Misinformation Given Out on Referendum
      Valley Times, Saturday, May 12, 2001 7   Letter to Editor
To the Editor:
     I would like to respond to some of the misinformation that has been given out concerning this new Derby High School referendum which will be held on June 12.
     Proponents of this new school are arguing once again about the "educational opportunities" that are involved in this plan.  There aren't any educational opportunities afforded the students with the construction of this new. high school.  This question was asked back at a public hearing in February 2000, at Bradley School. 

     Dr. Angelo Dirienzo, who is the former Superintendent of Schools, and chairman of the first new high school campaign, stated that there weren't any educational opportunities involved.  "This is strictly about desks and other furniture," he replied; "it's the state that mandates textbooks."  You can update science, computer and language rooms within the building you have now. 
     Cheshire High school just completed a $9.2 million project which includes the following: a second story with 13 classrooms, a computer laboratory, cafeteria space, new offices for the guidance department.  A new band room was constructed off the west gymnasium and the former band room became space for theater and music instruction. Three science labs were renovated and modernized. 
    All this for $9.2 million; and yet we are told that our school is estimated to be renovated at $11 million with no additions!  Cheshire's enrollment is at 1,433 students; Derby doesn't even have 700 students!  I believe we could add on and renovate our school at a cost effective price to the taxpayer.  But all the estimates given were rigged so a new school looked like the best deal!

     Another myth is also coming back again about how the state will reimburse 70% of this new school.  That was addressed last year also.  The state doesn't have any money.  The money is OUR money, and OUR money will not be lost to another town if we don't build a new high school now.  That money is kept in escrow for towns and cities who apply in the future for new school funding.  Reimbursement moneys will not cover cost overruns.  The taxes will not be only $81 added on to the previous school tax if we have to fund more teachers to teach on these new computers which change every few years or so.
     School tax isn't our only concern either.  We still have a renovated City Hall, and major renovations to the Derby Sterling Opera House to pay for.  Yes, the Opera House is receiving donations for renovations, but not THE TOTAL cost of renovations.  Please understand, a school isn't the only taxable entity on the city's agenda.  You want to think of your children, then don't drown them in a sea of taxes in coming years, put our money to good use in a few new classrooms which are the crux of our children's future.

     I would also like to address this New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) report stating that the community failed to provide appropriate facilities for public school students.  This was in the April 30 edition of the New Haven Register.  It was on the front page of our local news section.  On May 1 in that same paper buried on the back page of this same section, it was announced that two schools in Derby received accreditation.  St. Mary - St. Michael's School and Derby High School.
     Now why did Dr. Martin Gotowala feel it was important to tell the opponents of this new school that the NEASC noted that the community failed to provide appropriate facilities for public school students?  Why did he have to let us know that the NEASC also noted concerns about overcrowding in the classrooms, and yet the very next day, this school gets accreditation!  This was a public relations ploy to try and swing votes to ward the proponents of this new high school, and I find it cheap, insulting, and vulgar to those of us who do care about children but don't want a new school. 

     I know many people in Derby who work with children and don't fancy a new high school, that doesn't make them monsters.  Dr. Gotowala owes the opponents of this school an apology. 

     As for St. Mary - St. Michael School, if they needed a new wing tomorrow, I would vote for one.  Unlike Derby High School's staff, this staff are PROFESSIONALS.  They are EDUCATORS.  I'll tell you how good they are.  I never knew that they even sought accreditation.  For two years they worked quietly; professionally on the following areas: purposes and objectives, students and parents, professional staff, and program and administration of the institution.  When the study was completed a team of six administrators visited the school for three days to interview the administration, faculty, parents, students and even the alumni.
     The school was established in 1988 and holds the distinction of being the first successful merger of two separate Catholic schools in the state.  Non Catholic students are also accepted, and pupils from 10 area communities attend the school.  This is a tremendous accomplishment for this little private school which struggles on private donations to keep afloat.  A congratulate them, and that's the difference between the two schools.
     Derby High School does have problems, but the imagined problems don't warrant a new high school - and the real problems won't be solved by voting for a new high school either.  The school is structurally sound, fully accredited, and not overcrowded.  We must continue to challenge the curriculum for all students and we can do that within the system we have available to us now.  On June 12 you will make that choice.  I hope it will be the right one. 

                Thank you,
                the Worried Woodsman, Derby

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