Editorial: Beware of 'us v. them' mentality

In covering community news for the greater part of a decade, one thing you learn is that the “us versus them” language and mentality that can erupt over heated topics, has a damaging effect on community.

Looking for a particular group to blame is a slippery slope and it usually oversimplifies an issue that is far more complex. It’s something we’re concerned might be rearing its ugly head in the Frenchtown Elementary overcrowding discussions.

Parents are justifiably concerned and upset that the school enrollment is 669 students, 50 over its projected enrollment, and that there are still no classrooms available for activities like music and art. The school is using two portable classrooms and there have been transportation concerns surrounding crowded buses. As one parent said, it is having a discriminatory effect on students there.

It’s wonderful that parents are involved and attending meetings to make sure the issues get resolved. A key factor in Trumbull being a high-performing school district is that parents care. We are happy to see that many parents have come to Board of Education meetings or written to Superintendent Gary Cialfi. Cialfi, and the board appear open and willing to respond, as well as work toward a solution.

But what we’ve heard in some online discussion and mentioned by some at meetings seems to place the blame on Trumbull “outsiders.” Some feel that the enrollment problem is due to non-residents breaking the rules and sending their kids to Frenchtown.

School officials don’t seem sold on the fact that the enrollment issues can be attributed only to non-residents, based on procedures that are in place already to monitor residency and investigate possible violations. Like any system, it isn’t foolproof and it’s possible that non-residents have slipped through the cracks. But it likely isn’t the only answer.

Last Tuesday, Cialfi said the district is moving forward to study all factors that could be causing high enrollment, including residency checks, demographics, space utilization and more.

Let’s give the district time to study the options and the root causes of the higher enrollment. We all wish their was a quick fix, but if we want it done right, it has to be done carefully.

Let’s also try to remain civil and if we have residency concerns or information we should give it to the correct source — school officials. The last thing we need is parents getting into public arguments over residency outside of the school, or kids getting ostracized by classmates because of something students heard their parents say or post on social media.

Let’s also please remember, at the end of the day, that these enrollment numbers represent children, each deserving of an education and our kindness.

The good news is that Trumbull is a higher-performing district and it has many people, both staff and elected, who we believe are hell-bent on keeping it that way.