September 9, 2008

Streifer's memo to the City Council

School Superintendent Phil Streifer sent a fascinating memorandum to city councilors last weekend. Here it is, in a PDF.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Anonymous said...

Its all a bunch of garbage....there is no need for new schools...All I hear is that the current schools are not adequate,but what is not right? Is the ceilings falling down, toilets backing up, stair cases ready to fall, rats running around the school? I can care less about the state putting in 73% of the cost...I want to know exactly why we need 2 new schools before you start spending my money! What is going to be done with the old schools...That should be looked at even before we break ground on new schools...This city is so ass backwards its not even funny...Again looking around the city you can see its a dump already..nothing to be proud of in this city other then ESPN that is saving our butts!

John Reek said...

I am completely on the other side here. These schools are way overdue hey 9:01, ask Mr. Audette, Priciple of O'connell school how many times contractors have put band aids on his roof, how many times kids, including my own had to be moved to another room because of all the water coming in the cieling, then after being moved to the basement library water would come in through the foundation!
You do not have a clue.
I say Finally! Finally the west end catches a break.
see you tonight.

Anonymous said...

Just because the state foots 73% do you honestly believe it isn't coming out of our pockets? Last time I checked we all pay State taxes too, right? So why the hell don't we have more of a say with these damn projects. It really pisses me off. I want proof that these school are really necessary before wasting all kinds of money unnecessarily. GD

Anonymous said...

Dr. Streiffers memo covers a lot, but we continually fail to consider the intangibles that will result: improved image of Bristol, bristol becomes more desireable, property values go up, better education opportunities and so on.

Hopefully things will start to move ahead now!

Anonymous said...


I left this blank out of respect for the opinion of BOE member Chris Wilson.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...

Mr. Steifer's memo has three basic themes:

1. Construction cost's are increasing 7% each year.
2. That renovation (based on 1999 figures) is more expensive than construction from scratch.
3. That the larger schools are more cost effective to run.

The third point leads me to a question that hasn't been adequetly answered. What benefits, other than cost effectiveness, would replacing four school with two create? The national trend seems to be moving in the other direction. And given the increasing poverty and lowering standards of students who come into our school system wouldn't smaller schools be more effective in addressing the issue? Hasn't the record on larger schools been that they are basically factory's mass producing students? (Ok, that's three questions)

The only thing this memo tells us is that it's cheaper. I'm sure for some parents that's not good enough.

Tim Gamache said...

I'm sure that I'll get slammed for having the temerity to voice an opinion here,but here goes anyway.First,as someone who spent over 40 years in the construction business I can tell you that building new will ALWAYS be more fiscally responsible than renovating old buildings in the long run.Second,I'm still not convinced large,mega schools are the way to go.I would prefer to see smaller "neighborhood" schools built.The Scalia "pit" moves West End students further away from their homes.How does that promote a better education?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, this looks like a script to me! LOL

Anonymous said...

Way to many unanswered questions! And to the poster at 10:12am...Better schools will not lead to better property values...We live in a city with nothing..until that changes nobody is just going to move here for the schools. The schools we have here are fine. Why is it after some of the surrounding towns get schools all of a sudden the schools in Bristol are no longer good enough. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking that we have a bunch of idiots making decisions with our money that have no idea. Was there a study done for the tax payers in regards to keeping the old v's building new schools? Meaning renovating the old schools? And I don't want to hear it from the super or anyone on the school board. I want to hear it from a person that was hired to do the study!

Anonymous said...


It has been been proven and documented that the quality and atttraciveness of a school system has the biggest impact on home values other than a specific issue like a nearby landfill etc.

Interetsted, I'get youthe name of a book that explains it.

Tim, spend some time in the schools and you will discover that the homes in question generally do not assist in the education of the child.

Most kids, 70%-80% are bussed already.

Why hire a Superintendent, pay them a godd (competitive) salary and not listen to them?

Anonymous said...

If renovating older buildings is "always" more expensive, then why have so many cities choosen to do so in the first place?
Why have other CT cities done so?
Why do other states require a renovation analysis PRIOR to agreeing to bond new construction?
(Mass, Maine, for example)
By the way, the successes of the K*8 advantage was first noticed in Chicago. The choice was made to "renovate" the older smaller schools within the city, and within neigborhoods rather than to create larger schools on the fringes of communities.
It's not just the individual cost of each building, it is also society's overall costs - transportation costs, and services expended when kids drop out and fail to graduate. It's that smaller sized schools suit the needs of children better, particularly lower income children.
Even Streifer in his memo noted that the cost differences were minimal between building anew and renovation. The underlying assumption is that an older building is always inferior, and always costs more to maintain. If this were the case, then
once again, why do some cities choose to do it? And why to some states foist this situation on their cities and towns?
Why do some states provide guidance in the form of qualified architects and engineers to perform those assessments rather than leave it to the local BOE's?
Is it that renovation is cost effective? Or that those cities that do it are stupid?
Striefer fails to mention drop out rates, and lower academic performance associated with larger schools. The societal costs related to drop outs is staggering.

Bristol has chosen to create primary schools that are sized as high schools, rather than as primary schools.

Also, the point that Mr. Striefer made in his memo to the Council about NESDEC estimating the renovation costs in 1999, is really pathetic. If any of our Council people ever took the time to read the 1999 NEDEC report, they would soon discover that it is an advocacy document for new construction - a sales pitch.
The NESDEC group is staffed by PhD's in education. Look at the curriculum vitae. These consultants perform demographics projections, population projections. They suggest how a facility should be arranged, or they determine and suggest space needs to fulfill a programming or educational agenda. They advocate exclusively for new construction projects- always.
NESDEC are NOT architects or engineers qualified to assess physical structures or determine. construction costs. Their so-called "estimates" are merely opinions. The opinion is merely a one or two line statement, with little to real information to support their "opinion".

On the other hand, there are groups of qualified architects and engineers who can assess older builings and estimate renovation costs.
In summary, the city is proceeding on opinions and "hear say" regarding this matter of new school construction.
Surely who would object to a real assessment from those who have sucessfully renovated older school building in other communities?
Should we not have an honest and fair comparative review... simply because of the staggering costs involved? The families in this town are hurting financially, with no relief in sight.
What's wrong with a second opinion.

A year has elapsed since the BOE started down this path.
In my opinion, it is SHAMEFUL and IRRESPONSIBLE that an honest comparison has NOT been forwarded.
Frankly, this whole deal is more about 'politics' and manipulation of process.
Let the people vote!

The notion that building new schools will somehow be an attractant to upgrade incomes of the majority of residents of this city, is just plain silly.
We should all be sure to inform our employers that they need to pay us more because Bristol is building new schools !

Of course, if you tax the hell out of the middle class, those that can will leave. Who then will remain?
What does that do to that precious demographic profile?

Interesting that the school population is not growing, and yet there are new schools construction projects planned.

john cullen said...


Mr. Streifer describes the decision to build the two schools in the chosen locations to replace the 4 existing schools as reflecting a vision for Bristol, its city and schools. I think that perhaps his enthusiasm for the city as it pertains to this project is somewhat misguided. I also don’t believe there is any way to be confident the new schools and their configuration will be superior to what we now have or could have, but I’m no educator…

He has done an excellent job conveying the issues involved in making the decision, and this summary as well as the one found on the Board of Ed website should give anyone who is interested a clear picture of what has and is happening leading up to this decision.

Although there clearly has been a great deal of thought put into this and it has been communicated rather well to those who wish to make the effort to be knowledgeable of the projects, that doesn’t mean the right decision has been made nor does it follow that the majority of Bristol taxpayers are pleased with this decision or their perceived ability to participate in the process to arrive where we are. Mayor Ward noted in postponing a vote from Monday to Tuesday that he wanted to allow citizens the opportunity to be heard. Seems to be a bit late for that, and it also seems that it wouldn’t have hurt to have conducted a town meeting to discuss many of the issues described in Mr. Streifer’s letter in a concise and factual (where possible) manner. Oh well.

What I really wanted to comment on was the fact that these decisions will certainly affect the “vision” of Bristol in many ways, but most notably “downtown”. These projects will suck three schools out of the downtown area, and with them will go countless attributes that are almost all positive. I have yet to see a proposal regarding what is planned to fill this void. That should be a very important part of this “vision” if the City of Bristol is truly a part of it.

The “empty spaces” that now define the downtown are going to fill up with something, and if affordable housing is a significant part of that growth, I’m wondering what that does to projected “demographics”. There is also a significant property tax incentive to convert single family homes to two and three bedroom homes, and if economics dictate that the only way to keep the older sections of the city with their large and older buildings viable is to do so, population density in Federal Hill, the West End and perhaps in other areas surrounding down town will increase. It would make sense from an affordability standpoint relative to the rest of Bristol that a good portion of this potential population growth will be part of the “targeted” population, where education is concerned as well as where general social welfare comes in to play.

Already there is some development downtown in response to the needs of the aging population of the City. Having such a fine hospital right in the middle of town (I have tried it out extensively and think we are remarkably fortunate to have such a fine facility and outstanding caregivers) will likely allow this group to grow significantly in the years to come, and many will be looking to “downsize” their living environment and move closer to services. Currently the Senior Center is in a building that had previously been used as a school. The facility is clearly far newer than the four that are to be closed. It befuddles me why this facility was not part of the decision making process regarding the school projects. A new senior center (these folks have been footing the bill for an awful lot and for a long time and generally ask for little) or a renovation of the Boulevard or Bingham School for this purpose would seem to make sense. “Downtown” is still at the virtual center of the city, and a center located there would provide more equitable access for all City seniors.

Sorry, I ramble, but there is and was so much to consider here. This city is really on a see-saw. There are a number of decisions in her past that have been made by well meaning folks that have turned out to be a whole lot of weight on the wrong seat. These school projects could help to even that weight out, or they could add to it. I suspect its more likely this will lighten the load the City faces whether you agree with the projects or not – we’re going to spend $100+ million on our schools so there should be some positive impact. But considering the consequent and self inflicted loss to downtown, it’s hard to see exactly how favorably, if at all, we’ll balance out.

A scenario I have not seen discussed:

A new O’Connell across the street (not big enough for the big school, but could fit a K-5?)

A new middle school at Greene Hills’ site

Move Greene Hills to the Senior Center facility (renovate), redistribute Greene Hills and Hubbell and…

Renovate Bingham including moving credit union across street and taking lot for parking/traffic (should have been done long ago)

Renovate the Boulevard School for Senior Center

Cost? Could be more than what’s going to happen (both new schools considerably smaller but more facilities involved…), but who knows, and might it be worth it?

I don’t think these two “real” projects are wise expenditures and plans. I surely hope I am wrong. I primarily wish there was a better way to ascertain that this is something the population really is in favor of, and that the plan developed had a greater degree of enthusiasm behind it regarding its functional purpose and the potential likelihood the investment will be rewarded as hoped. I don’t anticipate hearing the town bells clanging over this vote tonight…

Be well, john cullen

Anonymous said...

Tim Gamache
Working 40 years in construction does not make you know it all. You shouled work on 40 years of keeping your mouth shut. You are all over Bristol like the flu.
Get a life

john cullen said...

Thanks Tim

John Cullen

Anonymous said...

The decision to build mega schools, small schools, K-5 or K-8 is a moot point. One is wasting their breath on this issue. That ship has sailed. Get over it. The BOE is elected - remember the referendum, and we elected individuals that voted for the K-8 model...and two of the most vocal individuals in favor of K-8 mega schools, O'Brien and Doyle garnered the most votes.

If the majority of the electorate doesn’t believe in this model, then elect people to the BOE who agree with you. To date, that has not happened.

The council has one simple question to decide - fund the model or not. They have no say in the model, only the funding with the Board of Finance.

I agree with the model, I agree with Dr. Streifer, and I certainly agree with the BOE members who have spoken.

Anonymous said...


Is that how you feel about all the old houses on Federal Hill?

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should take Streifer's house by entiment domain? This guy should go back where he came from he is a disgrace to Bristol schools.

Than again, maybe O'Brien Funeral Home by entiment Domain would be the right place for a Forestville school?

Let a judge decide a fair price guys. After we pay thousnads in legal fees like we did at the mall and the Bugryn property. When are the so called city leaders going to learn thier lesson? Trying to steal peoples land?

I agree that Bristol needs to build a new school in the West End, but I'm against the K-8 debacle.

O'Brien screwed up the school system when he was on the City Council in the 70's and were letting him do it again...

Stop the madness.....Stop Streifer and O'Brien and the puppet Doyle...NOW!

THank God Stortz is gone so we don't have him screwing Bristol any longer!

Anonymous said...

@ September 9, 2008 3:41 PM

The superintendent's job is to run the school system with what he is given. He is the employee of the Board of Education. There are two problems: superintendents like to have a history of obtaining new schools on their resume, and Board of Ed members are often inexperienced as elected officials and turn to their employee (the superintendent) for instruction. It is the same everywhere, and will not change until town committees put up more qualified candidates and apathetic voters learn more about who they're voting for.

Anonymous said...


Why don't you run for office so you can put forward your ideas?

You don't agree with O'Brien, Doyle, Stortz and who knows who else, but at least they were honest and forthright enough to come forward and appear before the public!

Too bad you can't say that!!!

Tim Gamache said...

5:27 It was only a matter of time.First,are you suggesting that I(or anyone else) should keep our opinions to ourselves simply because they differ from your own?Second,I will not apologize for taking an interest in the city in which I grew up.I might add that interest extends beyond sitting at a computer typing out words.I sit on boards,commissions and a Council.I am an active member of at least three civic organizations,to include one of Bristols' CERT(community emergency response team).I am NOT providing this "laundry list" just to polish my own "apple", but rather to TRY and explain why I am "all over town."Simply put, I care about the city in which I grew up and will continue to do what little I can to make it even better.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate you sharing that memo. It clarifies a lot of things even if I am still unconvinced.

Anonymous said...

Tim, you are like GW Bush: all hat and no cattle!

Anonymous said...

My description is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Anonymous said...

Run, Tim, Run!!!!