Says school district does not value enrichment program

To the Editor:

As evidenced during the last few Board of Education meetings, the middle school enrichment program is not valued by the Fairfield administration and Superintendent Dr. David Title.

When addressing the budget cuts, Dr. Title has stated that he has been very sensitive to preserving the music curriculum since “it is what gets these students into college.” He expressed that it is “not wise to cut” paraprofessionals since they “provide direct service to children identified with special needs.” Yet, the public has not heard him support a program that serves 20% of the middle school population — a group of students who have been identified for academic enrichment by our district administrators.

At the last BOE meeting, Dr. Title recognized middle school students with achievement awards. The students were acknowledged for their extracurricular academic accolades, such as Johns Hopkins Talented and Gifted, math performance awards in state and national competitions, Odyssey of the Mind, as well as community service. Yet, Dr. Title refuses to support these same students through providing enrichment programs or reinstating levels to the curriculum.

This year, the enrichment program should have received an additional 0.2 FTE (fullt-ime educator) at each middle school for the once a week Unified Arts Opt-In class, yet Superintendent Dr. David Title was unwilling to find $40,000 to complete the implementation of a plan previously approved.

The elimination of the enrichment program would have been a “phantom cut,” a budgeting term Dr. Title likes to use when expenses are not truly eliminated. The only expense associated with the program is less than half a teacher’s time in each middle school. Everyone knows that the teachers would have been reassigned to alternative roles in their respective schools, and no “real” dollars would have been saved… just another reallocation of personnel without cost savings.

This scenario was played out a few years ago with the reduction of world language in grades 4, 5, and 6. World language instruction was eliminated, but teachers were reallocated to other positions within the district. It is all smoke and mirrors.

At the last BOE meeting, Sue Brand, Perry Liu, Jen Kennelly, Paul Fattibene and John Convertito presented solutions to preserving the student programs by requesting reductions to other specific line items.  One line item under discussion was liaison stipends. Dr. Title demonstrated that he would rather cut programs than these administrative stipends. Unfortunately, the reduction to the proposed line item did not occur, as some board members feared not enough information was presented to make an informed decision.

However, lack of information did not stop the same board members (Phil Dwyer, Pam Iacono, Jessica Gerber, Tim Kery, and John Convertito) from allowing an “unapproved” math textbook to be used in the secondary math curriculum this year without knowledge of the consequences it would have on 800-plus students in the district. These board members need to apply this “fact based” philosophy to all issues, not just ones deemed relevant for the moment or when asked to support Dr. Title’s initiatives.

 

Dawn Llewellyn

Fairfield

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