Letter: Trumbull falling short in supporting the schools

To the Editor:

Six years ago my husband and I moved our growing family to Trumbull to take advantage of what was touted as a “great school system.” We didn’t have school age children at the time but we were making a long term investment in our children’s future. Now as our children are 9 and 5 we are faced with the stark reality that not only is the system lacking but it isn’t planning long term — only addressing problems with stopgap measures. Never was this more evident than at a recent Town Council Finance Committee budget hearing where Dr. Cialfi and the Board of Education, before an audience packed of concerned parents, fought for a reinstatement of the funds stripped from the already bare bones proposal by the Board of Finance.

The presentation began with Smart Boards, their importance in the classroom and of course their cost. Two teachers spoke about the impact smart boards have had on the way they teach and the way the children are learning. In kindergarten, Ms. Logan was able modify her lesson on the fly to show what the inside of an egg looks like without endangering the incubating chicks in their classroom. She can and has taken video of the hatching chicks and shared it with the other classrooms so they can share in the wonder. The smart board also helps to draw out a child who is otherwise verbally unresponsive in the classroom giving him the opportunity to become engaged. In the high school, Ms. Boland uses the Smart Boards for all forms of media — videos, photographs, graphs, maps, illustrations, games, etc. and she can capture the days learning and share it with absent students so they are not left behind. The experience is unheard of for most of us who aren’t in classrooms everyday and haven’t been for years. And while I think it is wonderful that teachers are utilizing this technology, I feel it of the utmost importance that we support them and provide integration specialists that help children and teachers alike to fully utilize these tools. This is a long term investment. Please make this technology available to all of our school children right now, as there are many classrooms that don’t have these amazing opportunities.

Town Councilwoman Cindy Penkoff implied that we have no need for technology integration specialists because every five year-old has an iPad and already knows more about the technology than the teachers. I find this point of view short-sighted and generalizing. Perhaps some kids do have expensive technology at home but to assume that’s the norm is offensive. Should we not have reading specialists available in the schools because kids have books at home? It is our job as parents to be their first teachers but what we do at home does not make a teacher or specialist's job any less needed. Please don't assume you know the level our children's knowledge. Playing games on an iPad doesn’t teach them to type a term paper or do in-depth research or help them apply for college. To ignore the importance of keeping up with technology cripples our future.

Even more startling was the information shared regarding the safety of our children. In the budget one full-time equivalent social worker position is requested to ease the burden at the high school. This year has seen five high school suicides in Fairfield County. At Trumbull High School alone there have been 30 identified cases of kids at risk for suicide. I learned at the meeting that the recommended ratio of students to social workers is 500:1 — yet we are operating at 2,200:1. Having 2,200 students for one social worker! Is it going to take these poor kids falling through the cracks for someone to take notice? Which will impact taxpayers more, an increase in the education budget to the tune of $75,000 or a wrongful death suit that cost us much more and tarnish the good name of Trumbull schools?

Whether or not you have children in the school system it impacts us all to ignore these needs. Eventually those troubled kids graduate and may become co-workers or neighbors. We are a community and we need to come together to provide for one another not gripe about whose responsibility it is.

To paraphrase Dr. Cialfi, “We (Trumbull) would never decline to where we would be sorry for hiring another social worker. It's not about adding on, rather, these are catch up positions.” I feel that Trumbull is falling short on our expectations of a “great school system” by ignoring the meager request put forth by the superintendent.

Angela Bulkley