What is Fair? When Greenwich Students are Children of Non-Resident Teachers

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In October, Phil Tarantino, Greenwich School teacher and GHS baseball coach, asked the Board of Ed to change the pre-k policy. Credit: Leslie Yager

Rob Brown

In October, GHS Math teacher Rob Brown asked the Board of Education to keep the pre-K lottery policy in tact. He said it would help the district retain good teachers. Credit: Leslie Yager

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Rob Brown, who has taught math in the district for 12 years introduced himself at the October Board of Ed meeting at Eastern Middle School. He said he married his wife, who began her teaching career in Greenwich the same day that he did. Mr. Brown said he and his wife have a 2-year old and a 3-month old baby.

“Like many of our colleagues, despite our best efforts we cannot afford a home in Greenwich and the towns we can afford to reside in do not have schools on a par with Greenwich,” Mr. Brown said, adding that he and his wife have taken comfort in their ability to send their children through Greenwich Public Schools system and participate in the Pre-K lottery.”

“We appreciate these benefits but they also make sense to us. We feel valued and respected by the town and a part of the Greenwich community. Providing these benefits should also make sense to the town. When teachers’ families are involved in the school district they teach in, it strengthens teachers ties to the town and increases the opportunities to make connections and be effective. Allowing teachers to enroll their kids in Greenwich schools entices teachers to stay in the district. Retracting policies such as the pre-K lottery will have the opposite impact.

“I strongly encourage you to keep the policy of allowing Greenwich teachers to participate in the pre-k lottery. My family may not win, but at least we know that we’re still viewed as respected members of this great community we teach in.”

Phil Tarantino, a Greenwich teacher who said he was born in and lives in Greenwich, said that when it came to the town pre-school lottery system, he is “0 for 4.”

“To be vested in this town as I am as a teacher, Greenwich High School baseball coach, and as someone who runs an after-school program, and not be able to send my kids to the town pre-school — not only are my tax dollars going toward these pre-schools, but I’m also paying on top of that for private pre-schools,” he said, adding that the costs of private pre-schools range from $5,000 to $10,000. “As much as non-residents have a say, the teachers who live in this town are being indirectly effected by supporting the non-resident teachers,” Tarantino said.

An email from Audrey Factor, a Greenwich Public School parent, went a step further. Factor, whose children are in the Julian Curtiss district, slammed the Board of Ed for its overall policy of letting teachers from outside Greenwich pay a modest fee to send their children to Greenwich Schools.

On Nov. 12, she wrote, “Today, I counted 10 teachers at one of the lower performing magnet schools in Greenwich with NY State license plates. Two teachers had stickers stating they are proud proud parents of an Eastern Middle School student. One  teacher had a sticker that he/she is a proud parent of a ISD student,” Factor wrote. “Ah…it must feel good to be an insider who knows how to get your kid in the a top performing school in Greenwich AND get a paycheck from the taxpayers to teach at a low performing school.”

“Why aren’t the three magnet schools in Greenwich that are desperate for students educating the (tuition paying) non-residents?”* Factor asked in a separate letter. “Aren’t these schools “good enough for them?” Factor blames the district policy for overcrowding at North Mianus School and Glenville School. “It is caused by non-residents, non-taxpayers who get to choose to send their children to schools ranked as high as 24th in the entire state.”

The 2015-2016 tuition rates are published on the Greenwich Schools website.

tuiution rates

In response to a question about the pre-school lottery policy, Greenwich Schools director of communication, Kim Eves said, “Based on recommendations from administration in October, the BOE approved revisions to the preschool application process that would allow non-resident GPS families to apply for and be offered seats in the program only AFTER all resident families were offered and accepted or denied seats in the program and IF there were any remaining seats available.”

According to Eves, prior to this change non-resident staff members were placed in the same lottery as residents, but residents were weighted more heavily, giving them a greater chance of being selected.


Email news tips to Greenwich Free Press editor Leslie.Yager@GreenwichFreePress.com
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  • Tony

    We need to treat our teachers, firefighters, police and nurses well as they are the backbone of our community! The fact that the economics of home ownership is a challenge and keeping some out is a disgrace and reasonable accommodations should be made on their behalf.

  • Kathy Wilson-Knowles

    Yes, but we also have to treat the middle and low and lower income, tax-paying home owners right too. Many of us spend 60-70% of our income on housing and we make great sacrifices to live in Greenwich.

    If there are 80 of us on a waitlist to attend the town’s public preschool we–who are paying the property taxes–to run the town’s preschool have priority.

    Schooling is paid for by property taxes. And, there are lower costs housing options in Greenwich that we live in and that teachers, fire fighters and town employees can choose to buy as well.

    But if you choose to buy a 2,000 square foot home in Stamford or Norwalk or the like, we who live in houses here in Greenwich, rent in Greenwich, own condos and coops, live in the “Western side of Town,” in “two and three family homes” are still the tax payers who should take precedence.

    Just because we work in Whole Foods, Greenwich Hospital, Delamar Hotel, Shoes and More, TD Bank, Stop and Shop and not for the BOE should not give us less right to early education for our children.

    We ALSO are the backbone of the Town of Greenwich.

    I think the Town of Greenwich needs to seriously look to hire more residents. Too many Town of Greenwich employees who live elsewhere feel very entitled.

  • Tomas Diaz

    I work at a lumber yard in Greenwich and also have a part-time working as handyman and a porter.

    I have lived here for 12 years. My wife works at a doctor’s office on Sherwood Place in Greenwich and also worked at the Hyatt Hotel.

    My wife volunteers at Sacred Heart Church in Greenwich and I have volunteered at the St. Roch’s Carnival.

    We pay $2,500 a month in rent.

    We deserve to send our children to Greenwich’s public preschool.
    We live here.

    We tried to get into this program 4 times and lost the lottery.

    But, no we don’t have teaching degrees from this country.

  • Audrey Factor

    First, I take issue with what Mr. Brown states in the above quote, “The towns we can afford to reside in do not have schools on a par with Greenwich…”

    Forget the “town” where you and your wife–both teachers–can afford to live. I want to know what are you living in? A 2,400 square foot single family home? That was your choice. Nobody forced you to buy a single family home. You wanted one.

    There are many, many, hundreds of families here in Greenwich who are paying $2,000; $2,750, $3,000 dollars a month to live in rentals, coops, condos, two-family homes. We forgo the luxury of a “single family” home and make the sacrifice to live in small houses, apartments and the like.

    Indeed, much of the Central Greenwich economy is because of our labor, our rent paid to landlords.

    We don’t get backyards or the luxury of a private home. But, we choose to live here because we want to be part of the fabric and community of Greenwich and are willing to give up having a single family home in Stamford and Norwalk and Fairfield.

    Please do not tell us that your right to a single family home or home ownership trumps our right as residents and tax payers.

    That would be a very arrogant position to take.

    Many folks who live in Cos Cob and their children attend North Street once grew up in Hamilton Avenue neighborhood. Many of their parents were housekeepers and tradesmen who didn’t have two cars in the driveway of their single family home in Mid-City Stamford.

    We are the next generation of these same folks. And, even if it takes us two generations of sacrificing to get our kids into the better schools in Greenwich by, one day, moving to Riverside, we will do it.

    But, we don’t want to be pushed out of the line unfairly by non-residents.

    You should be grateful for what you have, a two income family and home ownership. Surely you can pay for private preschool at a Catholic school where you live.

  • S. Gilroy

    You apply to the preschool lottery by checking 2 or 3 boxes of the schools that work best for you. When you have a few kids in the house, geography is important.

    Ms. Eves is not speaking the truth…they never call you and tell you that all your choices are taken and offer you another spot at one of the other locations. They just tell you that your choices filled up.

    When you question them later about it, they don’t offer the spot to you but offer it to the teachers kids.

    If the Greenwich Public School is going to be truly fair, they would call every resident parent up tell them that all their selected locations are “full” then offer them any and all remaining spots.

    The also wait for late March and April making it hard if not impossible to apply for the private school preschool options.

    80 residents were on the waitlist last year alone…and, yet, teachers and town employees were given spots.

    The lottery lacks transparency. There are so many loopholes and special permissions given by the Superintendent that the average Greenwich citizen has no chance.

  • Corey Rogers

    Reasonable accommodation, Tony? Well, paying a little over $1,000 for a whole year of preschool is not reasonable. Preschools in Greenwich cost between $10,000-$28,000. Sure you might be able to find one for $6,500 but they are not going to be the preschools that the teachers and civil servants you speak of will want.

    So, if a reasonable accommodation is what these “back bone” workers deserve they should pay at least $6,000 for a full year of preschool for their non-resident children (for the shorter day option) and $8,000 for the full day option. That is still a bargain by Greenwich economic standards. Otherwise, I do suggest they enroll their child in a preschool in the town they live rather than push a taxpaying resident out of the line.

    A discount is fine, but a free ride and bumping a resident, tax-payer out of the chance to utilize the “public” preschool program is not a reasonable accommodation.

    As long at Greenwich has an achievement gap that is so wide and unjust we must offer our public school slots to our own citizens first.

    Public schooling is funded by property taxes, it is not a federally nor State funded. If you live in Greenwich and pay taxes you should get priority.

    Otherwise the system is not fair.

    The BOE also needs to call up every Greenwich family on their waitlist and offer every spot that is open–even spots at locations that they family did not first check off–circumstances change and families’ lives during the preschool years are mobile…before offering 1 spot to a non-resident.

    The BOE needs to conduct their lottery earlier in the year.
    They are out of touch with the private preschool admissions deadlines and deposit deadlines.

  • Mark Harvey

    To me it says a lot that a teacher who lives in Town doesn’t think non-resident teachers should get this advantage.

    He probably knows that his colleagues work the system more than we even realize.

  • Bradley Huested

    Teachers are dragging their feet about the start time change at Greenwich High…they don’t want to commute or leave to go to work too early and be stuck in traffic and God forbid get home after 3:30 PM.

    I work in Manhattan and get up at 4:45 AM and get on the 6:00 AM train and get to my job early (up to an hour early) because if I leave later I will be late.

    My wife and kids see me, if they are lucky, around 8 PM.

    Sorry, teachers, you need to wake up to Greenwich families’ lives. We don’t get to leave work at 2:45 PM. We don’t get summers off. We don’t feel sorry for you if your commute requires you to drive your car into town where you have a free parking space, a great facility, coffee room, lots of cafes in town to grab a bite to eat. Your commute is nothing like our commutes to Manhattan so crying that you don’t like a later start time is going to fall on deaf ears.

    Teachers, be careful. The State of Connecticut is massively in debt. Corporations don’t want to come here because they are arm-twisted to pay the taxes to keep all your benefits going.

    Once the corporations say goodbye to CT, towns are not bedroom communities and families will pick up and go anywhere their companies take them.

    Make no mistake about it, your jobs will vanish.

    So stop complaining that your commute home will be longer because the very people paying your salary have spoken.

    Get some new CD’s and try to enjoy your commute. I am sure you will still get home before 5 PM–unlike the parents of the kids who are paying your salary, health care, retirement, continuing education, dental insurance, preschool education for your kids, etc.

    Brad Huested

  • Brooke D’Antonio

    Why doesn’t the Board of Ed start its own preschool for teachers’ children and hire teachers on leave or who are retired to run it?

    Just make sure that the tuition charged covers the cost of running this preschool, including renting and maintaining the building they are using.

    Oh wait, teachers don’t want to use funds from their paychecks but want the Greenwich taxpayers to pay preschool for all of their children?

    Greenwich BOE can not be handing out subsidized preschool to its inside-employees when it has 1,018 of its tax-paying residents’ children reading sub par with math skills in the bottom 25th percentile of the State.

    This borders on corruption.

  • Marcia

    My son never got in to the Town’s preschool. I am a single mother who works at Citeralla. Come and see me at the bakery.

    I am glad somebody spoke up because I was afraid. I thought if I said anything, my other child would never win the preschool lottery.

    I have kept quiet out of fear.

    They are not fair.

  • Tim O’Brien

    Spot on, Ms. Weisz.

    Can I hire you to deconstruct my company?

  • Jodi Weisz

    The Arch center should be turned into a super dynamic early education preschool for every Title 1 family in Greenwich and those forced to go to the Title 1 schools.

    Mr. Robert Kalinski and Sharon Kalinski–would be the Board President and Vice President of this Pre-k3 through Pre-k4 to transitional K public preschool.

    The town would charge all families stuck in the Title 1 schools the same tuition to go to this early childhood center $1,048 dollars a year.

    The achievement gap in Greenwich would close in 3 years.

    What Greenwich needs is more heroic couples like the Kalinskis running this town.