The Academy Trustees have followed a consistent path for many, many years. Their goal has been to make the school politically and financially independent – predominant – over Woodstock’s public education system, its fiscal system, its land use regulation, indeed its entire political system. The Trustees have filtered their political minions into both town’s political parties and the key town boards – BOS, BOF, BOE. Most disgusting, they have supported and aligned themselves for years with the anti-public education propagandists of the CPS/Truth/Coalition, the Academy’s political “fifth column”, which hammers away relentlessly at the BOE with invariably false allegations of financial waste, fraud and abuse.
At this point, the Academy has achieved such complete political hegemony over the town as to make the relationship quite comparable to the status of an empire with its colony. The colony’s resources are usurped by the empire at will (i.e., the bond/guarantee to reconstruct the school; the sewer financing; the annual tuition) and on terms dictated unilaterally by the empire. When the relationship with the colony is no longer of use to the empire, the empire simply abandons the colony, as has been suggested by two former Trustee chairmen (Kaeding and Mussamecci) in reference to the school’s obligation to continue serving Woodstock’s students for ten years after the payoff of the bonds, without regard to the school’s role thereafter.
If the BOF is asking the BOE to develop a 0% overall budget increase, after normal inflation of 3%, this amounts to a 3% reduction in K-8 costs in inflation-adjusted dollars. If the Academy budget projects a 3% increase, and the Academy budget represents 1/3 of the overall BOE budget, then the BOE is being asked to reduce its K-8 costs by 4% in inflation-adjusted dollars. In this economy, this trend will likely continue for a period of years.
But the difference is much greater. The Academy has for many years padded its budget with expense contingencies and capital reserves, so they have a large buffer to get through a lean year or two without impacting services. The K-8 system, on the other hand, under the relentlesss pressure of the Academy-supported CPS/Truth/Coalition, has cleaned every crumb out of its cupboard, peeled off the paint for its nutritional value, then disassembled and burned the cupboard itself for heat. The K-8 system has no contingency. So the impact of these cuts will be very harsh on the K-8 system, while there will be no impact on the continual expansion of staff, programs and facilities at the Academy except to slightly moderate the pace of their grand ambitions for a real estate empire in central Woodstock.
Against the backdrop of this very harsh, impending reality for the town’s public schools, it is difficult to remain silent in the face of meaningless, ideological rants about inner city schools; hypocritical calls for civility by it worst violators; comments of BOE members who perceive themselves as passive, neutral commentators who see this all as a personal blogging experiment and who seem to lack any remote sense of public service; by the “encounter groupies” who want to be in charge of giant, town-wide therapy sessions that never resolve anything; and by BOE members who are obvious political pawns for the Academy and/or CPS/Truth/Coalition. For the “free market” enthusiasts, know that such a ridiculously lopsided financial relationship would never be tolerated in the commercial sector as a contract that does not contain a monetary price does not meet the minimal legal standard of a contract – so it is not a contract at all and would not be recognized as such in any court. Further, the state has granted a private legal entity a financial monopoly over a duly elected and empowered municipal board; a perversion of the very role of government.
Unfortunately, Harry Stefan is wrong. The problem will never be solved locally because under the legal circumstances arranged between the Academy and the State of Connecticut, with no input from the BOE, the town’s interests have been made subordinate – irrelevant really – to the expansionism and unquenchable financial thirst of the Academy.
The BOE has run out of time. It needs to get off its collective duff and do what any aggrieved party would do – aggressively explore all legal means to correct this problem through the press, the legislature, the courts, the state DOE or AG. Before it is too late.