Commentary: Full-day kindergarten in Shelton is ‘long overdue’

My name is Michele B. Bialek, a parent representative member of the Shelton Full-Day Kindergarten Ad-Hoc Committee. I represent Sunnyside Elementary School.

I currently have three children attending Sunnyside, one at Perry Hill School, and two more will attend Sunnyside in the coming years.

For the past several months, the employees of Shelton’s Board of Education (BOE) central office have been organizing and compiling supportive data toward the end of implementing a full-day kindergarten program.

Prepares students for first grade

Data findings indicate that given the current and future curriculum of our elementary schools, we are at this point long overdue for a full-day program. Quantitative expectations of children entering first grade are far surpassing anything that our schools are capable of providing with the current three-hour schedule.

We are one of the last holdouts in the entire state and the longer we wait, the more costly it will become.

Compelling data has also shown that a full-day schedule reduces the cost of remedial help in grades as high as third and beyond, further reinforcing the prudence of such an evolution of education.

‘A thorn in their side’

A budget has been created and approved by the BOE and they are ready to present it to the mayor as well as the Board of Aldermen, with whom the existence of this program hinges.

There have been many attempts to reach out to these parties, and these attempts have been met mostly with the air of annoyance.

Certain aldermen and the mayor seem to feel as if this issue is a thorn in their side and when addressing it, make comments expressing their distaste for certain BOE members and the practices they employ.

My question is this: “What does any of this have to do with the future of our children and the solidity of our municipal educational system?”

Doing children a disservice

We are now doing the city’s children a disservice by choosing to not comprehensively prepare them for the rigorous curriculum imposed by state mandates and assessed expectations.

Mayor Mark Lauretti has spoken on record stating that the issue of school safety is a much more pressing issue and any extra funds will most likely be allocated to this project.

It is my understanding that most if not all of the funding needed for the essential security upgrades will be covered by federal grants, BOE funds already in the budget, and reimbursement grants directly to the city.

Furthermore, I recall publication of the extraordinary budget surplus that we currently enjoy, potentially making this program comfortably affordable.

Avoid personal and political agendas

I ask in earnest that our city elected officials take the time and consideration to educate themselves on this issue and make their decision based on issue-related information and not on personal agendas and grudges against party affiliations.

The time to act is now. The BOE will offer an informational PowerPoint presentations on the full-day kindergarten program, open to the public, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20 at Shelton Intermediate School (a similar meeting already took place Feb. 12).

Michele B. Bialek is a Shelton resident. She ran unsuccessfully for alderman in the Second Ward in 2013 as a Democrat. Mayor Mark Lauretti and the majority of aldermen are Republicans.