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Our perspective on the Norwalk education budget and Kydes amendment

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Every February, like clockwork, our City budgets meet in the Thunderdome in what regularly feels like a “battle for the soul” of Norwalk. The yearly ritual is ripe with build-up, posturing, editorializing, and ultimately a spreadsheet circus climaxing in the bowels of the Common Council. This piece is not designed to rehash any of that. The archaic and convoluted process by which we determine how to fund our children’s educational welfare, laced with equal parts distrust and skepticism, political charades and groupthink, seems as old and cyclical as time. And this is coming from two Norwalkers who have both lived here only under a decade. Even us relative newbies are exhausted.

It’s important we preface by noting we are both Democrats. But, we are not boilerplate party infantry. We, like many of our fellow citizens, demand a system rooted in logic, rational forethought, and transparent data. While we believe that politics will always be a dirty business, we also believe that everyone, regardless of party or creed, must be rowing in the same direction: to improve the lives of the constituents they represent. The ideas and priorities may be different, but the integrity and values by which they are devised cannot.

People of any party faction can violate these terms, and when it comes from our own party, we feel there is no choice but to call it out. We are doing so now:

The Kydes amendment, introduced in this past week’s Common Council operating budget vote, was a violation of the terms we expect in our representatives of Norwalk.

We are not naive, or immune ourselves, to the challenges of this past year. We both have known peers, friends, or family who have died or gotten tremendously sick. One of us lost their job. The other has a spouse working on the frontline. Both of us have had to help people we love dearly through tremendous hardship exasperated by the events of the last 12 months. And we understand that all of this translates into impossible choices – unique to this year – on the part of the city. Whether it be social programs, hiring and benefits, City services, community welfare, or any other line item a City must assemble to consider the working mechanics of a 90,000-person city, difficult decisions abound.

The budget presented by the Superintendent and Board of Education was, without political spin, lean. In fact, considering the influx of students and the physical, emotional, and financial challenges of the past year, coupled with the services our education system provides as a critical component for the welfare of our city, it was skeletal. Outside of immutable expenses, it included a 15% reduction in professional and technical services, a 6% reduction in other services, and a 2.4% reduction in supplies and materials. It included a significant cut (60%) and reorganization of supplemental funds for magnet schools. It included a continuation of cuts on SPED spending; choosing to hire internally to keep costs controlled versus expensive outsourcing. Later, in the interest of transparency and before a formal vote was heard, it was cut further: accommodating new data from the state on insurance costs. While some felt a 4.6% budget increase from last year was a windfall for BOE, it represented an adjustment of the cost of simply doing the business of education.

The City countered with a 2% increase; one that failed to see the forest through the trees, and its explanations regularly missed the context by which the numbers were devised. The City offer was entirely disproportionate with its own budget hike of 6%, triple that of education. Ultimately, of the 4.6% requested, 2.2% was required to cover the rise in health insurance costs for teachers, paraeducators, custodians, nurses and other critical staff, while the balance was to staff priority needs and meet contractual obligations to those same employees. It was to keep the business of education afloat in Norwalk, so the people teaching, protecting, and supporting our kids during the most difficult year education has experienced in four generations could simply work.

Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting, where the budget vote took place, invoked its usual budget season theatrics. Admittedly, we prefer the idealistic notion of mixed political opinions in a room; offering pragmatic ideas and constructive dialogue to add context and nuance to complicated topics. Sometimes this means robust investment, sometimes this means difficult cuts, but ultimately the lofty goal of government, however often unmet, is to make the most out of the citizens’ dollars. This meeting, like many others in government, lacked much of this aspiration and outcome, but that was not unexpected. This is what was:

Councilman Kydes introduced, without consultation with the Superintendent’s Office or Board of Education, an amendment cutting an additional $1 million from the City’s already short, and shortsighted, offer. After the initial shock and awe, apart from five Council members willing to at least hold to the original City offer (and a bold one Council member advocating detailed compromise), groupthink largely ensued and the rationale in the room was clear: it would be a prudent statement to the citizens that the Council was doing all it can to save Norwalk money. On the surface this seems to offer some merit; austerity in times of strife.

But, a quick glance past the headline of the moment reveals the reality. $1 million saves the average household in this city approximately $17. Seventeen dollars. Not a day, not a week, not a month: but for the year.

Councilman Kydes and the other nine Council members that voted for this amendment, ultimately leading to its passage, saved you maybe a meal or two at McDonald’s. It is a drop in the bucket in the City’s total budget; a meritless, negligible amount that feels very much like a political posture. Frankly, it’s one packaged perfectly for a campaign: a made-for-local-media slogan about tax cutting and saving the citizens from excessive BOE demands. It was remarked to these authors that those Council members who voted for its passage felt this was a “message that the Council was being fiscally responsible”. However, in our opinion, it’s a trite, one-sided message that came with a perfect round number; no itemized consideration of effects, no warning to the Board or Superintendent, no informed and considerate debate, and no tangible savings for our community. But, it does, in fact, come with a price.

The budget cut, now standing at approximately $6 million due to the additional passage of the Kydes amendment, presents our City’s education operations new and upsetting challenges. This reduction could go multiple ways. Do we cut almost $600 in per pupil spending, per student? Do we layoff at least 50 positions across the district, including salary and benefits? The latter bothers us in particular considering the throughline narrative of the Council meeting: preserving people’s livelihoods and jobs. These were both very predictable and very realistic potential consequences.

The Council argues that federal funds are coming, and they will provide a unique financial windfall the likes of which our district hasn’t seen. Except, even if/when our City receives some help, the law requires these funds be spent on yet to be determined COVID relief measures, and is wholly unrelated to the predetermined operating expenses of the BOE. In fact, it is not to be used as a supplement for local education funding at all. It’s meant to help issues we are still trying to figure out, still encountering and grappling with, and are financially unaccounted for.

This money may create temporary and necessary opportunities to help get our students’ livelihoods and learning potential back under them, to dig our kids out of academic, social, emotional, and mental holes no child should have had to bear, but it will not save permanent jobs.

We have great respect for the City’s administration and its investment over the last several years to make up for decades of lost opportunity. The Mayor and the Council should be unequivocally commended for that. But this is an annual chore, one where certain City officials are regularly revealed as surprised that adequate investing leads to better performance outcomes – an indubitable fact; ignorant to the reaches of a quality education system and the merits of the investment.

This is no ruse. It’s not just the academic metrics, or the property value benefits (that far outweigh the taxation), or the socialization opportunities. It’s more than the crime it prevents, the healthcare costs it saves, or the childcare it offers. It’s more than bridging economic and cultural divides, combating ignorance, or providing a launchpad to adulthood in whatever form a child’s imagination takes them. It’s a literal lifeline for our citizens.

Moreover this: it’s not always about getting all one side wants. Finances will never always work out exactly as planned. We don’t ignore that. But if we can’t compromise; if our City officials across sectors don’t start to trust one another and recognize all of the services our education system demands to meet even the very basic functions of family stability and security, and don’t remove political showmanship from the equation, then our city’s kids will suffer the ramifications. It is possible to lead empathetically for our kids, and not meekly for ourselves. And if some of those in charge cannot meet the basic requirements of the moment, then we, exhausted as we may be, will do what’s possible to find citizens willing to stand up for it, demand it, and run for office where just modest bravery is required.

 

Justin Matley & Sarah McIntee

Editor’s note: Sarah McIntee is a Chapman Hyperlocal Media Inc. Board member. She is expressing her personal opinion in this letter.

37 comments

John O'Neill February 27, 2021 at 9:22 am

I commend Justin and Sarah for a well written and well thought out piece. It made me look back at recent Norwalk Budget History and determine how we got to this point.
Over the past 10 years school enrollment is up approx. 6%, while school spending in up 43%. Inflation over that period of time is minimal. Why the problem with funding? Two major issues come to mind and neither one is the direct responsibility of the Common Council. So maybe we should stop pointing fingers in their direction. At least when it comes to school funding.
So what and who’s to blame for the perception (and possible reality) of underfunded schools while spending has increased so dramatically?
#1) Our Federal and State legislators (who were voted in by us) continue to pursue an open border policy on immigration. While that’s damn nice of them, they forgot to inform us that there are costs associated with that policy. In our case we need to sacrifice school quality to be that good neighbor. I’m not saying open borders are a bad thing. BUT, it’s also not a free lunch. Instead of pointing fingers at Kydes and Co., maybe we need to ask Jim Himes about that request from Harry Rilling 18 months ago during our last ELL crisis. Or maybe we could point to the crappy representation we have in Hartford. As a reminder those legislators seems to care more about New Haven than Norwalk. BUT, we keep voting those same people in. Why?
#2) Healthcare Costs — Let’s remember the same guy and political party who promised immigration reform as #1 priority in 2008 (still waiting) transformed our Health Care Industry and costs associated with it. While I’m not saying it was the wrong thing to do, again they forgot to tell us how much it was going to cost. As noted in Education Budget the steep rise in Health care costs. So let’s keep in mind all the benefits of Obamacare and not complain too much.
While fretting about the deterioration of your child’s education you’ll at least be able to feel good that you’re sacrificing for others.

Bryan Meek February 27, 2021 at 9:36 am

Thankfully Trump obliterated the Cadillac tax plan from Obamacare that would have cost the city another $3 million this year. Too bad he didn’t get to scrap it altogether. From a practitioners standpoint, single handedly the worst piece of legislation since the Dred Scott decision.

Bryan Meek February 27, 2021 at 9:56 am

And lets be clear about the cause here. We’re having this conversation because instead of furloughing workers like the private sector did during the lockdown, we paid them 100% plus raises for many who were not even working for months. $ millions could have been saved. And some of the lower scale workers actually would have made more money with the additional $600/week benefit.

The spin is that the Governors executive orders prevented this.

Hogwash. His executive orders have no bearing on matters of local staffing decisions. By that logic they’ve used, the early retirement packages offered were also illegal. And on that subject, why is a 6% increase in city side spending when all the early retirements written off of last years books were supposed to save us money?

And for the last time, we’re talking about a million here and a million there ignoring that a new NHS, besides its 9 figure price tag, will take about $20 million a year to operate by my math.

Justin Matley February 27, 2021 at 10:03 am

Thanks John. In the end, we chose to focus our concern on the amendment itself, and not only for the financial game it played, but the message it sent. We do not blame the Council for historical woes. And we recognize the population issues, and are not remarking on immigration here. Of course, we do blame a state system, and city charter, of education funding that has put them in annual difficult situations, and we rightly commended them and the Mayor for their past efforts. But when you have a new superintendent doing her level best to be transparent and modest in her requests based on the unavoidable circumstances, you owe them at worst to hold a line, and in most circumstances, hopefully find room for compromise. Our ire was the extra step that was taken. That overstepped our line to remain silent.

John O'Neill February 27, 2021 at 12:41 pm

Justin: I truly understand where you’re coming from. My broader concerns are that certain policies/programs are not well thought out economically. AND the byproduct of those decisions cause unforeseen harm. The Norwalk High School plan is an example of that. It seems like a good idea until you realize the ripple effect to other issues. Crowding out financing for things like replacing broken toilets as an example.

Kydes does need to explain his reasoning a little better. When he speaks now he should tell us whether he’s speaking as Common Council Kydes or Mayoral Hopeful Kydes.
Regarding new Supt.doing her best to ask for modest requests – Maybe in some ways she is, BUT I wouldn’t call $ 7 Million for a Welcome Center modest.
The State Health Insurance “mirage” really ticks me off. We need to hold those who suckered Norwalk into that program accountable. We need transparency that INCLUDES names of those responsible. Someone somewhere should be fired…I’d like to have someone with enough guts and integrity to stand up and give us some answers.

Bobby Lamb February 27, 2021 at 3:56 pm

John – the health insurance is definitely something that needs more examination- but not because of the plan chosen. It went up 4%. Great? No. Outrageous? Also no. The issue here was the BOE’s funny accounting. They under budgeted insurance costs last year by paying for part of the insurance cost out of savings. This year the savings is gone. Of the 13% increase they are saying they got hit with only 4% is because of the health plan. This wasn’t a sudden shock of an unexpected health insurance increase – it was a PLANNED budget deficit. This is the type of game playing that demands a BOR audit before they get more money from tax payers. I will add though the Kydes transparent self serving amendment did nothing to address these issue – just gave him something to put on his campaign literature.

Justin Matley February 27, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Re: Super. The health insurance came in after the original request. That was noted with the original request: it was an estimate based on a consultants figures. Those numbers came in after the original filing, and the request was adjusted accordingly.

Also, the $7MM welcome center was a capital request, not operational, and it was quickly shelved. The basic premise of what the welcome center encompassed is absolutely needed, but agree there are maybe more cost effective ways of reaching a similar end game. In the end, it was no trickery of hers to include it.

ConcernedToo February 27, 2021 at 7:38 pm

John – when you say inflation was “negligible”, it still adds up, roughly 16% over 10 years. And another piece of this is, of course, health care costs. Health care costs have increased by 25% above inflation over the past 10 years.

Of course, the next step here is to blame Obamacare, but health costs rose slower in the 2010s than the 2000s. Either way, it’s something that Norwalk schools is not going to uniquely avoid – prices have gone up for everyone.

So you have 5% enrollment increase, 16% inflation, some unspecified number for health costs. And then, yes, special education reform and ell spending consuming the rest.

Regarding the state healthcare option… you seem to be saying that it was a bad choice to ever join the program, and I don’t think the data supports that claim. My understanding of it is as follows: the state healthcare option was chosen because for several years it was significantly cheaper than any other option – when chosen, it saved the district 3 million per year. So it seems that overall, choosing it saved money. The issue seems to be that the plan was losing money (because it was too good a deal – the plan lost 30 million 2 years ago) so they decided to raise premiums, so there’s a 4 million dollar increase this year, which means it’s now roughly in line with (and maybe slightly higher) than costs would have been under the old plan. Do you still believe that people should be fired for switching and saving us money for the 3 or 4 years when the plan was underpriced?

John ONeill February 27, 2021 at 11:53 pm

@Concerned Too and Insurance – Yes, people should be fired. The question is who. If Norwalk didn’t jump on state plan would they have negotiated different contracts with unions related to these benefits? Whether it was someone at the state level or someone who should’ve known better at the local level should be fired. Is it too much to ask someone (anyone) to tell us who screwed up ? Obviously someone did somewhere and they should be fired for either lying or sheer stupidty. If not for the sake of taxpayers how about for the sake of our kids?

Economics – My house is worth less than it was in 2010 yet I’m paying more in property taxes. I make the same amount but pay more in state taxes. So why are schools not performing better? There’s an inconsistentcy that doesn’t make sense…I don’t think it’s the teachers. I don’t think it’s the students. I may be naive and not too smart but if people (kids are people) are not challenged or held accountable they will fail. Net/Net – Voters are obviously not holding elected officials accountable. Our schools are not holding their students accountable. (BY the way a grade of 50 today is now what some of us used to consider a -0-..Kind of a grade version of increasing the minimum wage I guess)..This is a recipe for FAILURE. ..
Crap..I’m typing as I’m watching Meryl Streep-Tom Hanks movie. I’m babbling and have lost my train of thought…Bottom Line, we can and need to do better…

ConcernedToo February 28, 2021 at 12:44 am

John, to me you haven’t established that there was actually a mistake here. Switching to the state plan saved money compared to previous plans. So we got a bargain for three years. Now it’s not a bargain anymore so there is a big increase, but really only to a level that appears roughly in line with the previous plan costs.

I guess your argument is that the cheaper plan led to a more generous teacher contract. Do you have any basis for that claim or are you guessing?

Bryan Meek February 28, 2021 at 9:49 am

@JO. When we went on the state plan we all knew it was going to snake bite us some day. It was a Scylla and Charybdis moment. Either state 2.0 or fire about 50 staff…an elementary school buildings worth while Sanctuary Harry was packing our schools to the bursting point. Anyone with a head on their shoulders knows that anything this state manages fiscally is headed for disaster and the arbitrary price hikes on Fairfield county are lock step with their plans to kill the golden goose. Norwalk, not being Greenwhich, just manages to feel the point of the sword more so…. As for negotiating concessions with the union we did to the extent of our legal capabilities. We had to give them another year on their contract to make the switch. It’s the product of state laws that give public sector employees more protections than common citizenry. I don’t know how it has never been challenged as being discriminatory, but here we are. Until this state does away with the holy grail of binding arbitration of collective bargaining efforts of strictly public sector employees the state is destined for insolvency. I wish I could say it will improve, but our fate seems pretty much sealed here. Some are more equal than others.

Bryan Meek February 28, 2021 at 9:54 am

@Concerned. There is no government action since Dred Scott that is worse than Obamacare. There isn’t one provision in the tax code that goes 60 to 0 mph on a change in income of $1. Your $25k policy will cost you nothing at 399.99% of the poverty level, but it will cost you $25k if your income is at 400.1% of poverty level based on current years income that no one can predict. It is a deliberate attack on small businesses and only appears to have lowered costs if you simply ignore the $500 billion stolen from Medicare to fund it. Also it usurped the Student Loan industry, which has God knows what to do with healthcare, which now under the control of Government has average rates at 8% from the private sectors 4%. I could go on and on, but anyone who thinks its a good plan obviously isn’t paying for any of it.

Sue Haynie March 1, 2021 at 6:57 am

Kudos to Justin and Sarah McIntree for a thoughtful argument, however, I agree more with John O’Neill’s comments at the top of this post. Norwalk PS carries the weight of the educational and societal choices that Hartford has made…and Norwalk taxpayers can’t afford them.

Also, the argument that shaving off $1M saves the average taxpayer only $17/year (so why complain) is an old one. It’s an argument that fails to acknowledge that the property tax burden is made up of millions of dollars of examples of add-ons only costing $1’s/year but, when added up, leave homeowners holding a bag of onerous property taxes.

Norwalk Native March 1, 2021 at 7:01 am

@Sarah McIntee,

I bought my Norwalk home in 2004 and it is also worth less than what I paid for it 17 years ago. This narrative that larger and larger NPS budgets increase property values is simply FALSE when it comes to Norwalk. It has actually had the OPPOSITE effect. Spending more and more money does not equal good schools…as can be seen from Norwalk’s perrenial rankings in the basement of CTs school systems. All it serves to accomplish is to attract more ELLs that segregate the school system further. These budget increases are about feeding the Educational Industrial Complex and keeping the Unions happy; nothing more. Please stop saying that more money thrown at NPS benefits property owners in any way.

.

Sarah Waters March 1, 2021 at 9:23 am

What can I say except that based on these antics, I will not consider Kydes. Can’t support him, can’t vote for him. There are others on the Council implicated in this as well. Clearly they aren’t looking for my type of vote.

Concerned Taxpayer March 1, 2021 at 11:21 am

This is misleading. This wasn’t about $17 dollars each. Please be honest with your fellow residents, the average tax increase this year already was +$330 overall for the Districts. That was said at that meeting and previous meetings by Mr. Dachowitz. So that $17 is +/- that average depending on each of the amendments proposed in that meeting. This double talk and comparing it to a Happy Meal is the same double talk as saying the Council “cuts” spending each year when hasn’t happened over the past 8+ years.

If you want to talk about political showmanship…why has the BOE has dragged its feet and delayed an audit/study their previous Super agreed to over a year ago. That is what is concerning. I for one am VERY happy the Council said this on record and smartened up and asked for special appropriations. They now have to be more detailed with what / how the money is being spent vs handing a check and not knowing where it goes. You wouldn’t do this with your own family / friends so why is it ok when it’s taxpayer money or is that to be overlooked because it’s easier to say it’s for the children/education.

Justin Matley March 1, 2021 at 2:43 pm

@Concerned.
Couple points. Number one, while context was offered related to the overall budget, the op-ed, and subsequent Happy Meals comparison, was related to the Kydes amendment itself. You’ll note, we went to great lengths to acknowledge the overall challenges of the budget picture.

As for the BOE efficiency study, it was held up by the city; not the BOE. The RFPs were stalled to, quote: “get the new superintendent up to speed”. There was a question as to why the city was not being an equal partner in the study (the BOE can’t be looked at if not in the context of the full budget picture, as I think many people readily acknowledge), but this seems to have been resolved on some level and the contractor to run the study is down to 2, due to start this Spring.

The largest justification for the cuts was in fact, not that the BOE was being dishonest in their request and requirements to meet their obligations. It was acknowledged that that was largely resolved. The cover was passed over to the CARES Act funding, which Norwalk should receive. However, it was glossed over/missed that this money, by law, cannot account for preset operational costs. ie. It can’t do what the CC said it should. This money is for, as the article states, yet to be determined costs related to getting kids up to speed as a result of COVID. Things like supplemental learning environments and tools, wider summer school, and the temporary staffing and obligations those things require.

Lastly, a couple folks quoted out of context numbers relating to the success of Norwalk schools. Everyone should know by now that our schools have performed, in fact, quite well over the last several years when you break down the categories finitely. These arbitrary numbers assigned to entire districts wholly miss the still-very-real challenges of demographic issues. Issues that we, of course, still need to work to equalize through many of the programs Norwalk offers. As Brian noted above, Norwalk and cities with similar challenges have certain items exposed as a result. However, with those challenges, also come the blessings of diversity and inclusion – which have their own value.

Justin Matley March 1, 2021 at 2:50 pm

In general, I think that people expected Sarah and I to write an encyclopedia detailing the very complex, and very real, wider issues that this city and state face; whether as a result of, or helped/exacerbated by, politics. We acknowledge those as real and pervasive, and it’s not as cut and dry as saying it’s one person’s fault or another’s. People will pick their bunkers. What is cut and dry, to our eyes and ears, was the specific nature of the Kydes amendment; not only what it does or doesn’t do practically, but moreover, how it came about and the message it sends to people (Democrats, Republicans, and Independents/Unaffiliated alike) about rational decision-making, and ultimately how our lawmakers sometimes unfortunately view and speak about complex matters like education.

Sarah McIntee March 1, 2021 at 3:33 pm

@noralknative

While I disagree with your assertion that good schools have no positive impact on property value, that was not the intended purpose of the Op-Ed. And in fact, was not what was argued. What this piece was intended to address was the impact of the Kydes Amendment and what it means practically for the residents of Norwalk, CT.

Norwalk Native March 1, 2021 at 6:36 pm

@ SarahMcIntee

I did not say that good schools have no positive impact on property values. I said that throwing money into the insatiable bottomless pit of NPS has no positive impact. This is because the Norwalk school system is a net negative for the City, as those who would buy a house and increase property values here choose to move elsewhere if they have school-aged children. Those moving in with children are primarily renters; many of them living in illegal apartment situations.

Justin Matley March 1, 2021 at 8:53 pm

@Norwalk Native

Your comments are incredibly generic. To be clear, both Sarah and I have school aged children in NPS and can both afford to move elsewhere if we chose. We place tremendous value in the diversity and mixed cultural offerings our city presents, in addition to having faith in our schools. Could this change in coming years? Absolutely. But we are choosing to be here.

Mark Caldwell March 1, 2021 at 9:00 pm

I’m not sure if I understood Mr. O’Neill’s comment on grades. Are all students being given a grade of 50 regardless of how much work they did? If so, where’s is the accountability? Where’s the motivation to work hard and succeed?

Claire Schoen March 1, 2021 at 9:52 pm

@NorwalkNative – you bought your house in the middle of a huge housing bubble that burst shortly thereafter. Like you, our house is worth less than when we bought it in 2005, but I’m not holding NPS accountable.

John ONeill March 2, 2021 at 5:23 am

@Mark — I have it under good authority that an edict has been handed down. NO GRADE LESS THAN A 50 CAN BE GIVEN TO A STUDENT. Yes, your read that right. A grade less than 50 automatically becomes a 50. If a child does absolutely nothing they get a 50. As ridiculous as that sounds I understand that comes from the top. The equivalent of a minimum wage I guess. Not sure that helps the student on a lot of levels. It certainly won’t help next year’s teacher. It baffles me that Mary Yordon and Union is ok with this. Come to think of it, it shocks me that parents would be ok with this. If the educator thinks they are helping the child they are mistaken and should be fired.

Hold on I just heard something in the distance…One second the sound is getting louder….It’s a wave of lawsuits from uneducated disgruntled young adults wondering how they were promoted without being educated.

SAD & SCARY

Sarah McIntee March 2, 2021 at 7:28 am

@norwalk native

I’m admittedly more than a little perplexed by the suggestion that children of renters somehow deserve a substandard education. What exactly is it about them that makes them worthy of less? I think I know the answer but curious if anyone would actually say it out loud. While your house may be less than what it was once valued at due to the housing bubble and 2008 recession, we still live in a high cost of living area making affordable housing hard to come by. Some people have to rent. I also disagree that it is a net negative to invest in NPS or any public school for that matter and I think the parents that you would speak to who actually have children in the school would also disagree. But I am sorry you have such a negative impression of the city you live in and call home.

John O'Neill March 2, 2021 at 2:25 pm

@Sarah and Justin — I totally agree with what you guys are saying in concept. But as noted above by Justin (I think) – This is a complex process. I agree taxpayers (including those that pay rent) deserve a first rate education. My biggest concerns are
1) Where’s the money going
2) Can we be more efficient logistically
3) The travesty of minimum grades/health benefit fiasco/teachers being evaluated as social workers needs to be dealt with. Also, how in the hell can NPS not find the resources to fix the freaking bathrooms? That is bizarre.
Many of us would be happy to ante up to support the schools, but there are many of us (me included) who think the direction of school culture is misguided.

Overwhelmed March 2, 2021 at 6:30 pm

Teachers fought not to have the 50% min at my school. We were overruled from on high. We were told it was only for first quarter final grade to give students some grace as they adjust to the new year. Unfortunately we were told to do it again for second quarter final grade. It’s very frustrating.

Curious Resident March 2, 2021 at 10:52 pm

What is the present value of total interest expense for the new high school and when does it become a budget expense?

John ONeill March 3, 2021 at 8:23 am

@Overwhelmed – How in the world can anyone evaluate student’s progress (or lack of progress) if grades are inflated. That’s absurd. If I was cynical (I guess I am) I would say this is a cover up of failure. Shouldn’t that be investigated? The public is unaware of this. If a student gets a “54” does that grade get curved up to a 65 ? I would think that would be fair as that kid is at least trying (a little)…Do you think Board of Education is ok with this?

Bryan Meek March 3, 2021 at 3:23 pm

@Curious. We’re already paying debt service on the $50mm bond issue. @2% that’s $1mm per year for something that may or may not happen. Worst case is and my best guess is we spend $5mm total on plans that will never happen.

Concerned March 4, 2021 at 1:16 pm

@John ONeill Is there anything proving theres a 50 min grade? Documents? Links? This is concerning the public is unaware?

John O'Neill March 4, 2021 at 2:02 pm

@ Concerned: I can’t share documents but let’s just say I’d bet my life on my statement and I’ll swear on my Mother’s grave it is true. If you ask any teacher you know they will confirm that’s the practice. IN FACT, I can also offer out that grades teachers reported below 50 in the system were and are being changed by staff to the minimum. — I understand how condemning my comments are and stand by them.

Justin Matley March 4, 2021 at 7:51 pm

@John
I’m glad we found some room to agree on a few principles. That seems a good step here NoN, as you are a prolific poster.

As for the min 50 grade, not sure what that has to do with this piece, but I’m admittedly a sucker for my students (I teach two college classes) and avoid flat zeros (unless they don’t turn it in). Of course, I’m of the awkward Xennial generation where I’m becoming to sound like a curmudgeon to my students, but remain a naive child to our elders.

John ONeill March 5, 2021 at 4:42 pm

@Justin — Thanks (I think)…Somehow I think that Million bucks will find its way back to NPS..The reason I bring up the minimum grade is two reasons. (Forgot, it’s for middle schoolers and higher. If someone does NOT turn in work or test that vacuum becomes a 50)..I feel if I’m paying for something the Board of Education should be transparent about things like minimum grades or teachers expected to be social workers or quotas for discipline. So, if they ask for an extra 5% I know what I’m getting for my money.
Common Council Kydes would serve us and himself better investigating these things rather than making headlines as Campaigner Kydes by cutting a million bucks for no reason..

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