The Lyme Times
Next week, the League of Women Voters will host a voter forum for board of education candidates. Neither of us can attend due to prior family commitments. But there are eight other candidates, and this will be an opportunity ti hear what they stand for. We say, let the show go on.
We appreciate the League of Women Voters’ willingness to enable all candidates a chance to inform the public of their positions. For the past two months we have worked proactively to insure that voters know where we stand. We’ve done this through op-eds, television programs, street fairs, public forums, door-to-door campaigning, paid advertising and the internet. While we are confident at this point that voters know where we stand, we will restate out position here.
First, we oppose any extension to the school day. Global language and instrumental music are the two main components for elementary schools in the proposed school day extension. We support both but believe there is adequate time in the current day to accomplish these worthy goals. We already know of more than one possible plan or schedule that could work.
Furthermore, consistency across the elementary schools in he amount of time devoted to mandatory subject areas would alleviate much of the so-called need for additional minutes. For example, Niantic Center School currently spends two hours daily on language arts while only 90 minutes is required. And while extra language arts sounds like a good thing, if we want to add more music and language to the day, then perhaps NCS should consider spending 90 minutes daily on language arts, as is done at Lillie B. Haynes and Flanders elementary schools.
Second, we support spending that goes more directly to children and the classroom. The administration, as currently constructed, is rather top heavy when it comes to the number of positions and salaries that go with them. When there is a need to “tighten the budgetary belt” as is inevitability the case, why not look more to the administration for that tightening and less to the teachers and teachers aides? When we don’t adequately staff our schools, it directly impacts the quality of learning for our children.
Third, we oppose the recent Board of Education decision to cut salaries and benefits of our professionals (i.e. Teaching assistants, instrumental aides, etc). This is a prime example of the kind of budgetary tightening that we would not support because it negatively impacts classroom learning. And the message it sends to the people who work most closely with our children is that they are not appreciated.
It also sends the message that these staff members are easily replaceable, which is simply not true. While it may be easy to hire other employees with initials B.A. After his/her name, it will not e so east to find people more devoted to our children and more self-motivated to improving their own skills to better help our children.
Fourth, we support a more accessible Board of Education. Accessibility to our school administration has improved with the recent administrative charges. Our new superintendent is showing responsiveness to parental concerns. Similar improvements are needed at the board level as well.
One way this could be helped is by making board meetings more family-friendly. Meetings that run well past 10 p.m. Are very difficult to attend by parents with elementary age children. Yet key decisions are often discussed and decided late at night. And board meeting times, agendas, minutes and decisions could be made more accessible to the public by better utilizing the Internet.
Fifth, we support a more accountable process. In large part, this accountability can be greatly improved just by improving accessibility as just mentioned. By the public having more access to the board, the board also becomes more accountable to the public. The school board can also provide more financial accountability by making hard copies available at Town Hall.
In short, we are working for Straight A’s: Accountabilities, Accessibility and Affordability. And we are motivated to work for these straight A’s for a long time to come as our our own children are in the elementary schools and just starting their journey through East Lyme school system. Currently, only one out of 10 board members has children in the elementary schools. We feel that it is time for the East Lyme Board of Education to resemble its constituency.