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Residents Rally For Music Instruction At Public Hearing

Ledyard school board hears public comments about budget cuts.

State Rep. Tom Reynolds stood before a modest crowd of concerned parents, students and staff at a public hearing on the proposed education budget cuts Tuesday night and delivered somber news from Hartford.

"We have a long road ahead before Hartford gets its own fiscal house in order," he said of the unlikely chance of increased state funding. "If state funding is flat for the next decade and your costs keep rising, it is simply an unsustainable model."

Reynolds said that Ledyard's budget dilemma is not unique and that towns across the state need to pool resources.

"The district will not look the same 10 years from now," he said. "We need to look at regionalizing and sharing services and re-thinking the educational system in Connecticut."

The forum was hosted by the school board's finance committee and Reynolds was one of approximately 30 people who commented on next year's proposed school budget, which has to be cut by $1.14 million to be a zero-increase budget.

that achieved the zero-increase mainly by laying off a handful of teachers and tutors, reducing a music instruction program for 5th and 6th grades and cutting Project Oceanology.

Michelle Hinton, the chair of the committee, began the public hearing with an attitude of cooperation. "It's going to take all of us to keep an open mind and it's going to take all of us to come up with a creative vision for the town."

Most people spoke in vafor of keeping musical instruction offered to 5th and 6th grade students. Support for the program was underlined when program teacher Steve Shaw stood to speak and the audience burst into applause.

Kirsten Solomon, who has two children in Ledyard schools, said that since the district doesn't have a gifted and talented program, music is one of the outlets for advanced students to expand their skill set. Solomon said she supported a "pay to play" scenario to keep music education.

David Bednarz and members from the Ocean Sciences Bowl Team stood in support of keeping Project Oceanology. , all attested to the program's influence in their career choices and college applications.

A few parents stood up to advocate for the reading program.

Camie Lozier has two daughters in and she said that without the MSLE program, "my oldest daughter would not be reading right now." She said her youngest daughter is making progress too and, "I believe if that program stays in that school, that she will learn to read."

Gail Curtain, a school employee, urged board members to talk to people working in the schools and reduce the amount of wasted resources.

"Let's get that under control before we cut these great programs," she said.

Some solutions, like cutting another position or combining bus routes, were aired and some people questioned what the town is doing to encourage more business in Ledyard.

The board will discuss the budget again during its regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 15 and vote at a special meeting on Feb. 22.

taxpayer/teacher February 08, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Flat funding is technically incorrect. If you consider all the unfunded mandates imposed upon districts, the net funding is decreasing rapidly and with the new mandates looming, will impact districts even further. Contact you state representatives now and voice your concerns.
Sharon Pealer February 08, 2012 at 12:34 PM
I think Gail Curtain has the right idea. Sadly there is almost always waste that goes unnoticed in preparing a budget from an over all perspective. I also have to say that failing to retain the music and science programs would be counter productive. It is a proven fact that music lessons improve students performance in math. I am one parent who can speak to the benefit of the Marine sciences program at the high school level. My son is now in his third year in the Marine Studies degree program at Avery Point in large part because he studied it in high school. The very simple fact is that in this country we do lag behind many other countries in the fields of Math, sciences and engineering, cutting any programs that aid students in getting interested in the subjects would be a failure to serve the students in this town.
Sharon Pealer February 08, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Are you asking us to tell the representatives to raise the spending level and increase our taxes in the process? Are you instead asking us to contact our representatives and tell them to cut the mandates? Anyone who has watched the politicians for a while can tell you that the answer they always have is to increase taxes, for they know better how to spend our hard earned money than we do. What they have a problem with is not wasting the money on pet projects and pie in the sky dreams.
taxpayer/teacher February 08, 2012 at 03:32 PM
@ Sharon-I am suggesting that we tell our representatives to change or repeal the mandates. Those that are imposed by CT are within their power to change. If you are not happy with the choices made by our elected officials-overwhelmingly Democrats(now and historically)-then vote them out!
Julian Lupienski February 08, 2012 at 03:38 PM
the town of ledyard, has over a course of time, spends, taking in demographics, about $200.00 more per capita than other comunities with a elected mayor.what does that mean? well, about two million. this is based on a 2009 what other similar communities spend. follow the money and ask what are you doing
LiveForFreedom February 08, 2012 at 04:08 PM
It is a shame that Ledyard must cut or defund these successful academic programs just to have enough money for salaries. Now there is less Connecticut State money for towns and education budgets. These political leaders have a direct impact on how state money is spent and appropriated. House Speaker Chris Donovan , Appropriations Committee Senator Edith Prague , Senator Martin Looney, House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey, Betsy Ritter, Kevin Sullivan, George Jepsen , Kevin Lembo , Denise Napier , Denise Merril , Nancy Wyman, Diana Urban, Andrew Maynard and Tom Reynolds all have an impact on our state budget and have failed to control spending and maintain a balanced state budget. Ask them to please live within their means. Ledyard residents have to controll their spending with our own town and family budgets. Write them and tell them what is wrong with Connecticut.
Sharon Pealer February 08, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Thank You, what you wanted us to do was not clear earlier and I am concerned that our elected representatives need us to be very concise in what we want for that goes against their own interests. You are right about who was making the choices and driving the ship of state that is Connecticut to this point. Sadly most voters will never admit that their own representative is part of the problem, so we will continue down this destructive path.
Jules Lambert Lemelin February 08, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Residents did rally last night passionately for all the programs that are important to our students. Many provided suggestions that are viable! We are now also clearly aware that non-resident students pay less than our actual cost per-student. We have all been somehow negatively impacted by the Country and State's fiscal crisis in our own homes. We can brace for budget cuts. Parents, Residents and Registered Voters did also CLEARLY vote for a change in Ledyard in the November elections. As parents we know this is more than just a job for you. We know what you have done for our children an appreciate you all. We clearly sent a message last night that our Town Council, our BOE, and our Mayor may not settle any longer for the "Status Quo" We would like to see you work proactively TOGETHER for the future of our children and town. We would like to see the town make a commitment that our children will not endure cuts like these is the future. Representative Reynolds clearly stated we are looking at no financial increases from the State for more than a decade. So I ask and I ask residents to keep asking the same question of our Town Council: What is the town going to do to increase our long term sources of revenue?
Nancy Banning February 11, 2012 at 08:17 PM
As a parent of 4 children who graduated from LHS, these are my thoughts. They all went through the music program from Gallup Hill through LHS. At the time, Ledyard was a Grammy Signature school, awarded to very select schools nationally! My children competed at Disney World, Carnegie Hall, Busch Gardens, Hershey Park, Washington D.C., and The Berkely Jazz Fest., among others. Over 500 students participated in music at LHS. It is exceptional because it demands commitment and excellence. Summer retreats, camps and performances formed a year-long commitment where life-long bonds were built. Auditioning in front of large groups and singing solos developed self-confidence. The following is what my kids have to say about LHS music today, "Standards of excellence produce continuity, commitment, and a desire to maintain every one of them. We were always proud to perform with these groups. Not always best friends, we came together as one when we sang, and while we sang, we were committed to excellence. This is where our high school music department is different from others. Looking out at the audience and experiencing the pride of our community, and the happiness it brings, always made me smile. The music program at LHS has made me a better person. Music has helped shape the person I am today." Can a parent ask for more, educationally? Pay for play saves jobs and teachers are what makes education great! But whatever you do, "NEVER CHANGE THE ONE THING THAT WORKS"!

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