry Arora’s wife, Nisha, has been the most vocal critic of the Central Middle School reconstruction, despite being a member of the school’s building committee.
Nisha Arora, BTW, was rebuked by the building committee earlier this year for operating outside official channels when she contacted the full Representative Town Meeting (RTM) with her own estimates on the cost and scope of the CMS project. She barely escaped official sanction. Now she has husband Harry doing that job for her.
As for Harry? Despite losing his most recent bid for state office and being fined for campaign finance violations involving wrongful use of his wife’s name, he is now using his defunct public platform to spread her misinformation.
Republican vote likely delays school construction
Construction of CMS will likely be delayed by a whole year after Republicans on the BET used their tie breaking vote to slash $15.5 million from the rebuild budget. That has imperiled a critical, June 30 deadline to apply for state reimbursement for part of the rebuild cost. To qualify, the Board of Ed needs to show they have full funding for the project. Except, that depends on architectural designs, which are delayed due to the Republican efforts to re-engineer the school. Those designs are how a project’s true cost can be estimated, and it’s likely they’ll reveal a $15 million shortfall.
If so, it would take an emergency interim budget increase to meet the June 30 deadline. A win again for BET Republicans, kicking the can down the road one more year, on a schoolhouse that was condemned over one year ago.
BET vote undermines decades-old teaching model
The Republican vote to slash the CMS budget also undermines a teaching model in place for decades. The team model creates smaller cohorts of students who all share the same teachers. It is the gold standard in middle school education – unless you don’t want gold standard schools, that is.
The budget that Republican BET members approved would only fund a small CMS that would be unable to accommodate such a team model, because it wouldn’t have enough classrooms. As the Republican chair of the BOE, Joe Kelly, wrote, “Whether we are planning for 450 students or 700 students, we need enough classrooms for a two team model. Therefore the number of students does not substantially change the size of the building.”
Listen as Republican Board of Education member Michael-Joseph Mercanti-Anthony explains the importance of the team model.
Where Democrats on the BET stand
On April 4, all six Democrats on the BET voted to approve the budget that the Board of Education requested for rebuilding CMS. We believe that the safety and quality of our educational facilities—be it CMS or Old Greenwich, Riverside or Julian Curtis—should be the town’s highest priorities. We trust the expertise of the Board of Education and its building committee, and we are grateful to the PTAs, parents and educators for working so hard to advocate for our schools and kids. We appreciate that it is not our role to tell the Board of Ed and its building committees what size school to build.
Kicking the can down the road is not smart financial planning. We believe that Greenwich can take advantage of favorable interest rates for medium to long-term borrowing for large capital projects such as these. That kind of smart fiscal planning allows us to build safe schools for our kids and protect public safety while keeping taxes low. With your vote this November, we believe that Greenwich can do better.
After overwhelming support for a constitutional amendment to allow early voting in CT, enabling legislation has passed in the State Assembly. The bill allows for 14 days of early voting in general elections and 7 days of early voting for primaries.
The state budget includes full funding for municipal costs related to early voting.
Now the bill is onto the Senate!
Take the survey
How’s Greenwich doing? Let us know your priorities for our town by completing this short survey.
Have you heard about the Voting Moms?
Scroll on over to Voting Moms, and read their report, “What You Need To Know About Our School Infrastructure Crisis.” Voting Moms was created by two regular moms who are dedicated to doing the research about votes affecting our kids and schools, and presenting a fair and balanced assessment of local issues for friends and neighbors.
For your calendar
Central Middle School Building Committee Community Engagement Forum, 7 to 8 p.m. in the school’s auditorium. Preliminary concepts for the new school will be presented.
Democratic Town Committee monthly meeting. 7:30 p.m. Town Hall Meeting Room, 101 Field Point Road
Don’t miss this conversation between our witty local commentator David Rafferty and our Congressman Jim Himes, a senior member of the Intelligence and Financial Services committees. 101 Field Point Road
Kick off Pride month at Greenwich Town Hall on Sunday, June 4th at 1:00 pm! LGBTQ+ neighbors, families, friends, and allies will join our elected officials and community leaders to raise the Pride flag at Town Hall. All are welcome for an afternoon of community and celebration. 101 Field Point Road
You know you want one!
Show your Greenwich Democratic pride!
Request a free bumper sticker, or two.
The town is seeking volunteers interested in serving as Parking Appeals Hearing Officers to preside at parking citation hearings, conducted by phone. Legal background a plus. For more information, contact LuAnn.Bellantoni@greenwichct.org
|Volume 1, Number 44 • May 11, 2023|
|Paid for by the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee.|
|Greenwich Democratic Town CommitteeP.O. Box 126Greenwich, CT 06836|