Something to Consider...

Thinking back upon conversations that I have had, there are not many people I can think of who feel we are heading in the right direction with education. Most of us having been educated in the same system that we now look upon with great concern. There is no shortage of "marketing" being presented to us that suggests what we were doing was inferior to a new and better way of doing things.

That old way of doing things resulted in doctors, lawyers, teachers, technologists, trades people, and more.  Some of the people to graduate from North Haven have gone on to do great things. Many still live here in a town that they wanted to call home for their own families.  So, why is it that Education seems to have gotten away from us?  We elect people to the Board of Education positions hoping and expecting that they will represent our interests, but few of us realize that the Board of Education is a paying member of CABE (Connecticut Association of Boards of Education) who has its own agenda and the Board of Education is required to uphold State and Federal mandates - even if those mandates are not in the best interest of the people of North Haven.

So, who has the interest of the students, the families and the tax-payers as the top priority?  Well, aside from you and I, I'm not really sure.  Teachers, are supposed to be committed to the student, community, and profession.  Although, administrative mandates are forcing teachers to conduct themselves in a manner inconsistent with the beliefs of highly experienced educators.  Take a look at the CT Code of Professional Responsibility for Teachers.  Our town leaders and legislators do not oversee how the Board of Education operates.  If you sit at a BoE meeting especially during budget planning, you will see a struggle between what's ideal and what's possible.  Yet, what's possible is largely driven by expensive mandates underfunded by the state and an ever expanding scope of education and the services we are told that we must provide.  Someone in the State and Federal Governments is deciding that municipalities must provide A,B,C and X,Y, and Z.most of which is not education for children prepared to learn in a classroom setting and much of which is unfunded or underfunded. 

When we say we want more money given to education, we should keep in mind that about 61% of North Haven's property tax dollars go to education.  We are saying that because as a municipality we are unable to decide for ourselves how to best spend our education dollars and because we choose not to advocate for more local control, the easier thing is to burden the people of the town with more expenses?  Isn't that what the kids deserve?  What I've seen by those most involved in education makes me wonder what our children are being taught and if they will not be the product of an administration that believes unbecoming characteristics are the only acceptable way of conducting the business of education.  Take for instance the free and reduced breakfast and lunch program. I've never seen such pleasure taken in more children participating in the free and reduced breakfast and  lunch program.  Why is that? Well, the amount of money we are able to get as a district is tied to the number of children in the free and reduced breakfast and lunch program.  I absolutely realize and appreciate that some of our citizens may be in need of assistance and children absolutely must be fed.  Why not have the parents and guardians provide for that - even if they require our assistance through food subsidies?  A parent or guardian who is provided the food to then set the example of care for the child or children in their charge does more than to simply feed or educate adults and children that poverty is a justification for irresponsibility.

That is only one example.  The district works hard at writing grant applications so that it can get monies that often come with strings attached.  It is an organized cash for control program and North Haven is doing its best to get that cash however it can.  Who gave the district the authority to hand over control?  Why don't we see our elected officials up in arms over this?

I would be unfair with my criticism if I did not include you the parents, the majority of whom are no where to be found.  I understand, really I do.  We all have so much going on and aren't we paying for someone to make sure everything is as it should be?  You really have to go to a BoE meeting and sit through it unable to speak or ask questions until the very end where you can speak pretty much to hear yourself and for the chance that someone watches the meeting on public access.  Then you would be justified in saying "Why do I bother going?".  Some parents think that PTA involvement is proactive and to some degree it is, but as I will point out, PTA is just another outside influence.  See "PTA Mom: Who Bought the PTA?"

So, what do we do, if we want a chance for change?  I've been thinking a lot about this and can assure you that without accountability there will be no change. We need to be involved.

Here's what I've come up with...

1. Establish a Citizen's Audit Committee - this is a non-partisan committee that audits the activities of the School District's Administration and BoE.  This committee looks at things through the prism of what actions and spending mean to the town, its tax-payers, and its students.  See http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/YICAC.pdf.

Such a committee is capable of holding the administration accountable to those who have hired or elected them primarily by providing much needed transparency and public awareness.  The committee can also maintain open items including questions/concerns of the public that often go answered or are managed to minimize awareness.

2. Convert from PTA to PTO - for what we may receive locally from non-local PTA funds, not being subject to their agenda, which is not in the best interest of North Haven, is worth forming a PTO where all parents of children in the district are member stakeholders and all stakeholders are responsible for ensuring the district actions reflect the will of the stakeholder.  This would include the district providing real justification for changes to policy, standards, or curriculum.

3. Teach our children about fiscal responsibility and how to identify irresponsible financing.

4. Mandate part of community service, that all students spend time with Seniors.  Seniors possess valuable lessons for those willing to listen.  Seniors are also those who participate in funding education, often without children in the system.  Our children should know that people from the community are expecting them to make the most of the opportunity they are being provided. 

Please do not email me to provide justification for why we do what we currently do in North Haven or elsewhere.  I understand.  I know some of the people, in positions that I am being critical of, are doing the best they can given the circumstances, but that doesn't mean we don't tackle the issue.  It is dysfunction and lack of leadership that is willing to say "Thank you, but we can run our system better ourselves."

Respectfully,

 

- Nick Coppola 



I thought I would take some time to clarify the purpose for this site. To make it easy to follow, I will present the information in sort of a Q&A format.

Q: Why do a site called Nick for North Haven?
A: There are a number of reasons and I will explain them here. I have always had an interest in the happenings taking place in the world around me. In large part, people fall into two categories...in the first category people "ignore" what is happening in efforts to not have to deal with the problems that exist.  They either think someone else will take care of the problem, have an unrealistic rose-colored view of the world, or are simply too focused on themselves and their own problems to see what is going on around them.  The other group is well aware of the happenings, wishes they could do something, but feel helpless to bring about change. In general, these are the two groups I see and the intent is not to judge. Personally, I wasn't in the first group and rather than fall into the second group, I decided that I would turn my feelings into something productive and positive.

I sensed that other people felt the way I did about things, and not just education. I began writing essays on topics not only as a way to publically express my position and present constructive discussion, but as a way to document for my children who their father is and what he stands for. That is why the site's title begins with "Nick".

Now, to address the "for North Haven" portion. Well, North Haven happens to be where my family and I live. North Haven also happens to be where a number of generations of my family has lived. My mother's side were farmers in the Montowese section of Town. So, I recall the town much smaller and a time when I'd see someone I knew just about everytime I ventured out and about town. However, it is not just that. North Haven, and towns like North Haven, is from where change must originate. Republicanism (not the party) or representative government works best at the local level. In fact, its only chance for real success is for it to work at the local level and then have the will of the people purcolate up.  Its success necessitates vigilance on the part of the citizens. From our town and through our elected representatives is how we are going to have any representation at the State level. The job of the elected is not self-preservation, but steadfast representation. So, in my mind North Haven is the right level to be active. I would hope more people do similar things in this town and/or others.

Q: I'm not from North Haven. Why should I read your posts?
A: Some of my posts are original and others are reposting of information I feel is relevant to the conversation. What I write here in the context of "for North Haven" is applicable to every town. If its happening in North Haven, it is likely happening elsewhere or could happen there. If it is challenging North Haven, then it is likely the case elsewhere. You may read something and think to yourself, "I should look into this in my town."

Q: Are you political?
A: I do my absolute best to not be overtly political. While people identify themselves as with parties, I look to touch upon the things that we should all have in common. I'm looking to appeal to people. Prior to running for BoE, I was told that if I ever hope to do anything in government I'd have to affiliate myself. That person may have been correct considering the results. None-the-less, I've never been a fixed menu type of person and so I'm not so keen on party alignment. That said, I have my beliefs and I am willing to substantitate those beliefs with more than feeling. As we head into election season, you will likely read me calling people and parties out not because of their party or who they are, but for the positions they did or did not take.

Q: What is your goal?
A: My goal is simple. It is to create awareness and show people that "we" can make a difference, affect change, and assert more control over that which our tax monies pay for. I hope that when this does happen that nickfornorthhaven.com or some evolution of this site will have a role to play in making our town, state, and country a better place for us to live.

 


 
Sincerely,

Nick Coppola

Parent of Children in North Haven Schools
Advocate for Liberty and Local Control ([r]epublicanism) Everywhere
 

Email: nick@nickfornorthhaven.com