In Farmington, buildings don’t teach, teachers do
To Central Conneccticut Educators:
I wanted to reveal how one governor candidate, I, decided on a vote what may have been tangentially important to you: the Farmington High School rebuild.
[Last June, Farmington voters rejected a $135 million renovation to their high school by a margin of nearly two to one: 2,411 in favor to 5,029 opposed. — Ed]
At an estimated $138 million for a building, it was a mis-prioritization. I believe strongly in education — I’ve worked with private and public schools for almost 20 years — but look what $138 million alternately buys for our students:
- Thirty science teachers (five per grade at Robbins Middle School and Farmington High School), plus support staff for them…for 30 years!
- For our above-average teachers teachers district-wide: a nearly $100,000 bonus.
- For our above-average support staff district wide: a nearly $70,000 bonus.
- For every fourth, seventh, and 10th grader: a high-end laptop, design computer, robotics kit, and maker-space producer… in perpetuity.
Buildings don’t teach. Good teachers do. To spend on an inanimate building is to slight the very good teachers we have.
Buildings don’t guide students. To wholly renovate spaces that need just a tweak, or need no renovation at all, is to pull money away from students who could use more support and more counseling, especially college and post grad non-college counseling.
Buildings don’t speak. But students do. My tutoring firm attracts 10 – 20 Farmington High students each summer for SAT Prep. This summer I asked three rising seniors and four recent alums whether they felt FHS needed the proposed renovations. None of them said “yes.”
I am a governor candidate very much in favor of better education. I would support in my town more money that truly enhances our students’ experiences. I’d like to see my home town school pay our teachers more. I’d like to see my home town attract great new teachers every year. A $138 million bond would stifle that.
A good teacher is worth more than a good lawyer. (I’m a former lawyer with a decent perspective here.) A good guidance counselor may be worth more than a good engineer (I’ve seen how excellent guidance propels students to greatness, and how bad or absent guidance lets kids languish.)
I urge town leaders to keep “improving education” on their priority list. But it’s best to channel the efforts to improve students capabilities, improve teachers’ work, and improve staffers’ daily ability to facilitate both students and teachers.
Mark Stewart lives in Farmington and is running for governor as a Democrat.
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