There have been an increasing number of rumors that the District received a grant that will cover the cost associated with re-opening Roger Wolcott and expanding preschool here in Windsor. Let me assure you – that is false.
Before I continue, I believe that it is important to preface this post by stating that at this time the BoE has not voted to accept the grant, has received very little information as to how the district will proceed with the expansion, and has no information on the needs of our district besides what the State Office of Early Childhood (OEC) has provided as justification for including Windsor as an eligible district for the Smart Start Grant (SSG).
Just under three months ago, the Board of Education in a 7-2 vote approved the district to apply for the Smart Start Grant (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:nS3-ol8_RSoJ:www.ct.gov/oec/lib/oec/rfp/smartstart_rfp.pdf+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us) through the OEC (http://www.ct.gov/oec/site/default.asp). The OEC is operated by the State of Connecticut, and is mandated through the Governor to, “coordinate and improve the various early childhood programs and components in the state to create a cohesive high-quality early childhood system.
It was announced earlier this month that Windsor received the SSG (http://www.ct.gov/oec/cwp/view.asp?a=4545&q=561616). Through the SSG, the State awarded the full amount requested by the district. This includes $300,000 to operate 4 new classrooms ($75,000 per additional classroom), plus a one-time $300,000 for capital improvement projects.
Through the process of applying for the SSG, the Superintendent indicated that there is a desire to re-open the Roger Wolcott building as an Early Childhood Center. Roger Wolcott continues to remain, to a large degree, vacant, and there is a push from various groups within Windsor, including the Superintendent’s cabinet, to open Roger Wolcott with the funds made available through the SSG.
Approximately five months ago, the Superintendent provided a preliminary outline during the budget presentation that referenced a handful of Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) that would be needed to re-open Roger Wolcott. CIP projects included new bathroom fixtures, carpet replacement, and a new play scape. Of course, this was provided to the Board for informational purposes only.
It has been alluded to through indirect statements that the re-opening of Roger Wolcott was on the horizon and had support of various groups around Windsor, yet the Board was not engaged in a conversation at all during the 5 months leading up to the acceptance of the District’s SSG proposal on what would be needed to actually re-open the building. Specifically, the Board has not received any information on actual need, expenses, or a projected time line for renovations.
Last Tuesday, March 10th, it was anticipated that there would be clear information provided that would alleviate any concerns expressed by Board members during the December meeting when the Board approved the Superintendent to apply for the SSG. Unfortunately, many of the questions remain unanswered.
During last week’s meeting, the Board received a heavily slanted, and somewhat fragmented, presentation on: 1) The benefits of high quality preschool, 2) The status of preschool in Windsor, 3) Needs information supporting expansion, and (4) The vision for Early Childhood Programming in our town.
Unfortunately I was unable to locate the video on the internet, and so all I can offer is a link to the PowerPoint (https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1vJlBLM61nyf1jMO_9477laBPt-eEpsThSN3DfIdRF14/edit#slide=id.p4). As you will note, the PowerPoint is certainly organized and provides a 3,000 foot view on the items outlined on in the presentation. Unfortunately, there was little desire to engage in a dialogue that identified actual need, a strategic plan for expanding preschool, or timeline with attainable and measurable goals.
The most discouraging point in the evening was when I realized that there was going to be no information presented on whether our current preschool program is leading to measurable gains when compared to those students who have not attended a preschool program. How could this information not be tracked?
The concern that I have consistently raised is not with opposition to the expansion of preschool, it is with the approach being taken to expand preschool through the Windsor Public School System. It is that this is going to be approved with little regard for the few of us who have consistently requested the opportunity to take time to understand the true need of the community.
To rush to a decision that is estimated to cost more than 1.5 million dollars on nothing more than speculation and research findings that do not reflect the Windsor community is irresponsible.
All that we are left with is a number of questions that remain unanswered, and an agenda item slated for this evening that points in the direction that this will be pushed through because, as Board Member Klase so eloquently pointed out during the last full meeting, “this is a political process… and it comes down to a vote.”