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Tesei Responds to Opponent's Greenwich School Plan

GREENWICH, Conn. – John Blankley, the Democratic candidate for first selectman, says he can get the Greenwich public schools back on track with proactive measures, particularly with funding. Incumbent First Selectman Peter Tesei agrees improvements can be made but says the issues Blankley brings up go way beyond Greenwich.

Blankley released a “five point plan” last week, headlined by the objective of getting the Board of Education to come up with ideas to present to the Board of Estimate and Taxation, along with Blankley if he is elected. This would be “rather than the current procedure whereby the BET tells the BOE that it will be ‘same as last year and level services,’ i.e. no new initiatives.”

Tesei, however, says that when it comes to funding, it's “very clear that the school administration, through the board, has received the dollars that they’ve asked for.” He said in talking to former superintendent Sidney A. Freund, who resigned last spring, it was made clear that it’s not a question of having adequate resources. It’s the school board "having a set list of priorities that they can agree on as a board,” said Tesei. “I think that’s part and parcel of the issue in the election of the board of education - an agreement.”

Blankley says that is not the point of his plan. “It is that the Board of Education should be encouraged to be proactive and to tell us how they are going to get the schools back on track,” he said in the plan.

One of Blankley’s goals is to address “the chronic shortage of math and science teachers at Greenwich High School.” Tesei said he cannot confirm the accuracy of this statement.

According to Helen Murdoch of the Greenwich Education Association, a nationwide shortage of math and science teachers exists, but in recent years it hasn’t been an issue for Greenwich schools. “To the best of my knowledge I haven’t heard anything pressing. It didn’t come up in contract negotiations,” she said.

On one of Blankley’s points, Tesei agreed: exploring class size reductions in the early grades. “I’ve been a proponent of smaller class sizes,” he said. “I think in the younger grades that’s essential because that’s when children are most vulnerable in their attention to learning.”

Blankley also suggests restoring funds for the district’s Advanced Learning Program for gifted students; planning a pre-kindergarten program beyond the 150 seats currently available; and reinstating a policy to help pay fees for students to take Advanced Placement exams and the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test.

“In terms of the schools we were just ranked No. 1 by Connecticut Magazine in towns with populations greater than 50,0000, and education was one of the criterias they measured us on,” said Tesei. He added his most important goal is seeing a choice in school board in elections as well as accountability.

“The question is going to come down to - when things aren’t to the satisfaction of the residents and the parents - who is responsible?” said Tesei. “By statute that’s the school board and the superintendent. I’m not going to micromanage the school district because that’s the responsibility of the school board and the superintendent.”

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