Democrats say GOP has turned school closing political

To the Editor:

Unfortunately, politics has overtaken the consensus building approach the chairperson of the Board of Education initiated to review the recommendations from the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC). From the beginning of the Long Range Planning process, it was stated the Board of Education could accept the recommendations in full, in part or decide on its own plan.

John DeRosa and his fellow Republican board members had 30 plus hours of public meetings to raise their concerns and suggestions as an alternative to closing Harborside Middle School. We began each of the workshops reviewing our norms, one of which was “Open and honest conversations occur within the workshop.” Not once did any of the Republicans indicate disagreement with the consensus on Harborside. Nor did they raise any objections before or after the public information sessions.

While Mr. DeRosa stated he didn't like the word "closing" Harborside, he helped craft the motion to direct administration to move forward on the consensus plan to do so. He specifically indicated he would be more comfortable with the motion if the phrase "revisit in three years" was added. Apparently, the Republicans never intended to honor the norms and agreements the board worked so hard on during its workshops.

The closing of an elementary school was the one piece of the plan that did not have consensus as the workshop process ended. Therefore, it was agreed we would address it with our own motions and debate at our October 13 business meeting. When given the opportunity to make a motion to close an elementary school, a preference Mr. DeRosa had clearly stated numerous times, he declined. However, during board comment, when most of the public had already left, Mr. DeRosa asked to add closing an elementary school again to a future agenda.

The Democrats on the Board of Education have consistently operated openly, cooperatively and with good faith. Our focus has always been to provide all Milford Public School students equal opportunities and parity of resources so they all can achieve success. The plan I support offers this equity and parity across the district, allows direct feeders through high school, returns us to a K-5 structure, decentralizes pre-kindergarten and brings more balance to the elementary schools through redistricting. It also keeps all eight elementary schools open, leaving room for pre-K expansion, special education needs and additional enhancements such as dedicated science rooms, enrichment and the arts, all supported by the LRPC.

Since Mr. DeRosa has decided to bring the discussion into the media instead of where it belongs, at a public Board of Education meeting, I'd like to ask my Republican counterparts on the board the following question. How does refusing to support a plan that includes investing in school infrastructure and consolidating our middle schools responsibly, while you play games with closing an elementary school, help improve the educational outcomes for all of Milford's public school students? In my opinion, if you support the Republicans you are supporting the closing of an elementary school.

Laura Fucci

Democratic Majority Leader, Milford Board of Education