Board of Directors Approves School Board's $4.9 Million Referendum Request

The funding request for "critical" school repairs will now go before voters in November.

Whether or not the Board of Education will receive $4.9 million for "" will now be decided by voters come November, as town directors unanimously approved the school board's request for the item to be placed on a referendum Tuesday. 

The vote came at the end of a lengthy Board of Directors meeting Tuesday, which saw numerous residents and members of the Board of Education speak out in favor of the school board's funding request. 

"We cannot continue to kick the can down the road any further," Kelly Luxenberg, a Democratic member of the Board of Education, said during the public comment portion of the meeting. "Trust the people…and see if they want to invest that money back into our schools." 

While Board of Education Chairman Chris Pattacini also addressed the directors in support of the funding, but noted that he was doing so as a taxpayer and parent within the community. 

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"These repairs were selected by the administration from a list of more than $20 million worth of critical repairs," Pattacini said. "They do represent a small portion of those items that we believe are ultra critical…not only do these repairs ensure that we protect our investment that the community has made, but they help ensure that schools remain in operation."

When the subject finally came before the directors for a vote, Democrat John Topping proposed reducing the request to $4.6 million by stripping $300,000 for parking lot repairs at Arthur H. Illing Middle School. 

"I don't feel it was prudent to pay for something for 20 years that has a life expectancy of less," Topping said referring to the Illing parking lot repairs. "I think this is a number that the town can support, but more importantly that the town can afford." 

But after further debate, town directors agreed to return the $300,000 in funding, but use it for $100,000 worth of compliance fees pertaining to the Americans with Disability Act and $200,000 worth of funding for studies for the School Modernization and Reinvestment Team Revisited (SMARTR), a separate committee made up of members of the Board of Education, Board of Directors and general public that has been appointed to identify long-term repairs and objectives for the school system.

The money includes funds to replace the roofs at Bowers, Waddell and Verplanck elementary schools, electrical repairs at Manchester High School, and a number of other repairs. Earlier this year, the town directors also approved a request for . 

"I was initially of the opinion that this referendum should not be on the ballot in November, because I wanted the library to have its day," said Mayor Leo V. Diana. "This is a decision that should be made by the residents of the town of Manchester, that's why we're going to give them that opportunity." 

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. 

Republican Susan Holmes was absent from the meeting and did not take part in the vote. 

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Dean August 18, 2012 at 06:25 PM
As far as Kathy o is concerned, the reason there are so many problems is that she was not an effective administrator during her tenure. She new about the damage to all of the schools, but really did nothing to solve the problems. Now the town has a smarter committee to address these problems. She was required by the state to make certain places in the school system handicap accessible, but she ignored the state and they are coming down on Manchester. Some of the administrators that she hired were her personal choice over the interview committees and as you can see with rearrangements in town administration, Dr. Kiesel felt the same way. During her last year, many great administrators avoided Manchester, Dr. Kiesel seems to be drawing more applications. A lot of great experienced teachers left the town because under her administration, teachers were bullied and blamed for thing they had no control over. What's good for Jon is that the exodus of Manchester teachers every year will probably save millions in salary costs over the next decade. She also refused to cooperate with the municipal side of government. No principals were allowed to talk to town department heads even if it was to set up programming that benefitted kids. There was also in-fighting between her and the police chief which you can't have. Many teachers under dr. Kiesel are starting to seem more optimistic for the schools.
Dean August 18, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Jon, I don't know what schools you are going to, but the teachers I see bring their lunches to school or buy the school lunch. Many of the computers and technology the school system gets comes in bulk and a lot of times with grant money. Also the school system provides a quality education to students, Manchester is difficult though because there are a lot more single parent homes, section 8 homes, and students with disabilities than somewhere like Glastonbury. Also, many of the parents that complain about the school system fighting needs for disabled children are told no because they want the town to pay huge tuitions for a specialized education when Manchester offers the same services. The town can not afford that. Another huge cost are state and federal mandates. Manchester kids are now given choices to go to CREC schools and the town now pays more for CREC students than it does for Manchester students. CREC does offer kids new schools and laptops or IPads, but the education is not any better. A lot of costs now are Sheffield vs. o'neill costs. It has cost the state and towns hundreds of millions of dollars which is why many older public schools are in disrepair and taxes are up.
Bob Hetzel August 18, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Educators want to educate; they don't want to maintain large institutions. The schools belong to the town; the town should assume the maintenance and restoration - with an appropriate reallocation of the budgets and staff. The town should also have a presence in the schools, in addition to the public safety officers, to protect the town's investment. The referendum is necessary, but a twenty-year debt to replace a twenty-year roof is a zero sum game. Maybe SMARTR can come up with a better long-term solution.
Jerry O'Connor August 18, 2012 at 09:11 PM
"Educators want to educate; they don't want to maintain large institutions." But, alas, Manchester's educational administrators have shown a strong reluctance to giving up any part of their empire, maintaining a costly duplication of staff and equipment rather than letting the Town or outside vendors do what's required more economically, saving taxpayer money. Even worse, their failure to properly maintain the buildings until it's too late is also costly. Then they throw up their hands in mock despair (as if the situation was not a result of their neglect), claim that it's all due to inadequate funding, and turn the whole mess over to the Town Board of Directors. By law, all the BOD can do is approve the BOE budget and turn over the tax dollars to them. They have no control over how they spend it. And recent BOEs have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to do less and less with more and more.
Dean August 18, 2012 at 10:06 PM
I would go even farther and say that CT needs to get rid of the town system and switch regionalized government. I would open up the tax base, bring teachers, police, fire, and public works under the same bargaining units, and cut down on resources. I know keeping schools intact is a sensitive issue for people and maybe that can be arranged, but CT really needs to get rid of the archaic town system and the high taxes that come with it and regionalize to use resources efficiently.
Scott Aiken August 18, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Ms. Kidd, I respect that you are the parent of four children. That in and of itself is an accomplishment. I also appreciate your love of this town. Let's be candid here. Your passion about education and achievement aren't the things that get you in trouble. The elephant in the room is that you are persona non grata on the BOE and with both political parties. That is going to make it difficult to do anything on your own. If you want a chance of being re-elected, or at least have an effective remainder of your term if you aren't running again, you'll need to change your tack. Please remember that you aren't elected to be on your own, or vote your own heart. We live in a representative democracy, and you are there to represent a constituency. An underrepresented constituency in town are the students, teachers, and schools in the East and West Side Neighborhoods. Take your passion and build a constituency in those neighborhoods. Put aside what you think these areas need, learn what is really needed directly from that constituency, and champion those needs. An empty school will hollow out the East Side Neighborhood. What would you rather have as your legacy: the BOE member who was censured and had a single term; or the BOE member who re-opened and renovated Nathan Hale, renovated Washington, and helped to revitalize the East and West Side Neighborhoods? Supporting this bond referendum is a start. So much more is needed. Just my 2¢... take it or leave it.
Dean August 19, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Scott, give Ms. Kidd credit. Taxes are too high in the town and state. I am a left leaning independent and even I can admit that. Their are solutions to solve the problem of high taxes, but at some point CT needs to make tough decisions about the town system in the state and the tax rate. At this point I believe we need to forget about Ms. Kidd and the Facebook incident last year. It is in the past and she seems to has been scapegoated ever since then. Let's put grievances all out in the open and reach some reasonable solutions. I think all members in POLITICS at all levels should stop representing parties and start being reasonable and representing the people know.
tina bourke August 19, 2012 at 02:09 AM
^yea, being on the perpetual defense is not good for your health Ms. Kidd. I understand there is manipulating and undermining occurring and I would also venture to guess Ms. Ollette had her share too! The priorities are independent and self seeking in my opinion. Hopefully, that is in the past now and you are not alone in this. We are all in this together and taking an interest. Manchester is not isolated in dealing with single parent and poor students. If it is a challenge, that only means we have not risen high enough to meet that challenge and shame on us for that!!!! The finger pointing and blaming is not productive!
Merrill Kidd August 19, 2012 at 07:39 AM
I feel my seat belongs to the Manchester voters. I would like to hear from more people like all of you. We may not all agree on everything but, that's okay. I do work as part of a team with the other BOE members. I also contact the BOD members with questions. I feel that there is finally trust surfacing with both boards. That is exciting on it's own! :-) As far as Nathan Hale School is concerned.....I was very upset and angry I had to vote to take the school offline. It was a safty issue that made me vote to take it offline I want it back online. The discussions are not over about Nathan Hale. Scott, learned a hard lesson with my outburst that was on the front page of the news for 2 weeks. It was very hard to learn who my friends were too. Kelly Luxenburg and I are good friends. We communicated and have found we have the same goals. There are still rumors going around and instead of getting upset we have a little fun with all of it. Most of the BOE members have been very proffessional and we have stayed on track during all the drama. I don't think anyone is going to forget my name for along time. I take full responsibility for my actions and have moved on. My plan is to be an effective BOE member for the next two years. I have not decided if I will run again. Tina, TY for your comment about all of us being in this together. That made me smile! You are right!
Jon Crickmore August 19, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Dean, My comments clearly talk about the BOE not teachers bringing lunch to school. To clarify, when i say BOE I'm speaking of central office. My facts are clear. To much money is being spent with total disregard. Last week there was a meeting at central office. The meeting had 12 to 15 people. The tax payers paid for Highland park market for those individuals. That is unnecessary spending. Simple math schedule the meeting before or after lunch.
Jon Crickmore August 19, 2012 at 02:10 PM
The justification for the purposes of manipulation needs to stop. As to disabled children. I'm not sure if you have a disabled family member or know a disabled child attending Manchester schools. I have both. Manchester schools have programs for certain types of disabilities but they are lacking in many areas. EXAMPLE: There is a child who diagnosed with a rare disorder has over 100 seizures a day and needs qualified staff to supervise him. He does not talk and is unable to communicate effectively with untrained staff. Dean this child deserves the same as any other child. This special child deserves the same rights you and i have. This child deserves to be in a non restricted learning environment like any other child. Dean have you ever sat in a IEP meeting ? have you ever personally dealt with Manchester's special education dept ? Do you have first hand knowledge of the daily life of a family with a severely disabled child ? If you answered yes then you know very well what I'm talking about. If you answered no then you have NO business talking about something you have no experience with. Yes Dean educating special needs children is expensive,I pads, Highland market, computers,laptops,cell phones,key card readers ETC are also very expensive. If we cant fix the schools if we cant afford to help special education children then we cant afford all the so called insignificant spending. Cutting off wasteful spending on 10 small items allows for enough money for 1 big item.
Dean August 20, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Yes, to most of those questions Jon. Manchester has provided help to families with children because you are right there are services the town can not provide with more severely handicapped students. But on the other hand, Manchester does have to be careful because some parents are trying to game the system. It is unfortunate for the child because they are caught in the middle. At some schools in town kids are getting 3 meals a day and extra tutoring after school. There are parents complaining because the schools won't take in or feed their other kids. I have seen things written in IEP's where kids have preferential seating or the ability to walk out of class whenever they want to take a "break". Kids think that means they can sit next to their friends and skip class whenever they want. Then the teacher gets chewed out on the phone by the parent over this. The special Ed teachers in this town deal with a lot, but for multiple kids in every school, teachers spend their own money to feed many of these kids in the morning, donate clothes to them, remind them on hygiene care, and now schools are making home visits because parents won't come into the school. What gets to the special Ed teachers is that after all this parents and some former administrators still complain about the services. Jon as a parent I know and agree with your frustration, it is an imperfect system. As for laptops, cell phones, and flash cards, that is for official use which goes beyond work hrs
Brian Hurlburt August 21, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Jon, how much money do you feel is spent by the BOE that is wasteful? The issues, or facts, you raise are not clear.
Brian Hurlburt August 21, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Hi Tina, I don't know who Dean is, or where the facts come from, nor do I know how the Historic Commission influences the BOE or BOD. I do know that Manchester does have a historic significance that needs to be preserved, and that needs to be balanced with responsible growth and building. I wish Manchester could model itself after a town like West Hartford; however, there is a disparity of income between the two towns. Manchester does have quite a bit of potential, but all of the citizens must be part of what can be good, and reject the bad. We don't need another Dollar store, or vacant buildings by the mall area. We do need quality retail stores, and not over build so there is too much competition, which then leads to blight. Manchester won't be West Hartford (nor should it try to be), but it can be a great town again, if we all have the right focus.
Jon Crickmore August 21, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Brian, I'm not sure how to clarify this for you. I will assume that you find it appropriate to spend money on things like Highland Market, and I-pads when money cant be spent fixing the schools. Let me ask you this. if your house needed a roof, the heating system was failing, the electrical system was dangerous would you be feeding your family at restaurants ? would you be feeding your neighbors ? would you be buying electronics ? If you have kids and answered yes that would be called child endangerment. Wrong is wrong Brian no matter who is doing it.
Brian Hurlburt August 22, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Well Jon, I do understand what you are saying. The things you mention are a needle in the haystack. However, I understand your point. When we are looking to save penny's, we should look everywhere. Point taken. I would bet the defense for the electronic items you mention would be: they help educators be more efficient and accessible. I would agree with that defense, but I am only making a reasonable assumption. The question you pose is not relevant because of the disparity in the value of going to dinner or installing a roof; compared with the $100 million budget versus a few thousand dollars for the ipads and lunch. The right analogy would be to say you would forgo basic needs in order to save money to address the roof, heating system, etc... You probably wouldn't. Do you know for a fact that the BOE is paying for the "Highland Park", and not the individuals? I think you are tripping over dollars to pick up pennies. There are other saving to be had. Or, wait a minute, perhaps we have been getting a bargain all of the years, and now we have to pay the piper. Hmmmm. We can argue all night about the reasons, but we need to all come together like this, and move forward by being proactive with our concerns, and wallet.
Jon Crickmore August 22, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Brian, I agree. We all do need to come together. I'm not so much against spending the money to fix the schools as i am to who is going to be spending it.The electronic devices specifically the I-pads and the monthly fees that go along with them are the ones purchased for BOE members not educators. This is thousands and thousands of dollars of wasted money. I have been to meeting at the BOE and was fed Highland Market. I was never asked to pay for anything. Last week for friends of mine had a meeting at the BOE and they also had Highland Market for free.This may seem like petty cash but its only a small example of wasted spending. Lets open the books and go line by line to see what the money is spent on. Then vote for the millions they want. We live in a town where image is more important the being responsible and spending money on sensible items. Look over previous articles on education. Residents are proud of the way Highland school looks. We need to be proud of our education system not the superficial buildings that are housing them.
Brian Hurlburt August 22, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Hi Jon, The more comments I read, the more I understand there is a trust issue with the BOE. I have had my own issues with the BOE over the years, so I understand why others are frustrated. I have felt the BOE, and school system, are not transparent. I reviewed what was accessible for the budget, line by line, and did not find anything that I would say is outrageous, but you may have a different take. See the following: http://boe.townofmanchester.org/files/BOE_Adopted_Budget_Book_2012_13.pdf If you review the Facilities Critical Assessment punch list, you will see that $4.9 million only buys us very basic repairs, and the total estimate for repairs as defined by the Facilities Critical Assessment is $23,038,000: http://www.townofmanchester.org/BOD/documents/agenda1207complete.pdf And I know there are many other repairs that need to be addressed that have not been deemed critical. I would like to see the BOE and BOD talk about all of the needs now, not later. It's time to lead, and tell the people what is needed, and what they know. Let's have a real town hall style meeting where all of the issues are presented. Now, and not later. We already lost out on the new High School years ago because of poor selling on the part of the BOE and BOD. We don't need to repeat our failures from the past.
tina bourke August 22, 2012 at 06:43 PM
I would have to say I agree with Jon in some ways. Manchester seems to lean towards image rather then priorities? I hope talking openly and without fear is the most essential part of moving forward. I want to support the town too, but if a few have a strong arm on our town, that would be a concern I believe for everyone? And Brian, to me I'm just now learning about the catered lunches. To me the cost isn't the concern, but why only allow Highland Park Market to cater those meetings? I apologize if I am wrong, however, the entire town should get a share of that market place if that is what they sell. Otherwise it could look like a conflict of interest? Especially if one of the sons at Highland Park Market is running for Republican political seat in town. I don't believe it is the town hall itself? We have many with self serving interests for selling period who are also elected officials, and this is how they make their living, selling property! I would like to know why Dean felt that the historic commission has favor? It would be ripe opportunity to restore trust if this has been an ongoing issue as it sounds like it has for a while and for many. None of this is to offend anyone, I am no expert and like to be informed. If I am wrong, please correct me. Understanding and talking will help make some very serious decisions for our town and the schools.
Jerry O'Connor August 22, 2012 at 07:20 PM
My educated guess is that Highland Park Market provides more FREE food to area non-profits and government agencies than it sells to them. The Devanneys are one of the most generous families -- with their time, money, and food -- in our Town. The vast majority of their generosity and good works goes unnoticed and unrewarded. It's only natural -- and fitting -- that the non-profits and Town agencies to which they provide so much support should choose to make purchases there. And it all has NOTHING to do with anyone who is running for office. I'd also point out that many other businesses are generous with their time and support of Manchester's schools. The Cohen family (owners of ShopRite), for example have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to area schools. Stop & Shop, Walmart, BJ's, and many others kick in as well. Though I don't always agree with their positions, I can't think of a single Town elected official - including our State reps and senator - who puts their personal interest ahead of that of Town residents, so you'll have to drop a name or two before I can comment in that regard.
tina bourke August 22, 2012 at 08:10 PM
^well when you put it that way, it sounds like i am making accusations about our representatives. I am not! Read all the posts please and how it came to this . Donating to non profits is a tax write off. Devanney's no matter how generous they are, I would hope they understands he opened himself up for feedback when he spoke of his lack of support for the minimum wage especially when the majority in Ct. wanted it? Having so much power and status in town, why not focus more on the under served working and unrepresented!!! In Scott Eikin's (sp.) he spoke of an unrepresented population in town, if this is true, why not focus more on representing them? If that translates into a political position for the town, surely you can see the frustration being vented on these posts? Even simply just acknowledging the others in town who have been so generous I think would help with the perception that there are not favorites. Having said that, let them get the business too? This would maybe help the perception that people are venting over. Jerry, I would like to hear the names too. I'm asking that question too? I wonder why Dean fells this way, why it was in others post too.....
tina bourke August 22, 2012 at 08:36 PM
After thinking about it, please don't put a name out there on my solicitation. We know there are issues, that we know and no one can deny that.....
tina bourke August 22, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Having the posts decrease to just Brian's and mine on the other post with this same topic, was that just a coincidence or more of the same?
tina bourke August 22, 2012 at 09:12 PM
And the posts decreased to just Brian and mine on the other post with this same topic. Is that just coincidence or more of the same......
tina bourke August 23, 2012 at 01:08 PM
^The total necessary repairs for the all the schools is 23 MILLION. If both get voted in, this will still leave 18.5 MILLION for necessary repairs we haven't even addressed yet! The balance pending doesn't even include the cost of Nathan Hale whose fate is still in limbo. I now feel Nathan Hale is doomed to re-open, unless voters feel the school is more important then the library? Many constituents came out in favor for keeping Nathan Hale open yet it isn't even on the ballot radar??? Jerry as you complain about the BOE, I have seen other issues too. It won't stop at just the library, next it will be develop the great lawn, 24/7 police protection for the log cabin in Case Mountain and so it doesn't end? The same politician who advocated for the library money already was exploiting other sites trying to push her agenda for developing the great lawn.....We are in the lowest job market and big recession. That is what I meant about thinking of all the towns folks is all. Some are very poor. Having said that Jerry, I will agree with you on this one, however, if we did not get outside second opinions on the repairs for the school, shame on us!!!! We also have the Broad street development, the Center Springs expansion and this isn't even included in these new figures on the table as of late. It will be a very important decision, and please don't let anyone discourage anyone her from talking openly about what we are all in together!!!!!!!!
tina bourke August 23, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Jerry, The total necessary repairs for the all the schools is 23 MILLION. If both get voted in, this will still leave 18.5 MILLION for necessary repairs we haven't even addressed yet! The balance pending doesn't even include the cost of Nathan Hale whose fate is still in limbo. I now feel Nathan Hale is doomed to re-open, unless voters feel the school is more important then the library? Many constituents came out in favor for keeping Nathan Hale open yet it isn't even on the ballot radar??? Jerry as you complain about the BOE, I have seen other issues too. It won't stop at just the library, next it will be develop the great lawn, 24/7 police protection for the log cabin in Case Mountain and so it doesn't end? The same politician who advocated for the library money already was exploiting other sites trying to push her agenda for developing the great lawn.....We are in the lowest job market and big recession. That is what I meant about thinking of all the towns folks is all. Some are very poor. Having said that Jerry, I will agree with you on this one, however, if we did not get outside second opinions on the repairs for the school, shame on us!!!! We also have the Broad street development, the Center Springs expansion and this isn't even included in these new figures on the table as of late. It will be a very important decision, and please don't let anyone discourage anyone her from talking openly about what we are all in together!!!!!!!!
Joel Mrosek October 07, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Tina, we have discussed this before. Tim Devanney is not running for a "Republican political seat". He is a Republican who comes from one of the most generous, civic minded familys and business owners in Manchester. It is clear you do not like ANY Republican, but to infer some type of corruption on the part of this fine family over a few sandwiches is silly and beyond the pale. If you have any evidence the Devanneys are corrupt, you should post it or apologize for impuning a reputation they have spent 3 generations building. It is not fair to damage it with an unfounded, reckless charge.
tina bourke October 07, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Joel, read all the posts. There is a perception of favoritism and distrust. I didn't create it, it exists. Through the processing of these posts, we have come to be able to understand what is fact and what is not. You are obsessed with my political interests and demean me for them.
tina bourke October 07, 2012 at 04:37 PM
@Joel, it was announced on April 17, 2012. Timothy M. Devanney running for Republican 12th general assembly seat.
tina bourke October 07, 2012 at 04:44 PM
@Joel, and I read it right here on patch. Hopefully it will help you understand how the confusion goes around now and for information purposes and not a witch hunt.


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