Op Ed: The Education Budget

By Larry Craybas, Chairman of the Board of Education


It’s been a long, difficult road to get to this point, from the “black days” of misunderstanding and bitter arguments about what was right or wrong with Bethel schooling. That was years ago. Time has allowed us to develop teaching expertise and solidify our vision of what education should be in our town. We accomplished this while pushing everyone to do more with less.

The Board of Education needs unwavering support as we take on the inevitable new challenges in the months and years ahead. We have come a long way and cannot go back to the days of argument and mistrust. If we tip backwards it will no longer be just about making the wrong decision for our high achieving School District. Backsliding would be costly to our children’s educational development.

We are about to be held to higher standards and new emerging expectations by the State and Federal Government. The cost and impact of not continuing our current level of educational quality could have implications that may well be out of our control. Forced course correction at some later time to meet the new standards would cost far more than simply staying the course and building upon our current levels of achievement and progressive thinking. The bottom line may be, waver now in support of our schools and pay more in the long run.
The people of Bethel are proud of their schools and proud to say their children are being educated in Bethel. Realtors view Bethel schools as an asset. They use our educational quality to sell homes.
It is imperative that we continue our vision’s journey to keep Bethel a high performing, high achieving School District. There is still more work to be done in reducing the achievement gaps that persist among our most vulnerable students.
Forces and initiatives are underway in CT, many beyond our control, that will dramatically change education for the better. Most of what we are hearing will be terrific for students and for the prosperity of our Town, state and nation.
Know that Bethel is in a far better position than many other school districts to deal with the impending changes. However, without the full support of the Board of Finance, the Board of Selectmen, and taxpayers, what lies ahead for our School District, will be difficult. Playing catch up is always more costly than being on the leading edge, a place where Bethel is acknowledged to be.
The Board of Education has provided information that helps the Board of Finance understand the challenges we face in an environment that puts more and more responsibility on schools for student success.
Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith has described the changing landscape of education, as we know it today. It includes higher academic standards and greater results expectations for all grade levels, Kindergarten through 12th Grade. Our school system must be prepared in every area (instruction, curriculum, intervention, professional development, and technology) to meet these new expectations.
Bethel graduates need to leave High School ready to compete at any level, at any time, against anybody in the highly competitive 21st century. Parents, guardians, school children and taxpayers expect us to work together. We know you cannot support what you don't understand.  We look forward to the opportunity of answering your questions as you deliberate our proposed budget.
Thank you.

Bother March 02, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Larry Craybas is doing an excellent job. We are lucky to have him in that position. My daughter had an excellent experience with faculty and staff at Berry School and now is doing great at Johnson School. We do have a school system to be proud of.
Barbara Nelson March 27, 2012 at 12:13 AM
It seems that it's the same story every year - the Board of Finance makes cuts and the Board of Ed talks about how difficult it's going to be. Guess what? It's difficult for all of us at the moment. In the meantime, the school district - to their credit - manages to not only maintain the level of achievement but surpass it. Given the current state of the economy I think we all need to accept that fact that we are going to have to do more with less. That's just the way it is. The taxpayers of Bethel who vote down the budget are not anti-education - they are pro-survival. We just don't have the money in our pockets to keep voting "yes" on increases year after year. It's nothing personal. It's reality.
Bob Rogers March 27, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Is there any chance there's favorable funds from this past year's heating oil or plowing budgets that the BOF can postpone cutting the ed budget the $400K? Besides Halloween and maybe one day, it's been almost balmy here? (I know two budgets, but the majority of what ed is asking for is CIGNA and bus contract) I just think the Top 5% National Return on Educational Investment means we should be so proud we've achieved the best, cutting teachers means more kids in classrooms and less attention. Mr. Lerman there's alot of kids in the Johnson classrooms, more than 5 years ago.
Eric T Gray March 27, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Well said Barbara, I couldn't agree with you more.


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