Sunday, August 26, 2012

Don't Make Fun of Derby!

Bad things [and good things] happen everywhere. Derby doesn’t have any corner on scandal, crime, or strange happenings. We are just a small town with problems much like everyone else.

I ran through the last month’s stories on the Valley Indy to get an idea of how “badness” seems to be distributing itself amongst the Valley towns that VIS covers. Let’s see:

- Bombs found on several lawns (and not just in Derby, by the way).
- $2.7 Million owed because of a housing discrimination suit that was lost.
- Irregularities with money handling are being sorted out in the Tax
Collector’s office.

- A drug clinic wants $500k+ from the city claiming that there was illegal
language used in the law that kept them from opening their doors in Ansonia.
- The Tax Collector’s office is under criminal investigation because of
irregularities found there.
- Nolan field ripped up by vandals.

- State police are investigating the alleged theft of hundreds of thousands of
dollars dating back to at least 2009 from the Shelton finance department.

- Vandals go after above-ground swimming pools.

- The former Tax Collector pleads guilty to [significant] embezzlement charges .

- High School football coach resigns amid investigation into possible CIAC
rule violations.

So, give us a break!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Is That a Fact?

Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

Ronald Reagan said, "Facts are stubborn things."

When it comes to our children we are often guided by our feelings and opinions rather than the facts. When confronted with the dilemma of how to fund education in a horrible economy, we use emotional arguments such as "we can't afford to put a price tag on education" or "we have to fully fund education - it's for our children".

What are the facts here in the Valley?

> All of our towns spend more than half of their tax revenue on education and when they have to cut back on their budgets, other services, not education, are the usual targets.

> The average taxpayer does not want their taxes to go up.

> Public education is not meeting our standards or goals, i.e. we aren't doing a great job.

> A clear correlation between dollars spent and educational quality has not been shown.

Those are the stubborn, unique facts surrounding education today - in the Valley and elsewhere across the Nation.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time to Try Something New?

We're looking for a new Superintendent of Schools (Supt) in Derby, our fourth one in a decade.

For our hiring process first we decide on what we are looking for in a Supt. The Board of Ed has the most say in this regard. Then we hire a professional search team to find some good candidates. Finally we look those candidates over carefully and make an offer.

So why do our Supts keep leaving before making the improvements they promise us and that we so dearly desire?

Are we looking for the wrong attributes? We always stress experience and someone who will "enjoy" working in a smaller, more challenging school district. So we end up with middle-aged individuals with lots of experience and who are artful in their response to the "Don't you just love little Derby"? question.

Fair enough. What kind of experience are we getting though? Are they good educators? Absolutely. Nice people? Yes. However, their experience (and age) lead them to follow the same patterns they've followed before - get settled in, see what needs fixing, try to get more money from the city to fix it.

This recipe is doomed to fail because Derby ain't rich! And, Derby isn't a stable, white-collar community (like the new Supt has usually come from). So when the new Supt realizes after a few years that he/she can't possibly succeed given the problems/funding in Derby ... they leave.

So, let's change our parameters! Let's hire a superintendent who is young, who has a fire in him/her to affect reform, who is local and knows the Valley, who will want to dig in and make this work. Someone who is pro online learning and not afraid to battle for regionalization.

Let's not hire the "same" Supt again or history will just repeat itself.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Is One Enough?

You've probably heard this story before, but it's a good one. The original is attributed to Loren C. Eiseley and is called "Star Thrower". The following is my version:

A young boy walks along a beach littered with hundreds of starfish. They've been washed in on the tide and stranded. Exposed to the growing heat of the day they'll soon die.

The boy sees an old man further down the beach. The man is stooping to pick up starfish and then tossing them, one at a time, back into the ocean. When the boy reaches the man he asks him why he is throwing them back.

"They'll die here on the beach", the man answers. "I'm trying to save them".

"But, there are so many", says the boy, "You can't save most of them!".

The man bends over and picks another one up. He tosses it into the waves. "There", he says, "I saved that one".

This story is about making a difference, even a small one. If Clearly Derby reaches just one person and makes them think about how the government belongs to them and how they can have a voice, then that will be my little contribution - and it's enough for me.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Who Is Lonely?

As the internet and social media become more integrated with our lives, are we becoming more or less lonely?

Many of us who enjoy cyberspace tend to stay at home more and increasingly our children sit with their iPads while the swings and slides stand silent in the backyard.

Yet, our network of friends expands via social media, and as we become more aware, through online media, of what's happening in our own neighborhoods and towns, many of us venture out more than we used to.

And now, as the internet becomes more and more mobile, will we just resume our old ways and bring the internet with us?

I think human nature will have its say; extroverts will always find a way to socialize and introverts can always find a place to hide.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Is Culture the Right Path?

At one of the Derby Concerts on the Green recently, I commented to a friend that I was uncertain about which things to share on Clearly Derby. I'd been feeling like I was covering too many cultural events instead of concentrating on the workings of local government.

He asked me why I was including these things then. This was an easy question to answer - because people love the cultural stuff - the music, the art, the contests, the humor - all of that. Most enjoy it more than the politics.

My friend added that he's always felt, as an artist, that the path to peoples' political conscience is through their culture. First you have to find out what's important to their hearts - then you can talk to their heads!

I felt better after this conversation - I think I'm on the right track.