To the Editor:
I was not planning on speaking Tuesday night at the Town Meeting. Had I taken a moment to compose myself before I stood to speak, this is what I would have said:
My husband Rick and I have lived in town for over 20 years and find ourselves with an empty nest. Our daughter graduated Wilton High School in 2014, a Wilton Schools’ success story, and our son from St. Luke’s in 2017. When we moved to Wilton, we never imagined sending a child to private school–public schools and support for public schools are in our DNA. We found, however, Wilton schools were not serving him well. While it may seem counterintuitive, we have always supported the school budget and, in fact, believe our town has entered a dangerous trend of underfunding our schools.
When choosing where to settle, we chose Wilton because it was not Westport, New Canaan or Darien. Does the town have the same amenities as the others? No, but every single person living here chose this community for a reason. We were drawn to Wilton by the town’s unpretentious, down to earth feel and the deep sense of community responsibility for maintaining this lovely town with top notch schools. While some did not settle here for the schools, the reputation of our schools is the cornerstone of what makes Wilton attractive to most home buyers today. Like it or not, the schools are our greatest resource or “amenity,” and it is imperative we continue to nurture and support our district.
[Resident] Mr. [Michael] Graupner harangued parents at Tuesday night’s Annual Meeting, as in past years, admonishing them to write donation checks to the town if they wanted more for their children. Well, Mr. Graupner, while we may not have written donation checks to the town, we certainly wrote hefty private school checks. Here is the thing, though: we should not have had to. Provided appropriate funding and administration, we believe in the ability of the Wilton schools to serve the needs of all children in the district. It is our responsibility, as a community, to provide an appropriate education to every single child living in Wilton, and in fact, it is the law. My husband and I support this budget, enabling the district to continue the important work of fulfilling the school’s Vision Statement through implementation of defined Theories of Action. While some complain incessantly about missteps by the administration, reducing the current BOE budget, or rejecting the budget altogether, will not move the district toward implementing this town’s stated objectives. I implore my fellow Wiltonians to vote “Yes” on the proposed budget on Saturday.
As I did on Tuesday evening, I close with this quote I stumbled upon in Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (and it can be found on the Shaker Height’s district web site): “A community is known by the schools it keeps.”
The reason that Mr. Michael Graupner encouraged private donations to the school system was because he mentioned that he is a long-time resident now retired on a fixed income. How can one pay for increased taxes on a limited income? He offered a solution that could benefit the town as well. The current POCD process & data already shows a 32-41% burden on housing costs in Wilton, how much more of a burden can people with lesser economic means absorb? (source: Page 14 of https://wilton2029.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/housing_02-22-20181.pdf )
I graduated from a local public school system and while I’m grateful for the municipality’s contribution to my education, I also feel that I have a responsibility to “pay it back” by relocating back home, which I did, more or less. But how many of my generation have? Not so many I’m afraid. Other parts of the country are more enticing, exciting, far far less expensive and still have a good quality of life (and schools). So the point I’m trying to make here, is to please consider whether all of this investment in the school system will ever be “paid back” when the latest generation moves back to buy homes, make improvements, start businesses and otherwise grow the town’s future. If they want to come back at all. Unfortunately the trend is to move to cities which Wilton is not; Norwalk, Stamford, and yes, even Bridgeport, are better positioned for this trend.
I will leave you all with a quote by an individual at the town meeting whom if I remember correctly said this: “We are becoming a school with a town rather than a town with a school.”
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