Editor, The Cheshire Herald:
Before I was a candidate for the Cheshire Town Council in the 4th District and even before I was a Cheshire resident, I had settled on my passion for the betterment of children. I have devoted my entire adult life and working career to educating, elevating, and empowering them.
Specifically, I have worked with underprivileged and underrepresented youth grades K-6 and now work for the Central Office in New Britain to prepare curricular materials and educate and support those colleagues who remain on the front lines with students. Because of these experiences, I have been privy to the complex, ever-changing but oh-so-rewarding pursuit that is public education.
I say all that to say this: School Modernization must move forward, and without delay.
What I have taken from Town Council and Board of Education meetings, School Modernization publications, public forums, and personal conversations is that adults come together to rally behind and nurture the growth of tomorrow’s leaders. Cheshire is no exception.
Our academic performance and educational reputation speak for themselves. I can also say confidently that, by and large, our student body is not underprivileged nor is it underrepresented.
This has been demonstrated in the determined, spirited work of the School Modernization Committee who worked tirelessly to arrive at and on a 9-3 vote put forward a sound plan for the future of our educational facilities.
Anyone with intimate knowledge of education, including that of facilities, surely must agree that it behooves us to move forward on this “preferred plan” path and to accept what the experts, the administration, and the Board of Education and Town Council majorities have all agreed upon as the best and most beneficial avenue. It is not a question of if or what at this point. Fifty-to-70-year-old buildings are not what the students of Cheshire deserve. I have seen, first-hand, the effects of overcrowded classrooms and over-enrolled buildings to the detriment of children’s academic achievement and, more importantly, their social-emotional well-being.
Our school system is a community source of pride and one of our greatest assets, but factors like non-compliance with regard to ADA and special programming are a huge drawback and certainly inequitable. Investment will occur whether in remediation at astronomical “Band-Aid” costs or by beginning the first phase of embracing modernization as new.
I’ve been saddened to see proponents of alternative, non-preferred plans twisting and muddying the conversation. Frankly, I’ve been reluctant to comment given my candidacy, but the facts have been clear to me and I cannot ignore a passion that compels this piece. It has never been more important for us to continue rallying behind the students of Cheshire by supporting Scenario 6 for two new elementary schools — Norton and Chapman — in addition to other district-wide consolidations and improvements. I truly believe this is the only way the aims of this project can be realized and the expense of them not — of us doing nothing — is too great. We’re already experiencing what that approach has yielded.
I urge the public to look into this multi-phased, decades-long, state-supported and reimbursed, as well as well-vetted, plan. The process has been informed, transparent and in the best interest of all — students, taxpayers, and of sound teaching and learning. I challenge those deviating from this consensus and interfering with the ability to move forward as a unified whole to put self-interest aside and consider the facts before them. They are truly plain to see.
Join me in commending and appreciating the work of the Town Council, Board of Education and the School Modernization Committee. They’ve positioned you and me, the constituency, and our financial situation to affect the average taxpayer minimally as projected for the first phase. The return on investment will be high, but the cost of not passing a plan at referendum will be much higher.
(Note: Lauren Miele is the Republican candidate for the 4th Town Council District seat.)