Letter: Public Benefits from Werth’s Reporting on Schools

in Letters

I have been invested in the article the CT Examiner published Few Rules, Little Oversight for 11 Million Open Choice Program as well as the editorial by Gregory Stroud, and the opinion pieces written by Portland Superintendent Phillip O’Reilly and the Board of Education Chair Sharon Peters. I thought the original article raised valid questions and concerns that we, the residents and taxpayers of these towns, should be asking our school boards and superintendents.

First, I would like to thank Ms. Werth for shining a light on this topic.

I thought it was extremely unprofessional and inappropriate for a superintendent to not only question this reporters work, but also claim it was an “exposé.”  As Ms. Werth stated in the article, there are multiple towns, 29 to be exact, in the state of Connecticut who participate in the Open Choice program and enroll students from Hartford; a program that provides a great opportunity for all kids through cultural infusion, growth, and shared resources.

Second, what Mr. O’Reilly failed to mention in his “exposé” of a response was the reason Portland initially welcomed kids from the Open Choice program. When the Portland High high/middle school complex was built in the early 2000s, the square footage per student ratio was out of compliance from what was originally projected at the start of the project; there were too few students for the size of the building. Therefore, the district was faced with the decision to either reimburse the state for construction funds or find more “bodies” to fill the building. They went with the latter by recruiting students from Hartford. It was a business move on their part.

If Mr. O’Reilly felt Werth’s article was an exposé, why comment? It would seem having a relatively unmonitored revenue stream would be appealing to a superintendent — especially when a superintendent is operating on a lean budget such has been the case in Portland for the past several years.

Ms. Peters, stated she has served since December of 2017 which makes her a bit green and new to the table. I dare say maybe even naive to past practices regarding funds that are not made transparent to taxpayers. With school budgets representing 70-90% of a town’s budget, it is time for more accountability and transparency from our school boards and superintendents.

I find it refreshing to finally hear what is actually happening on the inside of our schools versus the smoke and mirror tactics that have become common place from some administrators and board chairs. I hope Ms. Werth continues to enlighten us as to the educational inner workings which are often elusive and result in retaliation for those who dare to speak up.

McKenzie Keller
Hartford