Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
The Ed Board and the budget

The Reader's Forum
Journal Inquirer
April 27, 2007

By Cathy Rebai

I had the opportunity to attend the annual town meeting in Vernon. I heard much that I would have expected to hear and some things that were very disturbing to me.

I can understand why people are concerned with the tax effects of the revaluation and the rising costs of living in their homes. What I was upset to hear were the inaccuracies and uninformed solutions proposed by a gentleman during his comments.

The Vernon Board of Education has been holding salary increases to a minimum by negotiating in good faith and, in some instances, going to arbitration. Our health insurance has been sent for new bids that have resulted in significant cost savings to the town. We have initiated a Medicaid reimbursement program that has returned more than $300,000 to the town over the past few years.

As a Board of Education, we are committed to providing a quality educational program for all of Vernon's students and are constantly looking for cost-saving initiatives.

The suggestion to hire teachers as long-term substitutes to save on benefit costs is just plain ridiculous. No teacher of quality is going to work in a district where there are no benefits.

Do we hire long-term substitute public works staff or police?

Once again I heard about not offering "college" courses at the high school. I assume this reference was to the advanced-placement classes that students at our high school are taking for the challenge of advanced study and possible college credit. Those students are stretching their minds and ability levels. Why would we, as a district, not offer this opportunity to our students, as in any other community? If they weren't in the advanced class they would be in another class. No cost savings there.

It was also mentioned that there is no teacher shortage, so we should be able to hire all of our teachers at the lowest level in the pay scale.

The reality is that we just advertised for a high school math teacher and received one interested candidate. There are teacher shortages in many areas, most of which are at the high-school and middle-school levels. This is a reality. Go to the Connecticut Department of Education Web site for verification.

The budget referendum is Tuesday, May 1. I encourage all citizens to exercise their right to vote. Be an informed voter. If you have any questions, call your mayor, council members, or board of education members and get the answers.

The writer is the chairwoman of the Vernon Board of Education.

©Journal Inquirer 2007