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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Letter: Thank You for Restoration of Educational Funds

To the Editor:

I want to send out two massive thank you messages to our town. All of our town.

First, thank you to the RTM for delivering this rare supermajority vote to restore more money back to our great schools than the Board of Finance was willing to do. Secondly, a big heartfelt shout out to all the parents, PTA, and especially the students for engaging in this process.

I am proud that our petition, just one month old, gave people a voice. In that short time to secure over 1,700 online signatures and more than 500 written signatures is an achievement for the community — not for me.

To have more than 500 written comments from the public in one document was more than we expected or asked for. To see our students stand up to speak, one after another last night, made me proud for all of our town and its future.

The process with the RTM has been both engaging and constructive. To get unanimous votes from both the RTM Education and Finance Committees was a real boost for our kids and our campaign heading into last night’s vote. Its been fun and rewarding to get to know our representatives better.

To be clear — I am thanking all of the 36 RTM members, not just the 26 that voted for this restoration. For the few on the RTM that didn’t vote for this restoration, we must all work with you to try and gain common ground going forward.

I think we can do that. I actually agreed with many of the points from some of those who voted no. We must get our arms around the state driven salary and benefits process for our schools if we are truly to gain control of our school budget over the next few years.

I have my differences with several member on the Board of Finance, but we can find common ground there too. Sherri Gordon argued at the last BOF meeting that, “every organization can find 1 percent of savings.” I agree with this, and Dr. Palmer found more than 1 percent of savings from the original and the revised budget.

James Westphal argues for real structural change. We must all work hard to ensure that the community moves forward together with these future changes — with Dr. Palmer taking the lead. Even with this restoration success, the school system is still doing its part, along with the town in finding ways to remove items from its budget.

The school system has risen to the challenge, and it will have to rise even further going forward.

Finally, I am excited by the renewed community engagement during this process. We should celebrate that and all get involved with Dr. Palmer’s community outreach and strategic review.

We cannot take our great schools for granted. Or other services in the town.

Last night was a success for the whole town. However, there are many challenges ahead for the structural funding of both our schools and the town.

It is essential that we sustain this community engagement to ensure that we protect our schools and prepare them for the changing world over the next 10 years and beyond. Let’s do it all together. Thanks.

Robert Harrington,
Westport

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Posted 05/03/17 at 01:33 PM  Permalink



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