Submitted by Pete Beck, Greenwich
I have lived in Greenwich for 45 years, and I cannot recall having ever seen a public statement on behalf of any candidates for local office as divorced from reality as the letter by Harry Fisher in Greenwich Free Press (LETTER: In Race for Greenwich BET, Democrats are Politicizing Our Schools) dated October 21, 2021.
Mr. Fisher is a current member of the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET). He was chosen in July to fill out the term of Michael Mason who resigned to serve as the Town’s consultant handling labor contract negotiations. Mr. Fisher is not standing for election November 2. Mr. Fisher claims that the Democratic candidates for the BET “are politicizing our schools.” The basis of his claim is the statement – with absolutely no supporting evidence – that “The democrats [sic] have advocated selling long term bonds to increase capital projects that have not been requested by the BOE”.
I’ve never heard of any such advocacy by Democratic BET candidates, and I checked with one former and one current member of the BET to see if their experience was the same as mine. Both have told me that Mr. Fisher’s claim that the Democratic BET candidates propose spending money on schools not requested by the BOE is simply not true. The Democratic candidates know the rules and do not propose violating them. Period. Mr. Fisher’s claim is merely an unacceptable political smear.
Mr. Fisher also claims that “no reasonable request for capital has even been refused by the republicans [sic] on the BET. Never.” Keep in mind that the requests sent to and voted on by the BET for capital spending on the schools have always been made by a Republican controlled BOE.
I ask the reader to judge whether the Republicans on the BET acted reasonably in turning down the BOE’s request for funds to renovate and modernize the Julian Curtiss Elementary School. The BOE’s request, called educational specifications (EdSpecs), was developed by a special committee including Republican Mike Mason. The EdSpecs called for the school to take steps to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and to receive ventilation improvements, security changes, a science room, a pre-K classroom, an enlargement of the cafeteria, and replacement of the outdoor playground. It was to be the first step in bringing all Greenwich elementary schools up to current educational standards.
The project was rejected by the BET Republicans who wanted the EdSpecs to remove the science room, the pre-K classroom, the cafeteria changes, and the playground changes.
It turns out that the Republican led BOE does not agree with Mr. Fisher that the request to renovate and modernize Julian Curtiss was unreasonable, and it has recently voted to resubmit the same EdSpecs to the BET with no changes. In other words, it is the Republicans on the BET who are “politicizing our schools” by attempting to usurp the role of the BOE.
Another request refused by the Republican BET members was for an engineering study of repairs needed by the Central Middle School. Apparently Mr. Fisher and his fellow Republicans believe that it is not reasonable for the BOE to know the needs of a school seriously in need of repair.
To quote Mr. Fisher, do not be fooled. If you value an excellent school system in Greenwich and endorse the efforts of the BOE to bring our schools up to date, please vote for the entire Democratic ticket for the BET. This is important because the party that receives the most BET votes gets to name the Chair of the BET, and the vote of the Chair determines the result in case of a tie vote.
In the past, the Democratic members have supported all reasonable requests by the BOE and will continue to do so in the future.
Deadline for letters to the editor for candidates in the Nov 2, 2021 municipal elections is end of day Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021