PTAC Board of Directors: Town Will Pay Dearly for Short Term Focus on Spending

Submitted by PTA Council Board of Directors Brian Peldunas, Mimi Duff, Leslee Spadone, Clare Kilgallen, Rosemary Hyson, Nerlyn Pierson, Cindy Lyall, Kathy Walker, Valerie Rimmer, Renee Jennings and Cricket Dyment

As the town budget process descended in greater depths of divisiveness over the last few years, the longer term impact on our students, our schools, and our community seems to have been pushed to the side by the short term focus on spending.  As we recover from the COVID crisis, our greatest fear is that the antagonistic nature of current discussions leads to our schools, our children, and therefore our town, paying dearly in the long term. The 2019 Plan of Conservation and Development pointed out that “Schools were identified as the number one reason people move to Greenwich in the survey conducted by the Greenwich Association of REALTORS®. Our tax base depends on that investment.”

PTA Council leadership has called for a community-wide dialog about the future of our schools repeatedly over the last two years, first privately with town leaders and then publicly in BOE and BET meetings.  It is time to put politics aside, check egos and ambitions at the door, and focus on what really matters. 

Two recent actions taken this month, one a decision by the full BET, and the other a recommendation by the BET Budget Committee, best exemplify the widening gap between the two sides in this battle.

The first decision involves the full BET’s vote (on a party line vote) whereby the Repubican BET members voted to reduce the capital allocated to the design of the renovation of Julian Curtiss School from $1.7 million to $0.2 million.   

The Republican BET members directed the BOE to make revisions to the Educational Specifications developed by the feasibility committee and approved by the Board of Education, however Educational Specifications are the sole purview of the Board of Education.  The Board of Directors of PTA Council emphatically supports the BoE’s project for the renovation of Julian Curtiss School as submitted to the BET. 

The second decision involves the BET Budget Committee’s vote/recommendation to reduce the interim appropriation request for the repair of North Mianus School from $8.1 million to $2.05 million. The reason given was that the estimates for about three-quarters of the work were not finalized.  Superintendent Dr. Jones stated at the recent BET Budget meeting:  “I would be remiss to not advocate on behalf of our children, our families, and our staff at North Mianus. If we do not have the [full] funding approved and ready to go, it will slow the project down. We don’t have a week, two weeks, four weeks to give, we are already pressing up against time. … We don’t have the time to lose on this project.”

The Board of Directors of PTA Council supports whatever path will get the students back into their classrooms as soon as possible.  We all are looking for a more “normal” world.  September held out the possibility of a normal world for the students of North Mianus.  Now uncertainty has been injected into that possibility by the ceiling collapse and resultant flooding.  We fear that uncertainty could be compounded by the funding decision. 

The time has passed for the leaders of our town to sit down and work to resolve the ambiguities relating to the future of our schools.  It won’t be easy and it won’t be fun, but it needs to be done.  This town has an amazing pool of talent and, together, we can make this happen.

And for those board members who say they support a project, we respectfully suggest that they should not worry about it.  The voters will decide in November.

Respectfully, PTA Council Board of Directors