Fri, Mar 24, 2000
Group dedicated to school project;
push on for $39M expansion plan
By Jason White, Register Correspondent

DERBY Ten residents have formed a political action committee dedicated
to ensuring passage of an upcoming referendum on a proposed $39 million
school expansion plan.

DECIDE, or Derby Citizens Directing Education, includes parents, senior
citizens, single residents and school administrators, said Chairman Bill
Harris.

"It's going to take an involved public relations campaign to get information
(about the plan) out to voters," said Harris, father of a soon-to-be Derby High
School freshman.

DECIDE has assembled a pamphlet that details the proposed plan, highlights
a few reasons to vote for it and lists other construction options the School
Expansion Committee considered but rejected.

The group is also sponsoring a fund-raiser in the form of a basketball game at
Derby High School April 7 at 7 p.m. Mayor Marc Garofalo will lead a team of
city officials against a team of teachers. DECIDE hopes to raise $1,500
through the game.

Because voters have not been polled, it is difficult to gauge public sentiment.
Mike Kelleher, president of the Board of Aldermen, said he believes voters are
divided evenly. "Parents are universally in favor of it, while others fear the tax increase," he
said.

But since only 15 percent of Derby taxpayers have children in city schools,
the vote will largely be determined by residents with little direct interest in
school expansion.

Harris said these residents need to recognize the city's dire need for new
school facilities and the many benefits that will flow to the city as a result of
improved schools.

"Municipalities that invest in structures like this see an increase in property
values. They attract higher-income people, and businesses are more likely to
enter a city with better schools," he said.

The plan calls for construction of a four-story high school just north of the
current one on Nutmeg Avenue. The current high school would be converted
into a middle school for grades 6 through 8.

A new track, baseball and softball field and two multi-purpose fields would be
constructed for the two-school campus.

The city would pay $22 million of the plan's $39 million price tag, and the
state would fund the rest.