PTSA Council highlights items for the 2016-2017 school budget

To the Editor:

Below is an excerpt from a letter read to the Board of Education last week on behalf of the Trumbull PTSA Council and the Trumbull PTA Presidents’ Collaboration Committee, highlighting items we believe to be important to the Trumbull Public Schools and our students during the 2016-2017 budget discussions. This list is a result of discussion with other PTA presidents, our parent members, and staff. The following items are critical and required to prepare our students for success in the future. These priorities apply regardless of enrollment levels.

We believe the following items to be of most importance:

Curriculum Development: We ask the Board of Education to support the large amount of curriculum writing that needs to take place this year. Specifically, the entire science AND social studies curriculums will need to be updated, as the new state standards in each subject have now been adopted. There's just an additional $78,000 in this year's budget for the curriculum department, with a list of 40 curriculum updates that need to happen. Just 50% of the current THS science curriculum aligns with the new state standards. We want to make sure that the monies recommended in the budget will be sufficient to cover ALL of the updates that need to happen.

Technology Integration Specialists – We ask the Board of Education to fully support recent Project Catapult investments in technology by adding 3 additional full-time technology integration specialists at the elementary schools. This will ensure that each school has a full-time, dedicated specialist on staff. We have made the investment in the hardware, and now to fully utilize that investment, we need to invest in the people that will help integrate it fully into the classrooms. This will also increase exposure to the idea and concept of STEM to students early on. We support the development of a curriculum that will allow our students to move beyond the use of Powerpoint, and shift towards the more integrated, cross-discipline use of Google Classroom across the curriculum.

Access to AP classes: We ask the Board of Education to support the goal to increase the number of students participating in AP classes. To do this, we will have to find qualified teachers to teach these classes, and then utilize the intervention and support specialists that are in place to support these students in the more rigorous class work. We want to see this number increase, as we feel it supports Dr. Cialfi's district goal of improving our THS students' "college and career readiness." Showing that THS has a higher percentage of students taking AP classes will also help to boost THS's school profile (the school’s resume that gets sent along with college applications).

As the number of students enrolling in AP courses increases, the existing intervention and support specialists will be essential to the success of these students. Additionally, we need to make sure our students are ready to handle the increased rigor and workload of an AP or Honors class by building a solid foundation and by providing accelerated learning opportunities in both elementary and middle school.

Capital Plan for building improvements: We ask the Board of Education to support the district’s 5-year plans for capital improvements across the district. The proposed timeline of both Performance Contracting projects (which would not require capital funding) and Non-Performance Contracting (which would require capital funding) should be adhered to, and made a priority. These improvements are necessary to ensure that our buildings not only remain safe with regard to lighting, PA systems and security, but also energy efficient with regard to new boilers and windows. Some progress was made last year after years of neglect, but this needs to continue for the safety and security of our students. Much more still needs to be done.

Pay-to-Participate fees: We ask the Board of Education to support the gradual reduction and phase out of the exorbitant fees that TPS students are required to pay to participate in both athletics and elementary band and strings. The current fees of $165 per sport and $250 for elementary band and strings do not include "extras" that parents must cover; such as off-season training, marching band/indoor percussion/winter colorguard costs, theater programs at the high school, and instrument rental. This also does not include the sports-specific equipment not provided by the district.

Expanded Foreign Language: We ask the Board of Education to support, and find ways to implement and fund, increased foreign language instruction. This initiative is not included in this year’s budget proposal. Adding foreign language instruction, specifically Spanish, into the school day should be a priority for the district at the elementary level. Expanding the middle school foreign language curriculum beyond just one semester in 6th grade is just as important. We know this is a priority for parents, many of whom see the advantages of speaking another language in their varied careers. Other districts in our DRG are able to do so, and our hope is that the Board and Dr. Cialfi will investigate ways to bring it to Trumbull. The addition of Mandarin via an after school program is a great start, but it does not provide access to every student and currently has no clear plan for progression and continuity.

Health Education: We ask the Board of Education to support increased health education at the high school level. The current requirement of just one semester freshman year cannot begin to cover the myriad of physical and mental health issues that our students will face during their tenure at THS. The new increased state requirements for health education are a start, but more needs to be done.

We look forward to a continued, cooperative effort and an active discussion and constructive dialogue between the Board of Education, the PTSA Council and the individual PTA units, and the parents of Trumbull Public School Students.
Jen Kehley,
President, Trumbull PTSA Council