Viewpoint: 'I'm afraid (proposed) cuts will cause more harm than good'

To the Editor:

When my family first arrived here, the New Milford Public School System welcomed my children with open arms.

Interim Superintendent Stephen Tracy and past superintendents have been superb in their ability to oversee the whole system, while caring for each of the individual students and staff.

I’ll never forget the time Principal Bilkotook the time to answer the phone herself, on the first day of school. And, I’ll also never forget the time Principal Shugrue met with my family on a very busy day to plot out a number of class schedule suggestions he had, based on his keen understanding of my son’s individual personality, strengths and aspirations.

The music programs are all phenomenal, from the earliest ages on up, not only training the students to master their instruments, but building personal confidence and self-esteem, as well as a responsibility to a community larger than themselves.

The coaches have compassionately encouraged my kids to accomplish their personal bests, while emphasizing everyone’s place on the team, and good sportsmanship, above any final score.

Every single one of my children’s teachers have gone above and beyond the call of duty, not only to cover the mandated lessons, but also to help my children overcome their fears and strive for their greatest potential.

Teachers have come in early, stayed after school, written thoughtful and considerate letters of recommendation, and inspired my children, all the while fielding numerous emails and phone calls from concerned parents, like myself.

I feel like the New Milford Public School System has helped raise my children along with me, as a partner in helping them become responsible adults and concerned citizens.

That is why I am concerned about the school budget. I know that the mayor and the Town Council want to do their best to support our town and our school system, but I’m afraid their cuts will cause more harm than good.

Would you believe the average increase to the school budget has been under 1 percent over the last 10 years? I am afraid that most people don’t understand that the school system has a number of fixed costs, well exceeding the meager $600,000 increase the proposal has now been whittled down to. Consider the increasing costs of salaries, benefits and transportation.

I support the original school budget proposed by Interim Superintendent Stephen Tracy, as revised with unanimous approval of the Board of Education, across party lines, before the mayor and the Town Council cut it by $1 million.

Educators are among the most important members of society, sacrificing inordinate amounts of time, devoting their lives to the youth of our communities, all the while being remunerated far beneath the value they provide New Milford.

Most of our teachers could make far more money serving other careers in different towns, but they do what they do for our kids because they care about the future of the children of New Milford.

Furthermore, at a time when New Milford really needs to be growing, we should be doing everything in our power to bolster an attractive public school system to draw more families to settle down in our town, adding revenue to our government.

Most importantly, education is the great equalizer. We all like to talk about treating everyone fairly and equitably, but a quality education, more than anything, is what affords every member of society an equal opportunity.

If we were to keep our school budget at an increase of an average of merely 1 percent every year for the next 10 years, as we have for the last 10 years, while fixed expenses continue to outpace the amount allotted, what kind of a message would that send this town, our teachers, and any families who might want to purchase property here?

Education is one of the greatest investments we can make in the good people of New Milford. We should support the original budget proposed by the superintendent, as revised with unanimous approval from the Board of Education, across party lines.

In the words of the Talmud, “the real guardians of the State are the teachers!” Let us provide our teachers everything they need to serve us.

Rabbi Ari Rosenberg

New Milford