Who Should be Recommending When and How
to Open Our Schools
This morning, I sent a letter to the members of today’s televised roundtable on education organized by the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group. The letter expresses my concerns with the membership of the Advisory Group’s Education Committee. Specifically, I wanted to suggest important adjustments to the composition of this important subsidiary committee, which will ultimately make recommendations to the governor about when and how our public schools will reopen. I sent the letter by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, the address provided by Governor’s office for comment on the proceedings of today’s roundtable.
This is a matter that concerns everyone in Connecticut’s cities, towns, suburbs, and rural communities. I believe representation from all levels of education, specifically K-12 schools, is imperative to the success of this working group.
In the email, which appears below, I make recommendations for broadening the expertise and experience of the committee. I also suggest dividing the committee into two groups – one focused on K-12 education, and the other on higher education. This will allow more participation by those most qualified to discuss these matters without compromising the effectiveness of these committees.
Your input is important. If you have recommendations of your own, or specific issues relating to K-12 education that you would like addressed, please contact me and I will help you convey those concerns to the governor and the advisory group.
State Representative Gail Lavielle
143rd General Assembly District
Wilton, Norwalk, and Westport
My email to the members of the Education roundtable on reopening Connecticut, with a copy to Governor Lamont
Good morning, Members of this morning’s roundtable on education,
I write to suggest strongly that you include in your meeting this morning a serious discussion of the composition of the Education Committee of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group.
As you know, the issue of providing not just quality, but even merely adequate K-12 education is a major preoccupation for residents of every town in Connecticut during this difficult time.
On the committee, there are six representatives or former representatives of higher education institutions. There are three members representing K-12 schools — one representing the CT Association of Independent Schools and two representing the teachers’ unions.
This morning’s roundtable offers a slightly larger group, and I would note the wise inclusion of Fran Rabinowitz of CAPPS. But I am not aware of any official changes made to the Committee itself. Even if the group has been expanded to include the roundtable participants, I would submit that this is not enough.
The current situation is unprecedented, and there is great, disquieting uncertainty about how it will evolve over the next year and possibly the year after that. Those who are experiencing its impact directly would surely be the best qualified to convey the nature and extent of the most critical issues in different contexts, as well as potential solutions.
I urge you to consider expanding the membership of the Education Committee to include:
- Active, experienced teachers representing urban, suburban, and rural districts, as well as a range of grade levels
- Active superintendents or principals from urban, suburban, and rural districts
- Active directors of special education
- Parents from urban, suburban, and rural districts
- Board of Education members from urban, suburban, and rural districts
While I understand that there are limits to how many people can be included in an effective committee, excluding those who are experiencing the impact of COVID-19 directly, on the ground, does not make sense. It also might be advisable to split the committee into two groups — one focused on higher education and the other on K-12 schools.
The spring semester in progress is now almost behind us. I am most concerned about how K-12 education will be handled in the 2020-2021 academic year and beyond. As you all know well, a gap of several months in K-12 education, particularly in the elementary and middle school years, can have serious consequences for students, regardless of their economic circumstances. It is imperative that the state and the school districts get this right.
Hearing from local stakeholders who are actively engaged in school districts across the state, and who know better than state officials what their districts need, is imperative. Asking for emails is not enough. To ensure that importance is conferred on their contributions, they should be invited to participate in discussions and be given the legitimacy of subcommittee membership.
I respectfully ask that you discuss this subject this morning and that the full Advisory Group consider making the kinds of adjustments I have suggested here.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
State Representative, 143rd District
Assistant Republican Leader
Ranking Member, Appropriations Committee
Former Ranking Member, Education Committee