One of the memorable lines from the movie “Jerry McGuire” was “Show me the money!” It was funny when Cuba Gooding Jr. or Tom Cruise said it. It’s not as amusing when I have to say it. A recent headline stated that Governor Malloy proposed a significant increase in funding for public education in his biennial budget. However, I was most disappointed and repeating, “show me the money” when I read the details. The Governor’s biennial budget does propose an increase in funding for education of $50,756,719 for 2013-14 and an additional increase of $101,513,445 in 2014-2015. That rather substantial proposed increase in state funding allocates $32,444 for Ellington in 2013-2014 and an additional $59,184 in 2014-2015. “Show me the money!”
I believe that I, and the members of the Ellington Board of Education, support the broad educational goals that our Governor and Commissioner have for increasing student achievement across Connecticut. That support includes initiatives to fund the Alliance Districts and the Commissioner’s Network of Schools, as many of these are the poorest communities in our state. However, the relatively low increase in Educational Cost Sharing funding that is proposed for most municipalities is not adequate to allow school districts to continue to meet the educational needs of their students.
The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents has noted the adverse impact that inadequate funding from the State of Connecticut has had upon many school districts. Among the impact has been: postponed capital programs; deferred building and grounds maintenance and repair; postponed acquisition of new instructional technology; elimination or reduction of instructional offerings; and increased class size. An analysis by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents estimates that the Governor’s budget, as proposed, does not reverse these trends for 124 or 74% of the district’s across the state. As the district that continues to rank 166th out of 166 school districts in net per pupil expenditure, this continued underfunding from the State of Connecticut will certainly make it most difficult to maintain and/or expand our capacity to provide the necessary services and programs for the students of the Ellington Public Schools. I guess it’s time to write a few more letters!
on Monday February 25 at 03:54PM
Recently the Ellington Public Schools was honored with placement on the 3rd Annual AP District Honor Roll for simultaneously increasing access to Advanced Placement course work and the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP exams. The College Board states, “Achieving both of these goals is the ideal scenario for a district’s AP program because it indicates that the district is successfully identifying motivated, academically prepared students who are likely to benefit from rigorous AP work.”
This recognition is the result of the initiative, planning and commitment of our staff. Over a three-year period, eight new Advanced Placement courses were added to the curriculum at Ellington High School. In 2011 and 2012 AP Studio Art, AP Music Theory, AP Environmental Science, AP Psychology and AP Spanish Language were introduced. 2013 will see the addition of AP Seminar in English Language and Composition, AP Statistics, and AP Economics. Also in 2012, a University of Connecticut Early College Experience American Studies program was introduced which also provides college credit to our students.
Rigorous, engaging and personalized curriculum and instruction is essential to prepare our students for the both the challenges and the opportunities that await them. Congratulations and thank you to our staff members who earned this recognition.
on Thursday February 14 at 09:51AM
Have You Communicated with Your Legislators Recently
“It’s ten o’clock. Do you know where your children are tonight?” In my younger days I remember hearing that statement on a regular basis on a local television station. They may still do something like that today, although I do not recall hearing it for some time. Lately, a similar refrain continues to echo in my mind. It does not directly address anything specific about our youth, but it can be related to our children in so many ways. My question is, “Have you communicated with your legislators recently?”
I ask this question using a local, state and national perspective. What might any one of us wish to discuss with our elected representatives? A great place to start might be sharing your ideas, recommendations and concerns regarding school safety. I believe that the issue of school safety should not be discussed solely in the context of preventative measures, but should include the broader and important arena of school climate. I would hope that discussions with elected officials might encompass the roles and responsibilities of a community, a state and a nation with respect to appropriate services in response to issues related to mental health. There are certainly strongly held beliefs among our citizens regarding the rights of gun ownership and serious concerns related to gun control legislation. Our elected officials deserve to hear your voice regardless of your positions on these issues.
If the above is not enough, you may wish to share your positions on the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, the national debt, immigration reform, health care, relations with Israel, Iran, Syria, etc. In addition to school safety, the upcoming state legislative session might address swim safety in schools, gun control legislation, financial aid to municipalities, and debt reduction as well as a host of other timely and important issues.
I know that many of you have suggestions and recommendations on quality of life issues impacting all citizens in Ellington. Members of local boards and agencies deserve to receive your input to inform their decision-making. Legislators often remark to me that they receive very little communication from most constituents. Also, communication after legislation has been approved is of minimal benefit. Success in a democracy is dependent upon the active participation of its citizenry. I guess that means I have something important to do. I need to send a few e-mails and I think I know which topic I will begin with.
on Tuesday January 8 at 02:48PM
I must admit I am so glad the election is over. I won’t have to listen to political advertisements for quite some time. Unfortunately, I have not totally escaped the advertisements as they still appear on episodes of digitally recorded shows from that time period. However, I now have an announcement.
On November 12, 2012, The College Board announced that the Ellington Public Schools have been selected for the 3rd Annual AP District Honor Roll. Ellington is being honored by The College Board for simultaneously increasing access to Advanced Placement coursework while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP Exams. At a recent Board of Education meeting, Board Chair Dan Keune commended Dr. Erin McGurk, Mr. Neil Rinaldi and all staff responsible for this important achievement.
Since 2008 the following new Advanced Placement courses have been introduced at Ellington High School:
AP Studio Art Mrs. Wendy Ciarci
AP Music Theory Mr. Richard Diamond
AP Environmental Science Mrs. Francine Zampini
AP Psychology Mr. Ken Gardiner
AP Spanish Language Mrs. Sheron McCallum
Next year we are introducing:
AP Economics Mrs. Lindsay McGinn
AP Statistics Ms. Janine Galvin
Finally, Ellington High School has also added the UCONN Early College Experience American Studies program instructed by Mrs. Georgia Robert and Mr. Sean Byrne.
The above represents significant opportunities for many students to participate in rigorous, meaningful, challenging and engaging learning experiences. In its recognition the College Board stated, “Expanding access to AP courses while improving performance is a difficult balancing act. Your commitment to providing equitable access to ALL students while improving your overall performance is to be commended.”
Echoing the praise offered by Mr. Keune, I offer kudos to all on this most significant achievement. – And I approve this message!
on Monday November 19, 2012 at 10:21AM
Last Saturday I opened a recent issue of Sports Illustrated and was quickly drawn to a most unusual photograph. The photo was entitled “RAMPLITUDE.” It featured a picture of a 20-year-old man, Aaron Fotheringham, doing a backflip on a ramp used by skateboarders and BMX riders. The fact that Aaron completed a backflip is not what caught my attention. The fact that he did it in a wheelchair is what really sparked my interest.
Apparently Aaron Fotheringham was born with spina bifida, a birth defect of the spinal cord that left him without the use of his legs. He is the third of six children, all adopted. The photo has a caption that states that he is the first person to do a double backflip in a wheelchair. I did some research on the internet and learned that Aaron never let what most of us would call a disability slow him down. He has been most successful and is also believed to be an inspiration to those without so-called disabilities.
Why did I choose to share this information? It is the beginning of another school year. What can we accomplish? What goals can we set and how hard can we work to attain those goals? How successful can one be if you refuse to let perceived obstacles prevent your progress? The most important determinant in your success is you! The caption stated that Aaron was the first person to complete a double backflip in a wheelchair. To me that implies there was probably a second and a third and so on. It’s a new school year. Ellington has more than 2,700 students with another opportunity to set, attain and surpass their goals. It’s “RAMPLITUDE” time – let's get to work.
on Thursday September 6, 2012 at 09:48AM
I recently sent an e-mail to the members of the Board of Education with the above title. Most members of the Board are familiar with my sense of humor and I am sure they immediately detected my sarcasm. Some may have even anticipated the content of my communication from the title. Although the title may have contained some humor, the content certainly did not.
Most citizens of Connecticut know that there are 169 towns and cities in the state. When analyzing school statistics by district/municipality that number becomes 166. I have never compared the lists to note the difference but all data is analyzed and presented by the Connecticut State Department of Education. All school districts in Connecticut are required to submit a multitude of annual data reports. One such report contains all financial data from the previous school year.
One major statistic that is reported annually is Net Current Expenditures per Pupil (NCEP). School districts contain many similarities, yet they can also be quite different. Districts differ in grade configuration, size and composition of student population, and urban/suburban/rural settings among others. Annually, financial statistics are compared across a variety of categories. The full report for 2010-2011 has yet to be released; however, the significant comparison of how much money each district spends per pupil it educates was published by the Connecticut State Department of Education in November.
The data provided by the Connecticut State Department of Education revealed that for the 2010-2011 school year (last year) the Ellington Public Schools ranked number 166 out of 166 in educational spending per pupil. That places the Ellington Public Schools last in per pupil spending in the state. It is fact that Ellington spends less than every other district in the State ofConnecticuton a per pupil basis. This data is readily available on the Connecticut State Department of Education’s website.
The town of Ellington is certainly not last in the state in terms of wealth. When using the Adjusted Equalized Net Grand List per Capita (AENGLC) Ellington ranks number 106 in town wealth. When using the Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula Ellington ranks number 120 in wealth. There are numerous statistics related to student achievement data. Across all measures of student achievement the Ellington Public Schools are consistently in the top twenty-five to thirty-five percent.
What does being last in per pupil spending look like when compared to other districts and its impact upon the entire budget? Data from 2010-2011 reveals that, if the Ellington Public Schools had the per pupil spending of the districts below, the entire budget would need to be increased as follows:
Tolland Add $ 999,908
Granby Add $ 3,925,463
Somers Add $ 4,799,009
Suffield Add $ 5,054,480
Coventry Add $ 6,048,894
Stafford Add $ 6,606,535
South Windsor Add $ 8,477,242
Vernon Add $ 8,732,713
Bolton Add $ 9,394,740
East Windsor Add $10,798,457
Let’s look at it by per pupil ranking. Instead of being number 166 if Ellington were:
160 Add $1,610,475
150 Add $3,234,575
140 Add $3,975,775
130 Add $4,866,850
120 Add $5,341,000
106 Add $8,147,750
I can continue to list numbers but the results would be redundant. In terms of spending per pupil, the Ellington Public Schools are certainly not number one. Upon reading the above I’d like to know your thoughts and reactions. Please do not misinterpret my intent in this communication. The Ellington Public Schools are a wonderful place for children to be educated. We are proud of the achievement of our students within the resources provided. However, the above should invoke an inquiry as to what services and programs would be available to the students in Ellington if we were not the lowest in the State of Connecticut in spending per pupil. That sounds like an appropriate topic for future contemplation in this space.
on Wednesday January 25, 2012 at 11:39AM
Every once in a while I scan the stations on my car radio to hear some “Oldies but Goodies”. Considering my age, I guess I have a lot of “Oldies” to choose from. Yesterday I drove home listening to Paul McCartney’s sad ballad “The Long and Winding Road”. Most of the important things we do are not of the “quick fix” variety but rather follow what often seems to be a very long and very winding road.
That is most true regarding the proposal to renovate and expand Crystal Lake School and to make some alterations to Windermere School. I have been told that the renovation of Crystal Lake School has been on the burner since 1992. In retrospect, there must have been an extended power outage, but if you listen carefully, I think you can finally hear the kettle start to whistle.
Members of the Board of Education, as well as members of other town boards and the community, have been engaged in analyzing enrollment and facility needs for the school district for a number of years. In December 2003 the Board of Education authorized the formation of a School Facilities Study Committee that met throughout 2004 and presented a formal report in March 2005. The Town of Ellington authorized obtaining cost estimates and conceptual drawings for projects at Crystal Lake School and Ellington Middle School in 2006. In June 2007 the Board of Education contracted with the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) to complete a Long-Range School Facilities Planning document. A final report was presented to the Ellington Board of Education in April 2008. Shortly thereafter, due to the global economic downturn, work related to district facility needs was suspended. I think the appropriate tune would have been “A Hard Days Night.” In 2010 the Board of Education created an Ad Hoc Facilities Committee and expanded its membership to include a representative of the Board of Finance, the Board of Selectmen and the PTO. In June 2010 the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee requested a more detailed analysis of proposed projects at both Ellington Middle School and Crystal Lake School. The results of that analysis were presented at a combined meeting of the Boards of Education, Selectmen and Finance on August 24, 2010. The analysis also reviewed the impact of the addition of the property at 59 South Road upon a project at Crystal Lake School.
At a special meeting of the Ellington Board of Education on August 10, 2011, Mr. Hugh Pearson of Moser/Pilon/Nelson Architects presented a conceptual drawing of a renovation and expansion project at Crystal Lake School with some alterations to Windermere School to accommodate the district’s special education pre-school program. On November 10, 2011 the Ellington Board of Education approved the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee. The Board of Education presented the proposed project at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen on November 28, 2011. Members of the Ellington Board of Finance and the Permanent Building Committee were also in attendance. I will provide more detailed information regarding the need for and the specifics of the project in future entries to this blog.
The Board of Education is hopeful that its request will be reviewed and approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen. These approvals should lead to a Town Meeting in late January 2012 with a referendum for consideration of the proposed project by the citizens of Ellington in mid-February.
The short synopsis provided above does certainly speak to a long and winding road, however, the beginning of the end may be in sight. The next time I scan for “oldies’ I think I’ll stick with The Beatles but change the tune to George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.”
on Monday December 19, 2011 at 04:03PM
I think it was Yogi Berra who said something to the effect, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” How many once in a lifetime events can you experience in a lifetime? How many once in a lifetime events can you experience in ten months?
Last winter we experienced relentless snowstorms that caused the collapse of numerous roofs and excessive demand for roof rakes. Everyone said, “This is a once in a lifetime event.” Last spring there were tornadoes in nearby Springfieldwhere a number of our staff live. Again, the wisdom was, “This is a once in a lifetime event.” This fall, hurricane Irene disrupted our lives and caused the cancellation of school before the school year began. A hurricane in the fall is not unusual. However, I was informed that delaying the start of school before school began was certainly “A once in a lifetime event.”
Let’s move to Storm “Alfred.” Needless to say, those in the know have declared our recent prolonged power outage to be – you guessed it- a once in a lifetime event.
As a result of repeated once in a lifetime events, the 2011-2012 calendar for the Ellington Public Schools has been revised. Let’s hope it is the only revision that is required for this school year. Three changes to the 2011-2012 school calendar were approved by the Ellington Board of Education at a special meeting on November 7, 2011.
First, classes were held on Friday, November 11, 2011. This was listed as a holiday on the original calendar. Tuesday, February 21, 2012 which was initially scheduled as a teacher in-service day, will now be an instructional day. Finally, the Board of Education established the student instructional year to be 180 days. As a result of these revisions, the student school year can conclude on Friday, June 15, 2012. The teacher school year may end on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Of course, that assumes no more cancellations.
Any additional school cancellations for students will be made up during the week of June 18 through 22. Any cancellations beyond five more days will be made up during the April vacation week. Let’s hope we don’t have to go there. A revised 2011-2012 school calendar has been posted on the district website.
I think it was also Yogi Berra who quipped, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” That’s not a pleasant thought. I should stop picking on Yogi. Remember he did say, “I didn’t really say everything I said.”
on Thursday November 17, 2011 at 04:12PM
“We’re gonna have a good time tonight...” I apologize for the spelling, but that’s how Kool and the Gang sang it back in the day. Have you ever found yourself looking for some alternate activities for family or personal entertainment? Are you tired of going home and spending the evening in front of your television or computer? There is a scene from the Bruce Willis movie “The Kid” where a young boy from the 1960s is in present day time scanning the cable or satellite channels. After an extended period of time working the remote control he dejectedly states, “Wow, two hundred and sixty channels and there is nothing to watch.” If you sometimes resemble that remark, here are a few suggestions for your consideration.
Let’s start with the Ellington High School Opening Knight Players. Everyone in Ellington knows that the productions by Bill Prenetta’s Opening Knight Players are always of the highest caliber and ticket prices are phenomenally low. OKP is in the midst of a most exciting year as they are planning a trip to Scotland. This year’s production calendar features:
November 3, 4 & 5 “AlmostMaine”
March 9, 10 & 11 “Beauty and the Beast”
May 11 & 12 OKP Senior Play
If you have a musical bent you might wish to consider some of the Ellington Public School winter concerts. Music teachers Tim Adams, Barbara-Anne Angelica, Sharon Bigge, John Cheman, Matt DeLassus, Richard Diamond and Stephanie Pruden will direct Ellington students in the following performances:
December 12 Crystal Lake/Center Grade Four Concert
December 13 EllingtonHigh SchoolBand Concert
December 15 Windermere Holiday Concert Grades 4, 5 & 6
December 19 Windermere Intermediate BandHolidayConcert
December 20 EllingtonMiddle SchoolBand Concert
December 22 EllingtonHigh SchoolChoral Concert
January 19 EllingtonMiddle SchoolChoral Concert
The month of December also features Winterfest on December 3, The Ellington Safe Graduation Committee Bus Trip to New York City on December 4 and Mr. EHS on December 9. There is so much going on that you might wish to consider canceling your cable television subscription forever.
If you enjoy athletics, I also have some recommendations for you. One of the best parts about high school athletics is that you don’t have to deal with labor strikes, lockouts and constantly changing conference alignments to access more television revenue. Our kids just go out and play – and they play very well. The fall sport programs are nearing the end of the regular season with tournament time on the horizon. Both high school soccer teams are headed to the tournament and you can access tournament schedule updates on the Ellington High School website. You might want to take in the Ellington v. Avon football game on November 12 or spend Thanksgiving morning at the Ellington football game at Coventry. The winter sports season will begin shortly after Thanksgiving with a full schedule of basketball and hockey.
The senior class is sponsoring a hypnotist show on November 18 and “Rise Above” is sponsoring a dodge ball tournament on November 5. On January 13 the students in the “Sharing Lives and Staging History” class will present a public performance of their work and on February 3 the high school is sponsoring a Haiti Benefit Concert.
The spring months will be packed with concerts and athletic events. May will feature the induction of the National Honor Society and the most important day of our school year, Graduation, will proudly culminate the year in June.
The danger of making any list, such as I have presented, is not in what has been presented but what has been left out. That is why there is always a back-up plan. The Ellington Public Schools website www.ellingtonpublicschools.org contains multiple calendars so that you won’t miss an important event, even if I have omitted it. You, and members of your family, don’t have to travel very far to have a most enjoyable experience. There are great kids doing wonderful things in our schools. I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate their talent and effort.
on Thursday October 27, 2011 at 05:06PM
My son and my daughter do not appreciate my taste in movies. Frankly, they would state that my choice of movies is lousy. One of my all time favorites is the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a troubled, suicidal businessman who gets the unique opportunity to see what life would have been like had he never been born. The closing scene makes a powerful statement about what is truly important in life as a toast is raised, “To my big brother George, the richest man in town.” Another favorite of mine is the high school basketball classic “Hoosiers” starring Gene Hackman. Actually, my kids do like “Hoosiers”. However, they think the fact I have probably seen the movie several hundred times is a tad over the top. They also think my habit of dropping a line from the movie into everyday conversation and expecting listeners to recognize its source and meaning can be annoying. “My team is on the floor.”
My family really parts company with me on “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones. My son emphatically states, "I don’t get it!” I often hear people quote its most famous line, “If you build it, they will come.” However, I would love the opportunity to use one of the last lines in the movie and just once more say, "Hey dad, do you want to have a catch?” I really get that part.
“If you build it, they will come.” In an earlier post, I spoke of what a truly unique community Ellington is. A most wonderful community has been built here, and as a result, they have come. Annually, October 1st is the official enrollment date for Connecticut public schools. During the past decade, enrollment in the Ellington Public Schools grew by twenty percent. Our most recent enrollment projections, provided by the New England School Development Council, predict an increase in enrollment in the Ellington Public Schools of another twenty percent over the upcoming decade. This continued increase in enrollment is not the norm in Connecticut or New England, but it is our reality here in Ellington. The Board of Education has monitored this increase and has consistently shared this data with the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance. Multiple committees have worked hard to plan for the future. The fact is – we are running out of classroom space. “If you build it, they will come.”
The Ad Hoc Facilities Committee of the Board of Education is developing a proposal to meet the space needs of the school district, over the next decade, in the most cost effective manner possible. A plan to renovate and expand Crystal Lake School, with some modifications at Windermere School, will create three kindergarten through grade six schools and will meet elementary classroom space needs for the next decade. It is expected that the Board of Education will approve a building project proposal in early November. A request will then be forwarded to the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance to schedule a referendum for public consideration. The Board of Education will host community forums to present the plan and to discuss the facilities needs of the district. In addition, the Board will provide tours of Crystal Lake School. The Board of Education looks forward to the opportunity to communicate with the citizens of Ellington its plans for the future of our students. They continue to come. It is time to build.
Returning to an earlier thought, I was told that some fairly nice weather is on the way. If you wish to have a truly spectacular weekend, I recommend going outside and using some variation of one of my favorites: “Hey dad, do you want to have a catch?”
on Wednesday October 19, 2011 at 04:17PM