Farricker Demands School Board Take Responsibility with New Lebanon School

The following post was submitted on Sept. 21 by Frank Farricker, Democrat candidate for Greenwich First Selectman:

As a resident of Greenwich and a parent in the school system, I am shocked that the Board of Education has neither pursued financial savings with the New Lebanon School construction plan, nor the needs of the families in the Byram community.

Currently, the Board of Education will not proceed with “off-site” construction, which would save the Greenwich taxpayers more than $12 million, as well as significantly minimize the educational disruption to New Lebanon families.

It baffles me that the Republican leadership in Greenwich and their hand-picked School Board Chairman, Barbara O’Neill, would embrace a plan that would cost taxpayers at least more than $12 million in additional costs. The School Board is accountable to the community, not to itself alone. The School Board needs to be fiscally responsible, and it is shocking that it will not even consider this common sense approach to saving Greenwich needed funds.

Not only is the financial cost high, but the disruption that will affect the almost 300 New Lebanon students as they are shuttled to other schools or trailer modular classrooms is unacceptable. The School Board needs to do the right thing for the kids and their families at New Lebanon. That starts with responsibly and significantly reducing the amount of time they will be disrupted. Not doing so amounts to both educational and financial malpractice. This tax-saving and time-saving plan is virtually a no-brainer.

If the history of construction projects in Greenwich is any guide, we have a hard time being positive regarding school construction. Over the last eight years, each and every valuable project from Hamilton Avenue School, to the Public Safety Center, to MISA have experienced significant time delays and huge cost overruns both foreseen and unforeseen costing the taxpayers many, many millions of dollars we could have used to address other critical projects. If we can break the mold and do New Lebanon right, the taxpayers and families in Byram will benefit greatly. Regarding the process of building the school in this manner, off-site construction is working pretty well at Greenwich Country Day School, and the finest architects and builders use the process. There is no magic in whatever plan the School Board has proposed.

Let’s not make the same mistake again. The School Board needs to think of the kids and the taxpayers first.

  • Oscar Rodriguez

    The obstacle here is not the Board of Education. It’s the strong arm tactics of the first selectman who has ignored the recommendations of the duly elected Board of Education twice! It makes one wonder what Peter Tesei’s real agenda is.

  • Eric Maurer

    Mr. Farricker, thank you for your interest in New Lebanon and the Byram Community. Your concern for student disruptions during construction is greatly appreciated, but your ire towards the Board of Education is misplaced. Twice the Board of Ed approved proposals for New Lebanon that would not disrupt students, nor incur extra costs for modular classrooms or busses, by building elsewhere on the 7.5 acre site, rather than building exactly where the existing school currently stands. Twice the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to reject these proposals and insisted on seeing a proposal that would be most disruptive to the students and incur the most extra costs to tax payers: building a new school exactly where the current school stands.
    The Byram community was largely united behind the Board of Ed’s first proposal, Plan C, building the new school in the ravine behind the old school, avoiding student displacement while preserving the existing location of the ball field. The Selectmen gave little explanation for the rejection of Plan C, except that “Greenwich can do better”, and vague concerns about building in the ravine.
    Next the Board of Ed approved Plan B, building on the William Street ball field while creating larger ball fields on the site of the old school. The Selectmen angrily dismissed this proposal, insisting that the BOE submit a Plan D. When asked about Plan B on the radio, Mr. Tesei only offered that siting the school next to William Street would be “too urban,” and that a plan D would preserve traffic patterns; with no mention of the education of our children.
    Your interest in cost saving construction methods is also appreciated, but it is premature to critique construction techniques when architects have yet to be hired, and the design process has yet to begin. Innovative architects have used off-site construction techniques to produce compelling, attractive, and economical buildings; while less imaginative builders have used pre-fab techniques to produce drab, average results. The mandate is to build a compelling magnate school, attracting students from all over Greenwich, reducing the achievement gap, and addressing the State’s concerns of racial imbalance. While an economical approach will help us to build the best school possible, it is important that we create a compelling, attractive, sustainable, green building that attracts students to Byram.
    Thanks again for bringing attention to New Lebanon. I hope you are sincere in prioritizing our children over politics during this campaign season.

  • Frank Farricker

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. The very first finding in this project is how the construction should be scheduled for the benefit the children first. This project veers wildly from location, to trailers, to grades, to construction type, and on but nobody seems to have been looking at a whole with clear goals which should be certainty, duration and cost. This is far from the first time this has occurred – see Hamilton avenue- but it is happening again, and it should not. Off site construction is more the rule nationally than the exception, and architects should reflect the wishes of the client, not dictate them. We need a kid-friendly, cost effective plan from the beginning