LETTER: To My Kids and the Kids of Greenwich

Letter from  Sara Selbert Savov “To my kids and the kids of Greenwich,”

I’m hoping that I don’t ever have to send you this letter because I have faith that the RTM will do the right thing for our town and its youngest residents.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that your education is going to take a nosedive. I’m not talking about my poor attempt at homeschooling during crisis distance learning although, to be fair, I am doing a rather sub-par job at that. I am referring to the education that we moved to Greenwich for. The education offered in the public school system that everyone raved about. It’s not the school district’s fault, or your teacher’s, or the staff that works so hard to make your day-to-day experience a joy. I know you probably will not understand this yet, my little ones, but the money we pay to the Town on the house that Mom and Dad bought, is worth more than your education. Not in my eyes, but in the eyes of some who make up the rules.

It is sad, and we are fighting against this, but we might lose. See, there are a group of people that decide what to do with the Town’s piggy bank. We vote for them to do this job because we trust that they will take care of us. Sometimes, as you might remember from that day on the playground, kids (and grown-ups) do not always play nice. That group of people I just told you about, is a great example. They are like a club if you will, it’s called the BET. Now not everyone in the BET is a bad apple but, unfortunately, in this situation the bad outweigh the good. I know this because I, along with a bunch of other parents and residents of Greenwich, got to watch one of their meetings. We watched some members of the BET fight for your education while others decided that it wasn’t as important as low property taxes. I’ll have to explain to you three what taxes are when you are a little older. Basically though, it means that they would rather have everyone in town put less money into that piggy bank (sounds great right?) than have good schools (not so great right?). It’s actually a LOT of money, can you count up to $4.5 million? So, Mom and Dad can keep $116 for our family this year – maybe we can all go to a diner for breakfast…once – but the people that take care of our schools have $4.5 million less to help you learn and grow. This has made us and our friends very, very sad. Sad for the town because the schools’ reputation will suffer, your education will suffer, the amount of money people’s houses are worth (and the size of our town piggy bank) will suffer but most important of all, YOU will suffer.

How did this happen, don’t we have a club that protects the schools? We do, it’s called the BOE and believe me, they do not want this any more than you do. Well, most do not anyhow. You remember who Dr. Jones is right? She’s the Superintendent of our schools, the boss of schools if you will. A while ago, she told the BET how much money the schools would need to operate the schools for this coming year. She did not ask for a lot, just what we needed to keep everything the same. I guess the BET didn’t believe her or decided that our schools would be fine without the money. Boy, were they wrong.

So, now Dr. Jones and the BOE are trying to find a way to operate our schools with a lot less money. Sadly, this loss of money that the schools need is going to hurt your education. You guys will see changes at your elementary school when you do actually get to go back. Some of the teachers you know won’t be there because they were asked to go. The teachers that replace them are young and new. Don’t be hard on them, they will have just graduated from school themselves and have never taught kids before. These new teachers will also receive very little training to help them grow because the money for that was taken away last year. Your Assistant Principal will not be there to help them out with anything, especially your friends with special needs. Don’t cry, we will write them letters and say we miss and love them. The PE teacher might not be there, I don’t know yet. We also probably won’t have media assistants, but that’s okay because you won’t be receiving any new books either. Yes, even that new Dogman book coming out this year. I guess you will be restless in classes with no physical activity, so paying attention will be very challenging anyway.

Stew, you might have a more difficult time in class overall next year, since ALP will not take place in 2nd grade. Instead of having two teachers helping all of the kids who are working at different levels, just one teacher will have to figure out a way to give everyone more attention.

You will have to wait till 3rd grade for ALP and perhaps in 4th grade there will be an option for you to take a foreign language. I’m sorry, because our public schools will no longer offer a foreign language in elementary school, this will be one more thing that will fall onto Mom and Dad’s lap. Swedish is it for the time being. Not used as often as Spanish here in the US, but it is what it is. Scott, you might not even have a Pre-K to go back to. We will have to find a program available and on par with the GPS Pre-K you were in, sadly it is being discussed as optional. I am not even sure I know what that means. I do know that should this happen; all of those teachers will be out of work and your friends scattered. There are lots of other not-so-great changes that have to happen for the schools to open the doors for this next year, and I’m so disappointed that you are the ones having to go through them.

Just so you know, we parents, neighbors, friends, the BOE, some of the RTM (hopefully) and many residents of Greenwich have been trying really hard to stop these changes. How? We have used our voices to tell the town’s decision makers how we want them to spend the money we have all put into the town’s piggy bank. The next chance we have is a piece of hope called a SOMR, that the RTM (people we vote to represent us on the local level) can vote “yes” on.

What is this SOMR? The SOMR is asking for emergency money to give back some of the money the BET took away from the schools. We hope it will help reinstate some of the teachers that were asked to leave. Sadly, some won’t come back because they were pushed to retire so that each family in town could save a few extra dollars – maybe we can get an extra side of bacon at breakfast with ours. And yes, even if the RTM votes “yes”, the BET might not give us the money. Those bad apples I told you about earlier might say “no”, but we need to try. This is our last chance. They can’t ignore the legislative branch of the government. But if they do, then the whole town will know that those BET members decided your education isn’t important. In a weird plot twist, a few people on the BET benefited from the same school system they are now seeking to cripple. In fact, some may have walked down the same hallways that you do since most of these schools have not been updated since the 1970’s. This small, but powerful group holds the key to town’s piggy bank and decides how it should be used.

Inside the piggy bank they control is the money for your schools AND an extra $63 million that is only to be used for emergencies. You would think that this coronavirus that has kept you at home for 3 months counted as an emergency. Covid-19 justifies the use of a portion of those funds. Sadly for you kids, the BET won’t let the schools use it to help pay for the extra work the janitors have been doing, the supplies they need to clean your schools or the extra buses we will need to handle social distancing rules.

It certainly will be interesting to see how this plays out given that Greenwich is the only district in our county to be slashing its education budget so much in the midst of the most historic national health emergency since smallpox. Most of our neighbors can feel cautiously optimistic (hopeful about something, but recognizing the problems involved) about their school district having the appropriate funding to support the new necessary health guidelines needed to prevent and smash a dangerous epidemic. Our town, however, will need to figure out how to do more with significantly less. It is a sad day when Mom’s hair salon and our supermarkets have more protections in place than our schools! Let’s hope Superintendent Jones’ superhero cape is especially powerful this year! Maybe she can convince those wanting to do harm, to do some good instead.

Kids, I hope that by the time I have read you this letter, things will have gotten much better. I look forward to the day when I can tell you that our schools no longer need to fight so hard for something that should be inherently given. Until then, I will do my best to make up for what the BET took away from you and our schools.

With love,