The Region One budget passed last night on the second try, delivering a blow to those who believe the employment contracts of the district’s administrators are the most important matters in the Northwest Corner.
By all accounts, we have increasing drug use in Region One, special education costs have soared for years and student achievement continues to lag behind most of the comparable districts in the state (click on the graphic below for an example). Five years ago, Housatonic Valley Regional High School was put on warning by a regional accreditation agency that issued a stinging report. But we’re supposed to believe the most pressing matter in Region One is whether Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain and her staff get an extra year and a few more vacation days added to their contracts?
This is madness, folks. If you take your cues from Marshall Miles, who presides over the smallest-minded NPR station in the nation, then follow him no more. He knows nothing about education, so he has seized on a simple issue that he thinks will attract an audience. If you could care less what Miles thinks, but are still bothered by the administrator contracts, then I share your concerns. I just don’t think the entire budget should have been held hostage to them.
Be that as it may, the budget has passed and we can get back to the business of improving our high school. Why did it pass? My guess is it’s because the board of education hit upon a winning strategy. Three of the six towns in the region voted against the budget last time around: Sharon, Falls Village and North Canaan. Sharon is the home to WHDD and Falls Village feels aggrieved because of the treatment of its representative by other board members. Those two towns rejected the budget again by strong margins.
As for North Canaan, residents of that town are bottom-line oriented. They often vote down the budget even when it passes district-wide. So the board voted to scale back the new contracts by one year to calm the furor, cut the spending package down to an almost-zero increase to appease those in North Canaan, and hope for lower turnout. It worked. This time, North Canaanites approved the budget 97-90, while district-wide turnout dropped by 17%.
Now it will be interesting to see whether Miles and his followers, such as they are, will get on their soap boxes and fight for things that really matter. Oh, you know – little things like education.