Thursday, October 27, 2011

EAC Candidate Questionnaire Controversey

The Cheshire Herald reports that the Education Association of Cheshire has sent questionnairs to both Town Council and BOE candidates. Among the questions contained in the questionnaire are the following:
  • How will you assess the quality of education and continued improvement of the school district?
  • How will you advocate for educational funding including bonding and budgetary funding?
  • How will you address budgetary shortfalls without affecting the quality of education or extracurricular activities?
  • What message would you like to give the teachers of the EAC about your views on education?
This may be the first time that the EAC has sent out a questionnaire to Town Council and BOE Candidates. According to the Herald, the letter sent to the candidates by PAC Chairperson Carolyn McEclravy states "...verbatim answers will be shared with the Education Association of Cheshire (EAC) and members will be encouraged to discuss the complete questionnaire with one another." The letter also states "...that the EAC can encourage the election of the most qualified candidates."

I don't find it surprising that the EAC is reaching out to the candidates. With the anti-union mentality gaining momentum in the U.S., an upcoming contract negotiation, terrible economy and budget constraints I think it's a good idea that the EAC understands where the candidates themselves stand on education. Personally, I would've like to have seen a candidates forum hosted by the EAC (much like the LOWV debate). I know time and coordination is a challenge this late in the election cycle but perhaps next time?

I found BOE Chairman Brittingham's response (or lack thereof) on the questionnaire interesting. Brittingham did not reply to the questionnaire. According to the Herald, Brittingham stated "...cannot reply to the questionnaire because of the mix between politics, public employees and taxpayer dollars. The questionnaire has a return address of Masella of 525 S. Main St. (Cheshire High School) and McElravy (PAC Chairperson) at 414 B Brooksvale Road, or Norton School."  Brittingham states "I can't participate in that. I think it crosses the line. Public employees are doing PAC work at taxpayer funded facilities."

The article is worth reading as it describes the candidates responses and concerns with the questionnaire.



Anonymous said...

It might be worth looking in the policy manual as I seem to recall a situation when a public employee in the athletic dept was sending out emails encouraging support of certain candidates. The policy clearly states that school employees cannot encourage support for any politcal candidate or political issue.
Can you check on this Tony? Thanks.

Tony Perugini said...

I've received calls on this today and have been asked to look into it. I will report back once I have some facts.

Bill said...

What I find interesting is the first 3 questions state "how will" you do something. This is to be expected if the writer of the questions is attempting to obtain a positive or supportive response from the those asked. In this case the union should have asked the questions in a different tone. Not how will you but what is your position on each issue.
The individuals may have been a bit more willing to respond.

Tim White said...

I think the questions are fair... though non-responses are also fair.

I just wonder why school addresses are being used.

I thought the CEA has an office directly across from Calcagni? And I seem to recall that their former President (Leake) had his home address listed somewhere on CEA literature. So why use a school address?

I presume it's legal (or contractually-eligible), but why use it? Seems like a poor choice to me.

Anonymous said...

The questionnaire was sent to the candidates via certfied mail. Who paid for the postage? The EAC or was it done with taxpayers dollars through the schools offices?

Poor choice using the school addresses especially when the EAC has an address/PO Box.

Some of the teachers I spoke with didn't know about the questionnaire. Those that did know about it indicated that input was limited to a handful of members. There was no vote on it.

Anonymous said...

How will you assess the quality of education and continued improvement of the school district?
How will you advocate for educational funding including bonding and budgetary funding?
How will you address budgetary shortfalls without affecting the quality of education or extracurricular activities?
What message would you like to give the teachers of the EAC about your views on education?

Yes, one can question the candidates about how they assess education, how they will fund education, and how they will maintain quality in tough times. Look at the decreased performance of the swim team and the football team. Can you deny the connection between lack of town management in getting facilities in order and student performance? Do you think this is not happening in other programs.

Be adults, be responsible, answer reasonable questions. Or be small spirited.

Tony Perugini said...

I think the questions are fair and to be expected whether it's from the EAC or anyone else that has a vote in town.

I do question the use of school addresses for collecting these reponses especiall when the EAC does have it's own mailing address. I don't think it's anything malicious and probably just poor judgement as Tim mentioned.

Will the EAC publish the answers for the public to see?

Anonymous said...

Here are the answers to the questionaire as distributed to EAC members -- who were never asked, considered, or told this process would happen. One person - whose names rhymes with Masella - did this on her own it appears. here's the answers. Hope it pisses her off:

Herald Questions for the TC 2011

Bob Behrer
Age – 62
Married with 3 grown children and 4 grand children,
A graduate of Kent State University, Class of ‘72
Vice President - Koster Keunen, LLC, a refiner and blender of natural and specialty waxes for industry marketed worldwide, and doing business since 1852.
I have served as Chair of the Alumni Turf Field Project for the past 3 ½ years. Served on our Board of Education from ’05 to ’09 and was Chair of the Planning Committee and member of the Finance Committee. I was a member of the Water Pollution Control Authority, WPCA and Chair in ’03 – ’04.

1 –
As a past member and WPCA Chairman, I cannot support the $30 million referendum. First - it mixes necessary maintenance that should have been completed earlier with a governmental compliance project to limit phosphorus discharge without knowing the limits and removal method.
State funding totaling $7 million is also in jeopardy because a poorly written contract in the early 1990’s omitted a key section that required the state jail system to pay their fair share for upgrades and repairs which all other towns with jails had in their contract.
Without the states $7 million contribution the project will cost more and taxes will be higher. The original funding would increase taxes on the average home about $380 per year and without the $7 million dollar contribution each homeowner will pay even more. Either scenario is hard to accept.
Second – the proposed $30 million project does not add any capacity at our sewage plant. Do Republicans believe our town will not grow or that existing homeowners will not choose to hook-up at some time in the future? Planning for zero expansion is a sad forecast for Cheshire’s future. We must do better. Read the minutes on the town website and decide for yourself.

The Grand List or Tax Base is a serious issue and hard to regulate. I work for a small business in Watertown. We have 50 employees and want to grow. I understand the difficulty businesses deal with on a daily basis. Local agencies and regulations can be complicated. Taxes for business must be fair and related to services consumed and not by the ability to pay. It is difficult to balance – everyone wants a cash cow to move into town but forgets a company can also leave our town.
Cheshire homeowners will profit by a fair and equitable business climate that attracts and retains business rather than holds them at arms length. I understand the side of the homeowner and the side of business. The Town Council must do a better job.

3 –
A major problem facing Cheshire is proper planning with accountability. Republicans say we can borrow money for the sewer plant because “money is cheap” but they do not address our school buildings in the same conversation.
Example – the only two referendum items on the ballot are $1.5 million for paving roads and $30 million for an open ended sewer project. Nothing is requested for repairing our 50 year old school buildings. Important items such as window replacement, roof repair and overall facility maintenance are being pushed out - again. A certain TC member calls the education system “the beast” and says “we should not feed the beast”. It appears a few TC members want to attack and dismantle our school system because it is not their reality. It is time Cheshire stood up for education and voted on November 8th. If voters stay home during a local election they deserve the outcome. If we have a large turnout – Cheshire will have made its choice. VOTE on November 8th to ensure your children grow up to be better educated and more secure in their future than you.

Regards to all,
Bob Behrer
Democratic Candidate for Town Council at-Large

Carolyn McElravy said...

I just received a link to this blog over the weekend. This is a late response, but many clarify some questions.

1. My work e-mail address was used because I don't have a PC at home or access to MS Office.

2. No public funds were used, only EAC money for mailing. I paid for the copies of the questionnaire at Staples.

3. The EAC does not have a PO Box or independent mailing address.

4. The questionnaires were voted upon by the EAC board which has at least 1 representative from every school.

5. No candidates were endorsed, nor was any candidate or party given a donation by the EAC.

6. The EAC dispersed factual information provided by the candidates making it legal to use school e-mail.

7. I can be reached at, but I don't check that address very often.

Anonymous said...

"3. The EAC does not have a PO Box or independent mailing address."

According to the EAC website the EAC's mailing address is P.O. Box 413 Cheshire,CT.