To the editor:
As a parent of a 10-year-old, the PTO president of Cranbury Elementary School for the past two years, an executive board member for three years prior to that, and a consistent part time volunteer in our school library for five years, I am constantly disappointed by the lack of vision and support given by our leaders to the education of the children of Norwalk.
In 2011, when my son was in preschool, I was attending meetings to get our 58-year-old school the desperately needed renovations it was due. We were one of three schools up for renovation. Unfortunately, our request got bumped. We were told we would be next. Six years later we are still waiting.
I have attended dozens of budget meetings over the years as parents fought to be heard as devastating cuts were made to the education budget. I have sat through at least 60 general and executive committee PTO meetings (one meeting a month for 10 months over six years) at my school listening to frustrated parents, teachers and administrators vent, discuss, collaborate and brainstorm on how the PTO can help find solutions to our many problems because of the lack of financial support from the city. It is an ongoing discussion.
In the meantime, our school building has been slowly deteriorating. I have watched as light fixture covers dangle from the ceiling of the library because they are so old they cannot be replaced. There is not enough money in the budget to replace them so they have to be jimmy rigged to stay in place. I have watched as children (and adults) fall off the cafeteria table seats because they unexpectedly fold up if there are not enough people sitting on them at the same time. (These tables fold up into the wall to save space because Cranbury does not have a separate gym and cafeteria for its 450 students.) I have seen children and adults slip and fall walking into our building because we have received only one of the three entryway floor mats we requested several years ago (and were promised we would receive in November.) Our parking lot is a disaster, literally putting lives in jeopardy at drop off and pick up. Our repeated requests to have the parking lot flow changed in order to make it safer have been dismissed. What this says to me, as a parent and a taxpayer, is that city leaders would rather risk the chance of a child or staff member getting seriously injured rather than be proactive in fixing decades long problems in our school.
We cannot run Smartboards, fans and computers in classrooms at the same time because we blow circuits. In the past, I have watched as students get taught in closets and our specials teachers use portable carts to teach off of because we do not have enough classroom space to accommodate those needs. These are only a few of the issues we deal with on a daily basis at Cranbury School. I know that we are not alone.
The news that Bob Barron has removed the funding for the following items from the budget is DEVASTATING to our school district: funding for electrical upgrades studies at Cranbury and Fox Run; funding to renovate Jefferson School, funding to renovate Columbus as an IB school (after Columbus is moved to the Ely campus) and funding for the renovation of Rowayton School’s cafeteria. I am obviously disappointed that Cranbury School’s needs have once again been disregarded. (Even though my son is graduating and will never see any improvements at Cranbury.) But I am disgusted that the city is not renovating Jefferson School. How do you justify cramming 600 kids into a school built for 400? Clearly you have not stepped foot in one Norwalk school lately. You do not understand the gravity of the decisions you are making.
I know many people who are fed up and moving out of Norwalk. It is hard not to think twice about it when we see our $25,000 request for electrical systems work eliminated for a $500,000 outdoor cafe that benefits yet another private developer. Handouts for private developers is not what is going to make this city a desirable place to live while we continue to ignore the welfare of our children.
The leaders of Norwalk have made it clear over the years that our children’s education is not a priority. I am disappointed. I am frustrated. I am angry. It is deplorable. It is embarrassing. It is insulting.
I understand the decision to make these cuts is now in the hands of Mayor Rilling. If it is really about “what is best for the children”, prove it Mr. Mayor, and reconsider funding more of the Board of Ed’s budget and the needs of the children of Norwalk.