May 28, 2009

Bristol tech school targeted for closure

In a late session bid to trim a massive budget gap, Gov. Jodi Rell proposed Thursday to close the Bristol Technical Education Center this summer.

The move would save $2 million for taxpayers while eliminating 30 jobs and close the doors for 108 students, according to Rell’s new spending plan.

The suggestion shocked school employees attending a teacher of the year celebration Thursday night.

Without the Bristol school, “the students we have wouldn’t really have anywhere to go,” said teacher of the year Steve Donaghy, the department head for heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

Donaghy, a Bristol resident who’s been teaching at the school for a decade, said enrollment is growing and students are finding jobs when they graduate in fields such as manufacturing, electronics and culinary arts.

The closure plan drew immediate criticism from Bristol lawmakers who have fended off efforts to shutter the Minor Street school in the past.

State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat, said that “to shut it down would be a travesty.”

“I will fight tooth and nail to keep that school open,” said Nicastro, who represents the 79th District.

State Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat who represents the 31st District, said he will also fight to preserve the school because it teaches students “new careers” and skills that the state needs.

The school teaches high school juniors and seniors – who hail from 31 towns between Berlin and Torrington – and offers trade certification and high school credits. It’s the only trade school in the state that doesn’t require students to decide to attend as freshmen, which Donaghy said may make it an easier target because it’s unique.

 Among those learning new trades are adults who have lost their jobs or are looking to better themselves, Colapietro said.

Nicastro said shuttering the school would “hurt immensely” because the state needs more tradesman and skilled workers.

Rell didn’t address the closing of the Bristol school specifically in her comments about the new spending proposal, but maintained that the $1.3 billion in cuts she proposed over two years “were not easy, but I had to make them to meet these economic challengers head-on with courage and vision.”

The state faces a budget shortfall of at least $8 billion dollars during the next two years.

Figuring out how to close that gap – with some sort of mix of spending cuts, fee hikes and tax increases – has been at the top of the agenda for months, but it’s not clear that the legislature and governor are on the same page. Democrats are resisting many cuts while Rell refuses to consider higher taxes.

Closing the Bristol school would eliminate 19 full-time jobs and 11 part-time positions, according to the governor’s proposal.

Donaghy said that politicians are going to need to save the school. He said he hopes they can.


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

Republicans have the nerve to say that Democrats are hurting businesses,Where to you get your work force reguardless of what Industry that you work in ??? Technical schools(Training is key for companys to compete,this Adm better figure it out.

Art Costa said...

We need more facilities like this one, not fewer. Let's hope the governor and the legislature are on different pages. The school is a valuable asset; lose it and the area suffers.

Anonymous said...

They want to close BRISTOL'S Courthouse, they want to close BRISTOL'S Tech school: WILL OUR LOCAL LEGISLATORS LET THAT HAPPEN?

The dems control the votes: lets see how they handle this one!

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Lisa Moody.

open said...

Over the past several years, both Bristol high schools have severely cut back industrial / technology programs. Automotives and graphic arts are gone. Manufacturing, construction and electronics course offerings have dwindled.

The rationale for the cuts was that the public high schools were preparing all students for college. Any student who was not college material could choose to attend the tech school. The reality is that not all kids have the ability or desire to go to college.

With the proposed closing of the Bristol Tech School, where is a local kid supposed to go to learn a marketable trade? If they attend Central or Eastern, they will be very adept at filling in bubbles on standardized tests, but sorely lacking in practical vocational skills.

Anonymous said...

C'mon Bristol legislators, stand up for us! Keep the school open!

Anonymous said...

It's about time. If businesses want trained workers they should be paying for that training themselves instead of the taxpayers. All the kids can go to their high schools and graduate so there is no issue.

Anonymous said...

This is a terrible situation. I work in the construction industry, and I can tell you that I hear, all of the time, that it is hard to find qualified young people to work in various trades and in construction administration. Tech schools like the one in Bristol give young people marketable trade skills and put them on the fast track to licensure in HVAC, plumbing, etc. These kids, who have chosen to go this route in lieu of a college prep academic program, leave these tech schools ready to work and make a living. It's commendable and good for the economy.

This town owes it to its children to educate ALL of them. Not just the kids who want to be doctors, policemen or work retail.

We should use our taxes to give these kids the preparation they need to make it in the real world. We do the same for our regular high school students at BEHS and BCHS.

Vocational education is a good investment. Don't discriminate against kids who don't long for academia. Its not a bad choice, considering that we all know just how expensive it is to hire a plumber (not getting any cheaper, either), and how hard it is for recent college grads to find jobs.

Anonymous said...

9:16, what are you talking about? Would you say the same about kids who intend to go to college - we shouldn't teach them math and history because whatever they need their future employers will have to supply it? Idiotic. Bad for business and would make our public schools into...daycares! What about giving Bristol's young people (and businesses) the edge up on the competition from other towns, other States and people from India and China? What are you, a buffoon or an elitist? Maybe, both? Jeez, you are a dope. Like a high school diploma is worth anything more than the paper its printed on these days. Would you like to have more unemployed 20-somethings sucking the juice out of this economy? At least these tech school kids leave high school ready to enter the workforce. Say what you want about going to college, but it costs a lot of money, and a number of kids slouch off of mom and dad and don't do anything with their degrees when their four years are done.
I went to college, I am a fan of higher education, and I'm not that handy with mechanical stuff. Still, I can see that its a terrible idea to pull the rug out from under these kids' feet simply because you don't see the value in their training. What message does this send to our business and industry - we don't value trades and preparing young people for manufacturing, mechanics, construction and engineering careers. Why would businesses and industry stay in CT when can't find qualified people to do the work?
Talk about short-sighted.

Anonymous said...

Figure it out. $2 million a year for one hundred students. That's $20,000 per student. We could bus them to Goodwin College in East Hartford in limousines and pay for their transportation, meals and tuition and still come out ahead of the game.

Anonymous said...

I really hope that Goyener Rell dose not colse Bristol Tech because it is a great school to go to and I know because Im going there for welding and will be going there for manufacturing as a post grad. I don't see why our state legislators should close the school when there making money off of it because the post graduates that go there have to pay. And plus since I have gone there my grades have improved and I am learning a lot more than I did when I went to my sending school. So this is why I think that Bristol Tech should not be shut down.

Anonymous said...

To the last post in this column: What you obviously fail to see is when a tech school student graduates, therefore they are ready to work and pay taxes as an apprentice or a journeyman etc. So in the end the state will be reaping years or taxes well before their college students start to pay taxes. Tech students start of as electricians, HVAC plubmers etc and even as journeymen will pay the state a heck of a lot more in taxes before their counterparts graduate. It's a win win situation for the state.

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