Letter: Baldwin’s school budget proposal lacked forethought, clarity

To the Editor:

I attended last Monday’s Board of Education meeting which presented the proposed 2018-19 school budget and, as both a former Board of Education member and a former English Department chairman, I was appalled at both the presentation and the apparent lack of forethought that preceded it.

In proposing that the high school English department dismantle its writing program, Superintendent Karen Baldwin made it sound like a bump in the road. It isn’t.

The program has taught thousands of Ridgefield students the writing process while many other secondary schools have effectively abandoned such one-on-one instruction, and the results of that ongoing practice have been formidable. Hundreds of our students have gone on to careers in writing while thousands more have excelled in writing in array of careers from law to medicine to research.

It would have been heartening to hear the superintendent extol the virtues of this program — even if she felt compelled to cut it — for the morale of the staff who provide hundreds of hours of out-of-class instruction every year, but she chose not to. Her enthusiasm was exclusively reserved for the technological and curricular advances she was proposing: Innovations which we all hope will succeed, but which will not somehow make up for the lost individualized instruction which the cuts in English will impose.

At the very least, Dr. Baldwin needed to be forthright with her audience about the impact of such cuts. I had the distinct impression, however, that she was not prepared to do so. While I understand the pressure on the school budget created by the “drivers” she outlines in her presentation — insurance, placement costs, etc. — these are the same concerns that have bedeviled all public school districts for decades.

The superintendent needs to utilize her administrative, supervisory, and teaching staff more inclusively in the preparation of the district’s budget so that parents and citizens of the town can understand the full impact of budget cuts before they choose to absorb them. It is one of the most important aspects of her job.

Robert A. Cox

Ridgefield, Jan. 26