School board chair addresses forum, police officer at meetings

The Trumbull Board of Education decided recently that it will not schedule a public forum to discuss two redistricting proposals that will move students from Frenchtown to Middlebrook School. The board explained its decision in a letter you can find here.

Following a meeting on the redistricting proposals earlier this month, parents were calling for a forum. Chairman Deborah Herbst said this week that the decision to not hold a forum was made by the seven members of the Board of Education, not Superintendent Gary Cialfi. The superintendent was asked to answer parent correspondence and forward concerns to the board.

“We looked at all the responses,” Herbst said. “We decided as a board that we did not want to move forward with a forum.”

The board said, while it appreciated how both plans will affect families, the consultant’s proposals addressed the district’s concerns as far as removing portable classrooms and maintaining class size, among other issues.

Trumbull schools sent out the following message two weeks ago:

“Thank you for your thoughtful input and helpful questions regarding the recommended scenarios to redistrict some of our Frenchtown Elementary School students to Middlebrook. The extensive and articulate feedback provided by parents, along with the work of the Elementary Enrollment Committee and the sharing of the consultant's reports, has provided the Board of Education members with ample information to move forward. Therefore, a public forum will not be necessary. Trumbull Public Schools is committed to ensuring a seamless transition for all students and families involved in this process.”

Many parents in the community, who were calling for a forum, were unhappy with the district’s decision, sharing some letters they sent to the Board of Education.

“I respectfully disagree that all of my questions have been answered,” parent Amanda J. Wendt wrote to the board. “I am greatly concerned about several issues, most notably the art and music “on a cart” components, which appear to be a band-aid fix to the influx of children at Middlebrook and are currently a status quo at Frenchtown. Perhaps more importantly, I am gravely concerned about the lack of transparency in this process.”

Trumbull Democrats also called for a forum.

“We respectfully ask the Board of Education to reconsider their position and hold an open forum prior to making a decision redistricting,” Democrats said in a release. “We believe that the best way for the community to embrace a redistricting plan is for parents to understand the plan and for their opinions to be considered.”

The Board of Education has yet to vote on a redistricting proposal. The board’s next meeting is set for Tuesday, May 6, though a meeting agenda has not yet been posted.

Chairman Deborah Herbst also responded to criticism of the board hiring a police officer at a recent meeting. Eye on Trumbull, an active community Facebook page, moderated by local Democrats, said the officer at the meeting was unnecessary and seemed like a way to intimidate parents. A Trumbull police officer attended the board's redistricting meeting earlier this month, where parents packed the room. A couple of people in attendance at the meeting were warned they would be asked to leave if they continued to act out or yell.

Herbst said that in light of recent tragedies, including those at local schools, it’s important to think about safety.

“I’m sorry people were upset about the police officer,” Herbst said. “It was not about protection for us from parents, it was about protection for everybody in the room.”