Former Trumbull school board chairman wants larger board
TRUMBULL — When the Charter Revision Commission convened a public hearing to solicit recommendations from the public, First Selectman Vicki Tesoro spoke about the Board of Education’s current seven-member makeup.
Tesoro urged the commission to return to a six-member panel, with no party holding more than three seats.
“This will eliminate politics and encourage compromise,” she said.
But Loretta Chory, who served 12 years on the board and was its chairman from 2015-19, thinks the move from seven members to six is a step in the wrong direction.
She proposed adding a member instead, suggesting an eight-member board if the goal is to maintain an even number of members with no party holding a majority.
In a letter to the commission, Chory explained that the board is limited by its membership. Subtracting a member would mean redistributing responsibilities and adding even more responsibilities to each member.
“Unlike many other boards and commissions in Trumbull, the Board of Education meets twice most months, plus all members are assigned to several standing or special committees,” she wrote.
The board’s four standing committees — curriculum review, finance, policy advisory and facilities — also meet monthly and have two or three board members assigned to each committee. In addition, the board can form special committees as needed. Currently there are four special committees: superintendent’s evaluation, contracts review, Trumbull Education Association negotiations and Trumbull Administrators Association negotiations.
Members also act as liaisons with other education-related organizations including the Business Education Initiative, Cooperative Educational Services Council, Six-To-Six Magnet School and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. These groups typically meet monthly.
The committees and liaison assignments are plenty to keep a seven-member board busy, and Chory pointed out that other area towns have committees that oversee school technology, community relations, long-range planning, personnel, security and auditing.
But other towns also have larger boards, she said. Of the communities bordering Trumbull, Shelton, Fairfield, Monroe and Bridgeport have nine-member boards. Stratford has seven and Easton has six. Easton’s school board, though, oversees only Samuel Staples elementary and Helen Keller middle schools. The town sends its high school students to Joel Barlow High School which it shares with the Town of Redding. Barlow is overseen by a separate Region 9 board that has eight members.
“While the reason Trumbull does not have any of these committees is not solely due to the number of board members we have, it is my opinion that the Trumbull (board) would work more effectively if we had more, rather than less, member,”Chory wrote.
Advocacy for a larger board is not something new for Chory. Her tenure on the board included terms under the old six-member format and the current seven members. In fact, when the board expanded from six to seven members under the 2011 charter revision, Chory was on record as advocating for an even larger, nine-member board.
“We added one member, but we also redid our bylaws and added the facilities committee,” she said.
Adding more committees would allow greater oversight of school functions at the committee level, but would increase the time commitment for members, she said. Spreading the responsibilities over more people would be a plus, she said.
“It’s definitely a commitment,” Chory said. “It’s one I was proud to carry out while I was on the board, but times change. There’s so much more going on in schools with after-school activities, technology and all these other things. It’s not just kids going to school and coming home anymore.”