To the members of the Granby Board of Education and Dr. Alan Addley, Superintendent:
As a citizen who is interested in and committed to outstanding public education in Granby and who regularly attends Board meetings, thank you for your hard work and painstaking care in moving our District forward academically. I know the transition to Common Core, as well as a host of other issues, legislation, and financial constraints, make your jobs difficult and some days seemingly impossible. I appreciate that you all are willing to make difficult choices to serve the whole community and enhance the school system that is so closely tied to our property values and economic success.
I also greatly appreciate the spirit of respect and openness that has characterized the Board over the past several months. It is obviously to anyone who attends Board meetings that you all support and respect our teachers, staff, and students. Your decisions clearly come from a desire to improve students’ educational opportunities and to support teachers navigating the curriculum and technology changes.
I respectfully request that the Board openly review and discuss a few budget issues that could greatly impact both next school year and beyond.
Most importantly, I hear repeatedly that the Town of Granby receives money that most taxpayers would assume stays with the school district. The pay-for-play fees and any end-of-year budget surplus are top-most in my mind though many other examples have surfaced during meetings. “Tradition” should not rule our budget process. The taxpayers, your constituents, have already voted for a certain amount of money to be spent by the District. I certainly appreciate the hard work that has gone into “realizing efficiencies”, marveling that the benefits go to the Town coffers, not the District’s. While I understand that the District can request the money back for specific projects, I think that the Board and Superintendent are capable of managing any surpluses without the added bureaucratic layer. Again, this money has already been voted on and directed to the District; no other approvals should be necessary. I urge the Board of Education to work toward correcting this fiscal issue and gain full use of the money voted to you.
In keeping with the spirit of this budget, I would like to see a more aggressive expansion of opportunities for advanced learners. Allowing all 4th graders to use Renzulli Learning is an inadequate step to address the needs of our highest learners. As the parent of 2nd and 5th graders, I haven’t seen this computer program in action and am taking the administration’s recommendation on faith. However, I would certainly prefer that all Granby students have access to the administration’s attempt to differentiate learning. That would be a start to engaging children who quickly master their regular classroom work and are hungry to move forward.
However, I also note that Granby underutilizes its greatest resource, its teachers, with regard to high achieving students. Currently our teachers can identify these students and compress the curricula but have minimal tools, support or charter to expand learning for these students. This outcome is a natural fit for our investment in consulting teachers to develop extended, self-guided units that can be leveraged by teachers. A rotation of 10-20 percent of their time could produce highly scalable results with no incremental budget allocation. I am certain there are many other creative, fiscally responsible options that our teacher and administrative community will produce if given the mission to do so by the Board. Retention of these high achieving students is critical to the Town’s brand: increasing the District’s metrics and prestige, encouraging people to move to Granby, and benefiting the voters by increasing their property values I urge the Board to take considered and comprehensive steps to meet the needs of high achievers throughout all grade levels in this and future budgets.
On the flip side, we’re facing declining enrollment. While part of this is demographic, I note in this Fiscal Year, we lost 112 students and paid over $200,000 in tuition to support students attending various magnet schools. I have not seen data tracking how families are opting out of Granby schools for private or home schooling, but anecdotally these cases seem to be rising. Retaining these students means that Granby taxpayer dollars stay in Granby to benefit this District and the Granby taxpayer sees a better return on their tax dollar investment. I urge the Board to adopt a FY15-16 goal of keeping Granby students in Granby schools and to start by studying the enrollment trends of potential Granby students over the last 10 years.
Schools have traditionally been a place of work and play. Much research emphasizes the connection between physical activity and better educational outcomes, increased classroom attentiveness, etc. That is true at all our schools, but Wells Road Intermediate School has a very poor playscape for its students. In looking at the playgrounds of all three elementary schools, Wells Road’s equipment is clearly substandard. Wells Road School has a vibrant and committed community dedicated to learning, partnership and fair play. The students, and their teachers, would benefit from having appropriate playground equipment. I urge the Superintendent to include upgrading the playground equipment at Wells Road Intermediate School in the large cap budget. Additionally, I urge the Board to make progress toward this goal quickly.
Again, thank you for your time and dedication to Granby’s students and families, taxpayers and voters.
Kimberly L. Becker