To the Editor:

I sat in on a meeting Tuesday and listened to a handful of disenchanted parents asking: what good will speaking up about the education budget at the upcoming Board of Finance public hearing really do? Won’t the Board of Finance (and then the Town Council) just do what they plan to do, regardless of our input? Great (albeit cynical) question! And I have an answer:

Yes, they may! But not without first hearing from me, and hopefully from you, too.

I speak up because I want more for our schools and our students. I speak up because, no, I am not 100% satisfied with the Trumbull Public Schools. Are you? Do I think our children are receiving a very fine education here? Yes, I do. But don’t we want more? Don’t we want more than fine, satisfactory, average? More than our scores are telling us? I think we can all agree that we do.

But here we are again during budget season, discussing some very small 6% of the overall school budget: the just over 6% of the $100 million education budget that is marked for “discretionary items” — not necessarily discretionary, as in optional, but non-contractual. We will need at least a 2.7% increase in the education budget just to cover contractual salary increases due to our school teachers and administrators.

I would like to see the district move beyond this paycheck-to-paycheck mentality, fighting to maintain increases that barely cover our core budget. When we are in this type of cycle, we cannot think bigger – we cannot come up with out-of-the-box ideas for how to improve this district; we cannot bring new initiatives to the table. The last new initiative to be proposed and implemented was full-day kindergarten over three years ago.

So, I hope you will speak up about what is important to you: is it fully funding Dr. Cialfi’s budget request, and the items he deems “critical and essential to student learning?” Is it increased AP options for your high school student? Is it decreasing the exorbitant pay-to-participate fees that our elementary band and strings students and athletes pay? Or is it something else entirely: foreign language in the elementary schools, a STEM program in our district? This is our chance to speak up on behalf of not just our own children, but on behalf of the entire district. Have your say! Don't let my list of priorities and concerns be the only list of priorities and concerns our elected officials hear.

Superintendent Cialfi has put together a comprehensive game plan and budget request for turning the tide in this district. We need to support that request not just for the students of Trumbull, but the residents as well. Strong schools still do equal strong property values.

I hope you will show up, and speak up, this Saturday, Feb. 27, starting at 10 a.m. at Madison Middle School, at the Board of Finance public hearing on the budget. Can’t wait to hear from you!
Jen Kehley
President, Trumbull PTSA Council