To the editor:
To Westport School Committee Chairwoman Michelle Duarte
Dear Chairwoman Duarte:
On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, Town Meeting approved Article 2 on the Town Warrant authorizing, in part, the transfer of $70,000 to supplement the budget of the School Department for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012.
The ostensible reason for this request was that the School Department needed the money to hire a full-time math tutor for the school system.
Finding and hiring qualified help to teach our children math continues to be a serious challenge for public school systems and Westport’s is no exception. As taxpayers, we can all agree that math proficiency is a critical need. In fact, if one were to conjure up a school spending request that would be easiest to sell to the voters, it would be one requesting money for math.
But I found two aspects of Article 2 interesting: (1) The Board of Selectmen (BOS) bundled this request for the School Department supplement with another one for $27,000 to pay short-term interest related to the cleanup of PCBs at the Middle School (combined, that adds up to $97,000 to supplement School Department spending); (2) then I got to wondering why the Finance Committee, a body that is ready, willing and able to unanimously approve all manner of spending requests without bothering to subject them to probing analysis, voted merely 6-2 in favor of recommending Article 2.
So you can imagine my astonishment when I learned that at your School Committee Meeting held the day after the Town Meeting vote of approval on Article 2, School Superintendent Colley reported to the committee in open session that he was projecting an end-of-fiscal-year surplus in the School Department of some $355,000, enough to pay the $97,000 requested in Article 2 with $258,000 to spare for additional “necessities.”
Then it dawned on me — the request for the math tutor was not just for the students, it was also for the chairwoman of the School Committee and her puppet-master ,Dr. Carlos Colley, who appear to be arithmetically challenged and in need of hiring additional expertise in order to balance accounts.
The WTA would like you to explain these facts in an open letter to the taxpayers of Westport and to all of the other town employees who work in departments that are having to do more with fewer resources. You might even appoint a committee to study the problem.
Gregory N. Jonsson
Director and secretary, Westport Taxpayers Association