Letter: Vote ‘no’ to AgSTEM program
To the editor:
The Region 12 School board has spent a lot of taxpayer money on public relations firms and architects over the last several years.
The upcoming referendum on Nov. 10 is for the voters to decide whether Region 12 will have a AgStem elective program.
In my opinion, the board has not made the case with accurate numbers and disclosures for the public to buy into such an expensive program. The board of Region 12 is in a panic mode to increase the number of students at Shepaug High School. If the board’s numbers are correct, there will be slightly more than 60 percent of the students from outside the region at the end of the first four years (Wamogo and Nonnewaug have no more than 32 percent from outside the region).
The cost to the Region 12 taxpayer to fund each of these students from outside the district including debt service (principal and interest of the addition for the AgStem program) will be approximately $16,500 per student. That assumes the region has 226 students coming into the program from outside the district. These out-of-district projections are from the school board.
The school districts (seven) from which the AgStem students would be drawn, including Region 12, have contributed to the Nonnewaug program less than 1.4 percent of their collective high school population.
When you look at the student populations in these districts and you look at the state Board of Education predicted 10 percent reduction of high school populations the "catch group" would be providing a total of 101 students. Meanwhile, the district is saddled with a huge remaining debt to be paid and the cost per student from outside the region may well climb to more than $20,000 per student within the first four years of the program. One of the original school districts in the "catch group" that Nonnewaug had spun off to Region 12 has withdrawn. Leaving us with a total of seven school districts instead of the original eight.
Alternative: If the Region were to embark on a vigorous STEM program K-12, students would be able to embark on many different career paths. This type of curriculum would catch the attention of couples in the child bearing/rearing age and encourage them to move to our school district. Furthermore, student test scores across the middle and high school would get much better than they are now. Region 12 would be recognized as a leader educationally. All of this would be accomplished without the high costs of the proposed AGStem program and lopsided student numbers from outside the region.
Please, please, please vote “no” to the AgSTEM referendum.