RIDGEFIELD, Conn. - The following is a letter from Amy Shinohara, the Secretary for the Ridgefield Board of Education, regarding the upcoming referendum vote on the budget on May 14. This letter is a part of the Ridgefield Board of Education 'Beyond Blackboard' articles.
Low voter turnout is the biggest threat to budgets this year. In a year that has seen the fewest number of public comments on the town and school budgets, it’s easy to assume that “everyone else” will vote and pass the budgets. But those are dangerous assumptions to make. We’ve seen this in the past and watched in shock as budgets were defeated.
Historically, no matter what budget goes to the voters, there seems to always be at least 1500 “no” votes. So in order for the budgets to pass, we need at least 1501 “yes” votes.
That should be easy to get, right? But in town budget referendums, there are frequently only slightly more than 3,000 total votes cast. So every vote makes a difference. This year’s school budget balances educational improvements and security improvements, all while being fiscally responsible.
It adds a significant number of security measures that are long-overdue in our schools (and some we never before anticipated). It also adds key initiatives that keep our education system moving forward. Included in those initiatives are a new math program for grades 3-6 and additional courses at the high school to support increased graduation requirements.
As a district, we are moving forward with a new teacher and administrator evaluation plan. This represents a significant step in the right direction by including student outcomes and parent feedback in the evaluation process. The district continues to work feverishly to meet the demands of the new Common Core State Standards, which represent a massive overhaul in curriculum on a national basis.
These standards bring us as close as we’ve ever been to having a national curriculum, which is key in our efforts to remain globally competitive. Gone are the days when we only have to worry about keeping up with the Joneses. Now we have to keep up with Shanghai and Beijing, to name just a couple.
And here’s the remarkable part: all of this is being accomplished with less than a 2% budget increase. By going out to bid on insurance and transportation—2 key drivers in the budget—we have been able to use savings in those areas to fund the improvements, thus holding the line on ballooning costs.
This budget deserves your support. Please vote on May 14 to approve both town and school budgets.
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