Board Of Ed Chairman Says “Thank You”

Last night, the Board of Finance unanimously approved the Board of Education’s proposed 2012-13 budget.

The figure — praised by Finance members on both sides of the aisle — is $100.2 million. That’s a 2.17% percent increase over the current budget.

Tonight, Board of Education chairman Don O’Day issued this statement:

I want to sincerely thank the school community for their tremendous level of support on Thursday night. If you were unable to make it, trust me when I say that Town Hall was packed. The strong message from kids, teachers, parents, and administrators in attendance was unanimous: Westport’s schools are a priority, and should be funded. Like no other year I can remember, the Avi Kaner-led Board of Finance heartily agreed.

I want to especially thank Janis Collins, who was the first to say that she supported the 2012-13 school budget and would vote to approve it without a reduction. Janis recognized the school administration and the BOE for producing a lean and thoughtful budget. Her sincere recognition was much appreciated after months of hard work and difficult choices by the school administration and the Board of Education.

The Board of Finance approved the BOE’s 2012-13 school budget without cuts. The approval followed a commitment that I made, on behalf of the BOE, to review, with the administration and my BOE colleagues, different ways to lower class sizes without increasing the 2012-13 budget.  We will re-double our efforts to explore that goal for the elementary schools, as well as the middles schools and Staples. Tom Lasersohn deserves recognition for passionately speaking about the benefits of lower class sizes.

The results may not be exactly what everyone wants, but I do know this: Because of the willingness of the Board of Finance and the Board of Education to work together, we are all in a better place for our kids.

Thanks again to all of my fellow Westporters, for your support of our schools.

89 responses to “Board Of Ed Chairman Says “Thank You”

  1. A person who loves Westport

    What a lovely note! And, please know we– the westport parents– are grateful the budget was passed. Now lets please REDUCE CLASS SIZE especially in the elementary schools. Good academic performance is dependent on- low student-teacher ratio.

  2. Late Night Rita

    Everyone take a sip. The Koolaid is being served.

    • And the BOF imbibed it Thursday night. The $200,000 cut proposed (and then withdrawn) would have been .0002% of the BOE’s budget. Put in human terms, if you had $75 in your pocket, you would have given up 15 cents. Let’s hope the RTM has more moxie.

    • Brett Aronow

      No Kool Aid, just a lot of tax-paying concerned parents and a lot of other tax-paying education supporters as well.

  3. What is that per kid????

  4. John McCarthy

    Wish the RTM had the power to add more money to the education budget than what was approved by the BOF. But we don’t. Class sizes are a big concern.

  5. According to this fiscal year’s budget as printed, there are 882.76 people employed in the schools, and of those 269.05 are classified as regular classroom teachers. The 80 highest paid employees are not classroom teachers.

    The number of students is projected to decline next year, but the amount spent will increase. The per student amount will incease about 3%.

    The threat is made every year that if any money is cut from the budget, class size will increase. No real effort has been made to reduce the bloated overhead.

  6. My goal was to thank the town and avoid getting into a back and forth of opinions – particularly since everyone has them and they are based on personal experiences and current situations. However, facts are facts and I thought I should present the facts because they were not presented correctly. Here goes:
    This year we have 543 certified Teachers in the Westport schools and that represents 62% of the goal staff. Further, we have another 129 Paraprofessions who assist Teachers and the children who attend our schools – they represent 15% of the staff. So, between certified Teachers and our Paraprofessionals, we are looking at 77% of the staff. Emma ( I love that name – it was my Grandmother’s name and she lived to be 100. She was one tough Irish lady) has chosen to ignore Special Education teachers, support teachers, Special area teachers – Music, Art, P.E.,etc. They all work with and teach our children everyday.
    So, when someone states something that just seems to be incomplete, it’s a good bet that it is.
    Have a good weekend everyone – enjoy the basketball games.

    • This “thank you” is just political blah blah blah…..I hope the local papers don’t waste space on it.

    • A person who loves Westport

      Dan– how about a little “investigative reporting” and finding out the facts re class size. How many grades are impacted, in which schools and what has been the impact on the teachers and most importantly, on the kids. From what I know–some kids have been in 3 grades in a row with 24/25 kids in their classes. How can we legitimately market our great school system with this ratio?

  7. A person who loves Westport

    Thanks Don. However, it is not opinion that class sizes are not ideal. 24 or 25 kids in a 2nd grade class is not what is best for the teachers or the kids. And Westport can’t say we have a great school system –when the numbers are so high!!! Three of the elementary schools are impacted by large class size. Its been a tough year for many. We need the board of Ed to stand up and continue to advocate to reduce the break points. Otherwise, Westport will be resting on her laurels– before too long.

    • Enough Already

      This isn’t private school. You want smaller classes go to private school and stop expecting the 65% of Westport households who don’t have kids in the school system to foot the bill for your every whim.

      • Public school advocate.

        Oh my goodness… then why don’t you go live somewhere where the school system is not the pride and joy of the town. There are plenty of communities that have other priorities. I believe in public education– and I think most people would like smaller class sizes– its a matter of prioritization and trade-offs.

        • Enough Already

          Class size is not the be all and end all. Private schools offer the small class size but scarcely little else. Westport offers great breadth and depth. That is the tradeoff. If you only care about class size, go to private school. You can’t have it all especially on the taxpayers dime.

          • Public school advocate.

            If you don’t have kids in the school system– then how do you know what is happening for these kids. Kids in younger grades learn in uneven ways– some struggle. Yes, Westport has great depth and breadth– but even with these great classes– kids need to “learn” the skills, the curriculum. Kids have different learning styles, mature at different rates, and that is why differentiated instruction is also a key aspect of good teaching. With large classes, teachers can’t do justice to the curriculum. It becomes didactic instruction. Kids who don’t absorb new concepts right away, get missed or fall through the cracks. Its not only the parents who wants smaller classes, its the teachers too. They are overwhelmed and can’t do their very best.

            • Been there, done that

              Keep drinking the Kool Aid. Your kid’s chances of getting in Harvard are not increased by spending more money here. The vast majority of Staples kids go to 2nd or 3rd tier schools (68 last year went 1st tier). Not bad but not anywhere near the privates.

              • Public school advocate.

                Funny– I’m not thinking of Harvard.– I’m thinking of elementary school and want my kids to have a good foundation of reading, writing, math. I want them to love going to school–. If this foundation is not in place– the rest is irrelevant.

                • Been there, done that

                  You are probably a minority then cuz many parents are already talking Division 1 athetic ride or Ivy League in this town when the kid enters first grade. High expectations lead to disappointment. You love them and pray (and pay your taxes).

  8. The operating budget identifies 269.05 of a total of 882.76 employees as Teachers-Regular Education. Others may be certified, but they are not found in this classification. Moreover, it is a fact that the 80 highest paid employees are not classroom teachers. It is a fact also that the cost per student is increasing. It is a fact also that the expenditures are increasing while the school population is declining. Facts can be inconvenient.

    • Just a guess

      Not for you since you just ignore the ones you don’t like

    • Emma,
      The only “inconvenient” facts are the ones you choose to distort or ignore.

    • Someone who loves Westport

      A big Thank You Avi. I have to say that I am so pleased I crossed party lines to vote for you. I know everyone wants a great educational experience; its a win win on all fronts.

  9. Good luck on getting smaller classes. BOE follows Landon.

  10. A person who loves Westport

    Yes– and Landon, I think would be the first to advocate for reduced class sizes. This is a battle for power–and control over the budget. This is not about the best way for children to thrive academically.

    • Landon is worried about keeping his huge paycheck and bloated administration. Class size is far down his list.

  11. A concerned Dad

    We need smaller class sizes not larger ones which are being projected for three of the elementary schools 3rd and 4th grades next year. This is taking us in the wrong direction.

  12. The Dude Abides

    So I guess it is about 20,000$ a kid, Emma?????

  13. Just a guess

    Ok- your “Regular Ed” fixation vs. total Certified Staff of 543 is a distinction without a difference. Your number proves nothing except that you have no idea what goes on in a school, what students learn or how they are taught.

    • Just a guess

      Posted in the wrong spot. The number, my fact-loving friend, is $17,416.

      • No it is not. That number is just for the operating budget. If you include capital consumption the number is closer to $20,000. You drank too much of the Kool Aid.

        • Just a guess

          What is the number. “Closer” to $20,0000 is an opinion, not a fact.

          • When the BOE gives us their depreciation schedule we will know exactly. Why do you suppose they don’t publish it

  14. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Westport ranked 4th last in cost per pupil… But ironically Weston was number 1. The interesting thing the towns ahead of us are neighbors with populations much smaller.. Maybe Greenwich was the exception…

    • Been there, done that

      But the rate of Ivy League acceptances has not increased per increase in money spent. You are not looking at the results of such investments but instead rely on mere premise and some quasi-political evaluating team to judge if your dollar spent is gaining a return in a better student. I think it is a scam of mass proportions. Your kid is better off at Choate or Exeter for the bucks.

      • Richard Lawrence Stein

        I’ll bet you more kids get into top tier schools from Staples then all the top privater schools…..if you could actually balance out the number so that they are on par….. a private school graduates 60 to 150 per class….while Staples graduates well over 350….

        • You haven’t a clue. Next time do some research.

          • Richard Lawrence Stein

            Emma you put up a worthless link for Choate… Checked it out and it said nothing… I know too many who went to private school and it was thanks for the money… Not brighter just richer…

            • You are a bit confused; “college matriculation” and the list will appear. Same cite, try and catch up. The site is worthless if you are not competent.

              • Richard Lawrence Stein

                Sorry Emma went to the site again typed all sorts of search words but nothing came up… I am very competent and very able on computers… But you make my point of picking a Private school that has less than half the kids… And three times the price I want parity. You don’t have it…

        • Been there, done that

          I believe 434 graduated, class of 2011 Staples and 68 went Tier One (defined by US NEWS & World Report). Most private schools including Fairfield Prep exceed that percentage.

          • Richard Lawrence Stein

            There is no parity… You choose percentage as the basis… The pool is larger… If you have some formula to have all things equal… Like cost per pupil and things offered and a few other things… Not even close…

          • Don't Know Where You've Been

            Last year’s Staples High School class went to wonderful schools and universities. Read about it in Staples High School’s award winning newspaper:

            • That is a very impressive list.

            • Been there, done that

              Majority of 2nd/3rd tier schools as I indicated. “Wonderful” is not defined in US News & World Report’s Top 50 colleges.

              • Don't Know Where You've Been

                No, the US News & World Report doesn’t define “wonderful,” but students can. Only a fool would allow a magazine’s ranking system to define what a good college is or isn’t. But let’s indulge you for a moment more. You get an “F” by any standard. You falsely state that only 68 out of 434 graduates went to Tier 1 schools. Look at the list and compare it to your magazine’s list of top National Universities and top Liberal Arts Colleges:
                Do the right thing and post a correction — it’s the right thing to do.

                • Been There, Done That

                  Hell, I stand by my supposition. The vast majority of Staples graduates do NOT go to Ivies or Tier One schools (which US World Report defines as the top 50 colleges/universities in America). It has been that way for fifty years and continues to be that way. Morons like you continue to argue the point that Staples is special and is just not. It is a very good public school that produces mostly average white kids. And how do I know Inklings is reliable??? Half of the kids may be bullshitting to get laid. Right thing to do? Grow up. Go to Afganistan and tell me what is right and wrong.

                  • I don’t think “I’m going to Amherst” is the key to getting laid these days.

                  • Don't Know Where You've Been

                    Faced with the facts, your response: calling me a moron and claiming the kids at Staples are liars. They’re not, but apparently you can’t handle the truth.

                    • Been there, Done that

                      The truth is as I said it: the majority of Staples graduates do not go to Tier One schools. You called me a fool and disputed a reputable magazine that has documented college evaluations for decades. You started the name calling and can dish it out but can’t take it back. I note you didn’t go near the military option, yet quote Nichelson in a Marine movie. All mouth. Much like Staples.

                • As Steve Jobs said: Stay hungry and foolish.

                  • Been there, Done that

                    As he said to a Tier One (Stanford) graduating class.

                    • Just a guess

                      Having himself dropped out of college after one semester

                    • Been there, Done that

                      You make a valid point “Just a Guess.” Jobs and Gates are perfect examples of the lack of need for college. I wish more parents would realize that college is not an end all. Jeez, an undergraduate degree is hardly enough anymore. But millions keep pouring money into education when there all many other opportunities to learn and prosper.

                    • Zuckerberg did not graduate from college either, but he he did graduate from Exeter.

                    • Been there, done that

                      And interesting sidenote, Gates walked into his 8th grade Science class and there sat a main frame computer. Chances, 1 in a million in the 80’s. Then when he dropped out of Harvard, he gained late night access to the University of Washington’s computers to hack away all night. Ambitious but took advantage of his opportunities with a little big of luck.

      • Don't Want To Go There

        Choate? Choate offers a great education to those few students lucky enough to gain admission. Unlike a public school, Choate admits only one in four applicants. The price: day tuition for 2012-2013 is $37,840 per year. Even if Choate could accommodate the diverse needs of students in a public school (which it can’t) and even if Choate could take in Westport’s 5,770 students (which it can’t), the cost would be over $218 million per year. Don’t worry — Choate can’t handle it. Thankfully the Town of Westport can, at less than half the price!

        • Been there, done that

          Half the price but odds are that they will go Tier 2 or 3 colleges with a 25% dropout rate. Your chances are better for Ivy if you move to Harlem and your kid is valectorian. Nothing wrong with medocrity but for 20 grand, it is a scam.

          • Richard Lawrence Stein

            I never said anything about Ivy I said top tier that is all encompassing… I know very few kids who have dropped out of school over a 25 plus year span who graduated. That is a pretty dramatic number if true….

            • The Dude Abides

              The drop out rate in the FIRST YEAR is 25% nationwide, RLS. I have no dog in this fight for I believe that the Westport schools are great. I do have a problem with the chest pounding ego-driven parents who think because they pay 80% of their taxes to schooling that it is some kind of special place. That drives expectations and tremendous pressure on kids that, in most cases, are just average good young adults.

              • Richard Lawrence Stein

                National average is another story and not a surprisingone. And I agree about over zealous and over involved parents. Happy and healthy kids who are well adjusted and kind and respectfulis what I hope for.

                • The Dude Abides

                  Plenty of my 98.6% college directed class ended up in Vietnam two years after graduation including me. Too many options these days and transition here may not be as difficult. Your wife probably has a better insight into the pressures of the average Wrecker but I would bet they aplenty.

              • Just a guess

                Another interesting statistic is what percent of high school graduates actually earn a degree within six years of their graduation. Latest data from the CT Board of Regents is for the Class of 2004- 71% of Staples graduates from the Class of 2004 have earned a degree within six years. Ridgefield and Weston are slightly higher at 73% and 72%, respectively. State average is an abysmal 41%.

  15. Richard Lawrence Stein

    It’s not worth having a discussion with Emma she does not answer questions And just promotes her negative agenda of dissatisfaction of the administration… She rants about her perspective and chooses not to have discussion

  16. I am thrilled that the class size issue is back on the table. Classes of 24 2nd and 3rd graders are not conducive to learning. Small classes and great teachers make a stellar educational system. We have the former, now we need the latter.

  17. A westport parent

    Can anyone make the argument why large class sizes are good for children in elementary school? It seems in some grades- across at least 3 elementary schools in Westport there are 24/25 kids in a grade. Ask any parent, from any income group what this is like for their child’s learning experience. Historically, Westport has been known for low teacher to student ratio. As the economy and other variables changed– many kids left the school system and this reduced the # of classes per grade from 4 to 3 in some of the grades/schools. This is a big change–and not optimal. In fact, it changed the school experience for most children in these large classes. If it is possible, then parents want 4 classes per grade. Not 3. If some kids in Westport are able to have 20/22 kids in a class at the elementary level because kids did not leave their school or grade- then why should others suffer and not have the same opportunity? Budget wise- This could mean 3 more teachers. Yes, its a cost. and with creativity and prioritization, it is possible.

  18. It’s all just cheap publicity for a Bd of Ed that isn’t very impressive.

    • Well there is an election in 2013 I’m sure you will run for BOE and fix all that.

    • Public School advocate.

      Avi and Donald and Tom: Thank you for giving us hope.. I know many parents who are quite worried about class size and feel helpless to know what to do. People want to be constructive and not vent and complain. Perhaps you could “educate” us as to what factors determine the break point, and what we can do to help you.

  19. I’ve just read these comments covering many subjects across the Ed spectrum. Don O’Day (who happens to be in a different political party, so this is not politically driven) is a man of his word and a wonderful advocate for our school system. If he says he’ll re-examine the class break-point issue, we know he will. I thank Tom Lasersohn on my board for bringing this up – ok, that was politically driven! 🙂

    This Board of Finance is a major supporter of the school system as well as our other town treasures. We kept the submitted higher budget for Parks & Rec, for example, allowing the department to enhance its service offerings to town residents this year. We also invested in catching up on road paving which we had slowed down during the recession. It’s a matter of prioritization.

    The budgets submitted this year by both the Board of Ed and by Gordon Joseloff were already vetted out and made leaner before they even came to us for a formal vote. For example, the Board of Ed was able to reduce Health Insurance costs by $700,000 before the budget was voted upon by the Board of Finance.

    I am also personally an advocate of benchmarks. Our school system is within the financial benchmark range of neighboring communities. Combining costs that are in-line with others, with great teachers and manageable class sizes, is a win-win for all. Even if you do not have children in the school system, the school system’s reputation directly drives up all of our property values as Westport remains extremely desirable for new entrants.

    Avi Kaner
    Chairman, Board of Finance

    • Staples Mom


      Examining the break points at the elementary level is an admirable start, but the Board of Education needs to look at class sizes at all levels. I believe that Mr Lasersohn has only elementary-age children, so I understand that his comments were directed at that level. As the parent of a high school student, I’m sure you know that many high school classes have close to 30 students, well beyond what is acceptable at that level. Class sizes that large inhibit the ability of teachers to conference with students and differentiate instruction. I hope that the Board of Education, if they decide to look at the elementary break points, will look at class sizes at the high school and the way that class size at that level has crept up over the last few years. Larger class sizes at the secondary level may not have been the product of a Board of Education discussion but they are a reality that affect our children every day. Larger class sizes need to be addressed at all levels.

  20. A new neighbor...

    You know what they say… no good deed goes unpunished. Westport did such a good job with their educational system, that everyone wants to send their kids here. yeah!! but now, we are busting at the seems in certain grades– The Board of Ed needs to adapt, and respond accordingly.

  21. Westport parent

    It was my understanding that when the break points were raised a couple of years ago (during a much more challenging budget environment) that the move was meant to be temporary. It’s time to revisit those breaks.

  22. It is not about what college your kid gets into; it’s about fostering a lifelong love of learning, a vibrant curiosity about the world, and the ability to think critically about issues. And the Westport School System does this, with dedication and enthusiasm.