Letter: Disappointed Herbst chosen for board chair

To the Editor:

As a former member of the Trumbull Board of Education, I am disappointed, but not surprised, to see that Deb Herbst, mother of First Selectman Tim Herbst, has been elected to the position of chair of the Trumbull Board of Education.

Mrs. Herbst used to understand that it was not right for her to be board chair. After the 2009 election, when the Republicans last took control of the Board of Education, she was nominated for that position but wisely declined, citing her relationship with the First Selectman as a reason for NOT holding that position.

The influence of Mr. Herbst over his mother had been felt by the Board of Education over the last several years. A review of Mrs. Herbst’s budget votes shows that, prior to her son’s election, she routinely voted with the majority of the board on the budget request, approving spending increases of more than 17% over 5 years. Yet, once her son was elected, Mrs. Herbst led the charge in attempting to drastically reduce the budget requests. Coincidence?

And now Mrs. Herbst is the chair. How can she objectively lead, when her son, First Selectman Herbst, has an entirely different agenda, as shown by his cuts, year after year, to the budget requests put forward by the Board of Education?

With these conflicting priorities, who defers to whom?

In addition, Mrs. Herbst and her son have a publicly-documented history of teaming up to retaliate against both school employees and private citizens when either Herbst has been criticized. How will this play out with Mrs. Herbst now in a position that, by its very nature, attracts such criticism?

State statute defines Boards of Education as agencies of the state, not the town. This is to protect Boards of Education from being unduly influenced by town political agendas.

Sadly, the Herbst family members are now putting ego and politics before the best interests of the children and community. Our school system and town will suffer for that decision.

Lisa Labella

Former member, Trumbull Board of Education, 2005-2013