Thursday, October 29, 2015

Parents Start Online Petition Against Unnecessary Redistricting in Middletown

The peition was started by Laela Simon and is available to sign here:petition
October 9, 2015
Dear Redistricting Committee, Board of Education Members and Board of Education Candidates,
We are deeply concerned that a Redistricting Committee has been convened and charged with submitting a recommendation to the BOE for redistricting the entire City of Middletown’s elementary school system effective Fall of 2016.  After review of the BOE meeting minutes, it appears that a problem of overcrowding at Farm Hill School is being solved by a city-wide redistricting effort with the goal of being in compliance with the State’s Racial Imbalance Statute.  This seems extremely premature and unnecessarily disruptive to Middletown’s families considering that at this time, all Middletown schools are in compliance with the State’s Racial Imbalance Statute.   The information shown on the State of Connecticut Board of Education (SBE) website for the most recent school year (2014-2015) does not show that any Middletown schools have been determined to be racially imbalanced.  Neither does this website show that any Middletown schools are “impending imbalance” status.  Furthermore, it is troubling to us that before one public meeting was held on this topic, plans are being looked at with the goal of implementing redistricting for the next school year. 
We sincerely hope that you are aware that the law allows for a plan to be submitted to the SBE within 120 days of receipt of notification of a determination of racial imbalance (which Middletown has not yet received).  The law also allows for an extension of up to an additional 90 days to be requested if the number of students causing said imbalance in any school is fewer than five.  We would also like to point out that the law does not require that students throughout the district be reassigned to address a racially imbalanced school.  We strongly suggest that you become familiar with the law and its requirements which do include the option to implement voluntary interdistrict and intradistrict enrollment plans as an alternative to mandatory pupil reassignment.  Becoming familiar with this statute will benefit our city if, in the future, it becomes necessary for Middletown to address this issue.  
An additional troubling aspect to all of this is that the Redistricting Committee has made it one of their priorities to balance out Middletown’s school districts based on socio-economic status.  No such requirement exists in the State Regulations.  Forcing elementary school children to attend schools outside of their neighborhood does not seem prudent just to meet an arbitrary goal set by a committee.  We feel that this is an irresponsible use of tax dollars to pay a consultant to research and present plans on such a topic when there are no such requirements. 
We feel that Middletown needs to develop a long term, sustainable plan for its school system which may not need to include something as disruptive as redistricting.  We are confident that you will find that involuntary movement of students to achieve racial balance through redistricting will have very little support among the families of Middletown.  Our town already has one large school at the levels of 6th grade, 7th & 8th grade, and high school.  All public school students attend one school at each of these levels, and, therefore, get to experience a thoroughly diverse student body for more than half of their years in the Middletown public school system.  We see no reason to break up the current elementary schools that follow the neighborhood based model and are supported by parents throughout Middletown. 
Finally, we would like to point out that other Towns have waited to be notified by the SBE (as the law allows) before they put forth a plan to address racial imbalance.  Even after being notified by the SBE several towns have submitted plans that did not include redistricting (as the law allows).  These towns include Manchester, Fairfield and Greenwich and these plans were approved by the SBE.  Also, some towns have continued to submit and revise their plan over the years without the inclusion of redistricting.  This has involved long term data gathering, analysis and community discussion.  If it becomes necessary for Middletown to submit such a plan, we would hope that the Board of Education would utilize aspects from the plans of other towns that were approved without redistricting. 
We are very concerned that Middletown is hastily making decisions and wasting valuable tax payer dollars (over $40,000 for a Consultant to study this issue!).   We understand that an immediate solution to the overcrowding at Farm Hill School is necessary.  We are certain that a less impactful solution than redistricting the entire City can be reached.  With regards to your effort to comply with the State’s Racial Imbalance Statute (which is not required at this time), we are urging you to consider a long term solution that will be the least disruptive to our school families.  We know that the formation of such a solution cannot occur and be implemented by the Fall of 2016.   We hope that you will engage in the research and public involvement necessary to do what is right for Middletown.
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration in this matter,
We the undersigned concerned citizens of Middletown

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