It’s not clear why Gov. Jodi Rell is trying to close the Bristol Technical Education Center.
The chair of the state Board of Education’s Technical High School Committee, Beverly Bobroske, said the state panel never recommended its closure and believes “very, very strongly” that it should remain open.
Bobroske, a former head of Bristol’s Board of Education and an unsuccessful Republican contender for state Senate in 2004 and 2006, said the school serves a crucial need.
Gov. Jodi Rell’s proposed budget would shutter the two-year school in order to save taxpayers $2 million annually, a figure that remains unexplained. Rell said that painful cuts such as the closing the technical school are needed to close a monstrous budget hole without resorting to tax hikes.
State Rep. Chris Wright, a Bristol Democrat whose 77th District covers the northeastern section of town, said that sacrifices are going to be necessary to address the budget.
“But sacrificing the future of our children, sacrificing the future of our state, is not the way to do that,” Wright said.
The claim that closing the school will save $2 million annually doesn’t appear to hold weight to those who know the institution.
Because of labor agreements reached between the state and its unions, which agreed to wage cuts in return for a no-layoffs guarantee, the staff of the school will remain on the payroll. They’d simply be shifted to one of the other technical schools for at least the next two years.
“No one will be laid off,” said Abigail Hughes, the superintendent of the technical high school system.
Since labor costs make up the bulk of the expense at the technical school, officials said, it’s hard to imagine how closing it could lead to significant savings.
The governor’s budget cites the savings from laying off 30 people to explain its purported cost-cutting. But few if any of the personnel at the school can be laid off due to the deal Rell made with state workers.
The other technical school targeted by Rell, Stamford’s Wright Technical School, is suffering from dwindling enrollment and aging infrastructure.
Bobroske said the state school panel indicated in December that it might suspend the Stamford school’s operations for a couple of years while an agreement about its future could be worked out with a nearby community college.
Even that, Bobroske said, was done reluctantly.
But nobody ever considered shutting down the Bristol school, she said.
Students at the school Tuesday who have toured other technical schools said that Bristol’s technology is much better the norm and its educational program superb.
“There is no reason or justification as to why a school that creates so many life-changing opportunities and gives back so much to the community should be closed,” said Kyle Orde, an adult student who attends it.
Ben Russell, who teaches manufacturing, said the school provides the basis of a solid career for its students.
“Get a foundation and you can go anywhere,” Russell said. “It’s a great little school.”
Between October and May, only one technical school in Connecticut saw its high school age enrollment rise: the Bristol Technical Education Center.
Among the other 17 technical schools in the state, the average class lost 3 percent of its students.
Only Bristol, where the number rose from 108 to 113 students, saw an increase in those attending during the course of the school year, according to statistics provided by the state Board of Education’s Technical High School Committee.
Bristol also has another 22 adult students who paid more than $64,000 in tuition to attend this year, a number that’s slated to rise to more than $105,000 next year when 34 adults have been accepted.
Bristol’s technical school also has 106 students on its waiting list for the academic year that begins in August.
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