Former BOE Chair Sandy Waters: Charter Change would do serious damage to public education

Letter to the editor from Sandy Waters, former Greenwich Board of Education Chair, Oct 31, 2017

Board of Education nominee Peter Bernstein is the clear preference of anyone with any knowledge at all about what is going on in town government.

State Representative Livvy Floren, Former First Selectman Jim Lash, Board of Education member Barbara O’Neill, Past Board of Education members Michael Bodson and Genny Krob, RTM member Susan Fahey, and former Republican Town Committee (RTC) member Carol DeSalvo have all submitted letters endorsing Peter’s candidacy.  No doubt there will be more in the days to come.

As a former Republican member and chairman of the Board of Education, I’d like to join that club and to add endorsement as well for Democrats Meghan Olson and Kathleen Stowe for the BOE.  They are serious-minded supporters of good governance and high student achievement.

Board of Education charter change and proposed 10-15% reductions to the town budget over the next 5 years raise special concerns for the schools.  If implemented, both will do serious damage to public education and have broader implication for other elected offices.

Despite’s comments to the contrary, Charter Change is not at all about voter choice.  It does nothing different to empower Unaffiliated voters.

It’s about Republican control of the Board of Education.  It means that less than 1% of the town’s population (the RTC) will control 100% of school board decision making.  No wonder every Republican on the RTC supports it.  This is a Republican power grab.

This is not democracy, and I will oppose it in every way I can.

This year, Peter Tesei and John Toner have not earned the support of anyone who supports public education.  They have pandered to the most conservative elements of the GOP and must be held accountable for meddling in school board politics.  They appointed a divisive Board of Education chairman, who has pursued his own agenda without Board support, descended into the weeds of school system management, and undermined the authority of the new Schools Superintendent.  They have damaged our schools, which are reeling from turnover.

Worse, they took that Chairman’s advice in pursuing the charter change initiative.  They bypassed the input of the Board of Education itself and then appointed a committee the composition of which predetermined its recommendation. Democratic Selectman Drew Marzullo called the Charter Change committee a “sham” from the beginning, and he was right.

That’s why, I will be supporting Sandy Litvack, who opposes partisan control of the BOE, for First Selectman.

Similarly, indiscriminate reductions in the town budget are unnecessary, untenable, unwise, and unsupportable. They are opposed not only by me and many others, but by current BET Budget Committee Chairman and former First Selectman Jim Lash.  Jim did more than any other single officeholder to address the significant infrastructure problems while leaving the town in good financial shape.

Unfortunately, the RTC’s budget hawks have a different view, and failed to renominate Jim to the BET.  Then they unseated another moderate Nancy Weissler in the September primary.

The resulting Republican BET slate is the most conservative BET in recent history.

What is a voter to do?

The party with the most aggregate votes for the BET will determine the chairmanship and his/her tie-breaking vote.  Supporting every nominated Democratic candidate for the BET could give the Democrats control of the BET for the first time in 100 years.  That’s what I plan to do.

Finally, those who want to know how the RTM comes down on both issues can check the following link for Best Bets to Support the Schools: .  These candidates have no record of opposition to the school budget or support for charter change and deserve a chance to serve our Town.

As a member of the moderate middle I plan to vote on November 7.  I hope the rest of my moderate friends will do so as well.