November 27, 2007

No West End school decision until next year

Here's reporter Jackie Majerus' story in today's paper:

It will be at least January before the committee charged with finding a site for a 900-student K-8 school in Bristol's West End makes another recommendation.
The committee – which recommended the former Scalia sand pit as the best option only to see it rejected by city councilors before the election – said Monday they would not meet in December and would make no further recommendations on locating the building until they reconvene in January.
The nine-member committee is short two people, and members said Monday that they want new people appointed before they make a decision on what site to recommend.
When they reconvene, they will also consider other sites, committee members said, including the former IGA grocery store property at Park and Divinity, which would require the city to use eminent domain to take dozens of surrounding properties, including many homes and businesses.
As the committee prepared to discuss the various sites, city Councilor Ken Cockayne, who is a new member, asked to put the public comment period first. It had been scheduled for later in the meeting.
"The public might have something to say," said Cockayne, and his fellow members went along with his suggestion.
John Reek Jr. of Wolcott Street spoke up in defense of tenants – especially those in the Park and Divinity neighborhood who would be displaced if the city chooses that site and takes properties through eminent domain.
Reek, who said he rented until recently, said tenants are treated "like they don't exist" and have been left out of the discussion completely.
"Being a renter is not a bad thing," said Reek. "These people do not have a voice."
Reek said his grandfather was a Bristol factory worker and rented all his life. His parents, too, rented, Reek said.
Tenants are "living where they can afford to live. For many people, home ownership is not going to happen and that's okay, too," said Reek. "These are good people who are living within their means."
Reek presented the committee with a petition he said was signed by 48 parents of O'Connell School students who support building the new school in the former Scalia sand pit.
"We believe that the Scalia site is a neighborhood site," said Reek.
William Smyth, the finance chief of the school district, said the committee did take the concerns of the neighborhood residents, including tenants, into account.
"That was one of the reasons they chose the Scalia site," said Smyth.
Retired teacher Tom Doyle, who has spoken out in the past against the district's plan to switch to a K-8 format, said selecting the former Roberts property for a West End school would be "opening up a can of worms." He said the Park and Divinity site would be good for a small school, but not the large complex that school officials are envisioning.
But Smyth said the committee's role isn't to decide the size of the school, but to find a site for the K-8 school that's planned.
O'Connell School Principal Mike Audette, who chairs the committee, said there had been "hours of discussion" on the various sites. He said he's sure that if people had heard it all that many would have agreed with the committee on the Scalia site.
"That one at the time had the least amount of negatives," said Audette.
But Audette said his goal is to find a spot for the new West End school and see it built. He said if his first choice of a site isn't the one used, he's fine with that.
The committee recommended the Scalia property, but that doesn't mean they're "absolutely wedded to that site," said Audette. "There are three very good sites here."
Former Mayor William Stortz, who attended the meeting, said the council didn't think the committee made a good enough case for the Scalia property.
"Not enough justification was provided," said Stortz. "There were not enough convincing arguments."
School board member Chris Wilson said the committee will "have to make a stronger case" next time if they want the council to approve their choice.
Cockayne said the committee shouldn't dismiss the Scalia site.
"I do not want to see a school on the Roberts property," said Cockayne, who said it would mean a busing "nightmare" and the replacement of many acres of open space.
Smyth said he wishes the critics of the Scalia site would have read the feasibility study.
"Chippens Hill [Middle School] was built on a sand pit," said Smyth. "It's not negative."
Audette said he is striving to find a place that works well for both O'Connell and Bingham School families. The Scalia site does that, Audette said.
"This is a site that kind of bridges both districts," said Audette.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

Cockayne said the committee shouldn't dismiss the Scalia site.
"I do not want to see a school on the Roberts property," said Cockayne, who said it would mean a busing "nightmare" and the replacement of many acres of open space.

Why? Maybe because you would rather spend millions of tax payers dollars on a sports complex on the Roberts property that is not needed.

Anonymous said...

All that needs to be done is to close off the section of park street in the area of the proposed school site and put it there .

Everyone knows that Bristol has no problem w/ limiting roadways . I mean if they can do it for sports and car shows they can surely do it for schools/children.

Anonymous said...

I do not see why anyone would think its a good idea to try and take 20 or 30 houses through eminent domain. From a practical position, you cannot count on a timelime as the court process can take years. After just coming off of the Bugryn issue, not to mention Kio V. New London, this is a real bad idea. God Bless the local politician who goes along with this idea because it will be the kiss of death for them. I like the Scalia idea however, I am not opposed to Roberts if practical.

Anonymous said...

Seems like you have figured Cockayne out.
He was an Ellen stooge, still is.

But, the Scalia site is the right one for positive reasons, not by default.

Anonymous said...

Let's give Ken Cockayne a chance. We don't really know what he'll do yet. But I noticed that he pushed to move public participation ahead of the committee discussion on the site, which is a welcome change from the board of ed's typical attitude.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Everyone who disagrees with your point of view is one of Ellen's stooge.

Please stop insulting everyone's intellegence.

Give Ken a chance.

Anonymous said...

By state law, if we put the school on the Roberts Property the city will first have to buy open space (woods and meadow) somewhere else to replace it. How does this save the taxpayers money? The people in charge know this, so my question is, why are they still talking about Roberts? Something fishy going on here.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, we shouldn't be discussing where to put these 900+ sized primary schools, or even what neighborhood is going to get stuck with them.

These structures are a facility administrator's dream, an architectural or construction company's bread, an educator's curse, and a student's nightmare.

After these structures are built, the BOE will be coming back asking for more money to pay for full year pre-K in order to "prepare" and "socialize" the little tots to deal with monster schools and social environment they created.
Oh yes, the taxpayer's pockets are bottomless.

To misconstrue these schools as "neighborhood anchors" is silly.

We should be discussing the appropriate size of Bristol's primary schools, and which size best fits and serves Bristol's already estabilished neighborhoods!

Why sacrifice our neigborhoods to the "Gods of Sprawl"?
Why gridlock our roadways during rush hours?

Why sacrifice our smaller-sized schools?

The reason Bristol students do as well as they do, given that Bristol spends less per student that comparable towns, is that our schools are smaller sized, in my opinion. We have to some extent avoided school conglomeration.

Bristol's smaller-sized primary schools are a precious asset to our educational endeavors, not a detriment.

By the way, have you noticed that the BOE can't cite those numerous peer reviewed educational research studies (with appropriate statistical analysis) that confirms a "school within a school" or a "divided large sized school on a single site" has the same academic performance as a small-sized school, and not the disadvantages in academic performance and violence associated with larger schools?

Anonymous said...

Wake up, 1:09 pm. That train has left the station. The Board of Education has decided that we're going K-8, and every new and returning BoE member endorsed the plan. Every BoE candidate who lost, opposed K-8. The voters have spoken, the BoE has spoken. When will you grow up and accept reality? The City Council and the Board of Finance isn't going to fight it - they know how the system works.

realistic said...

The election results had nothing to do with the positions of the candidates. I'd say 90% of the people who voted had no idea which candidates supported the k-8 proposals and which ones didn't.

I wish BOE people like Tommy would stop trying to make the election result out to be an endorsement of their proposal, because it wasn't. the way BOE elections work, there would have been a majority in favor of k-8 no matter what, since 9 out of the 12 (13 if you include the Indy) candidates win election.

Anonymous said...

To 6:41 from 1:09
You wake up.
The voters have hardly spoken.

The "system" in most cities and towns in CT is that proposals to bond new school construction projects must be approved by the majority of the voters.

Anonymous said...

Why was Stortz at this meeting?

Can't he just hang his jock strap up and go home?

Anonymous said...

How come all you folks talk about taking property by eminent domain?


If I were a property owner and the city offered me 125% of FMV for my home, I would say where do I sign.

Give it a rest,a nd think before you speak.

Anonymous said...

Scalia site:

No Environmental issues.
No Eminent Domain.
No delays.


Anonymous said...

Someone asked why Stortz was at the meeting. I have no idea, other than he has been interested and invoved in the city for a couple of decades.
I don't know who else was there, but I would ask the question, was Johnson there?

After all, he should be, he might get some more lucrative contracts for relocation.