The Southington Board of Education on Thursday took on the challenges of finalizing a $85.33 million budget for the 2013-14 school year, but as members of the public came forward to express their opinions, the focus was on one $400,000 item: all-day kindergarten.
Supporters of all-day kindergarten came out in force for the second straight meeting, filling the assembly room at the Municipal Center to request that the board not only keep the all-day kindergarten proposal in the budget.
The voices did not go unheard, as the board by voice vote chose 8-1 to back the proposal for the upcoming year.
Board of Education member Jill Notar-Francesco said although she struggled with the decision and had a hard time to find data showing direct positive education advancements, the town shows a need to take action and to do so now.
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“I’m very data driven, although I can appreciate the social piece and the development piece. I asked for data and in the last several days, I did get that data in the form of (developmental reading assessment) and language arts,” she said. “At the end of last year, almost one third of our kindergarten students were not meeting their benchmark, and that’s why I’m voting yes.”
The proposal for all-day kindergarten has drawn considerable feedback from the community, with residents expressing opinions both for and against over the past several months, but those in attendance at the Board of Education meeting Thursday each said there is a need.
Bill Lutz, a Plantsville resident, said that times have changed since “we were all kids,” and told members of the board he not only supports all-day kindergarten but that the board should make it be the top priority.
“We all went to kindergarten, some a long time ago. It was a time for us to play and have fun, but the world has changed since then,” Lutz said. “Some may embrace that change, some may not, but that change is real. Kindergarten is now places of reading, writing, mathematics and social studies. It doesn’t leave time for developmental play, interpersonal relationships and socialization.”
“One of the enemies of excellence is to know what you have is good. We need to aspire to be more than OK, to aspire to be more than good, to aspire to be more than very good. We need to aspire to greatness,” he said.
While some board members expressed concerns, however, it ultimately came down to the need to better prepare students for the future and even board member Zaya Oshana, who teetered on the edge before voicing opposition, said it’s time to back the budget as a whole.
In the end, board member David Derynoski said it came down to six words.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said.
The 2013-14 Board of Education budget passed on Thursday evening did see some reduction, however, as members went line item through line item to seek reductions before falling on a budget requesting a 3.51 percent increase over the current operating budget.
The budget represents a reduction of $1.12 million from the $86.45 million budget initially presented by Southington School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr.
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