Bethel Education Budget and Town Budget need support at April 20 referendum

Bethel Board of Education Chair Melanie O'Brien.

Bethel Board of Education Chair Melanie O’Brien.

Hearst Connecticut Media

I urge you to support both Bethel Education Budget and Town Budget at the referendum April 20. The Town Budget includes funding essential to the schools for property insurance, property and building maintenance, fuel, school resource officers, and other expenses.

The Bethel School district has achieved a Next Generation Accountability Index (2018-2019) of 81.9. The Accountability Index takes into consideration 12 variables that influence education, including academic achievement and growth, chronic absenteeism, college and career readiness, high school graduation rate, physical fitness and access to the arts ( Bethel’s Accountability Index compares favorably with other area towns notwithstanding Bethel’s more diverse demographic and lower per pupil spending. That achievement speaks to the commitment of our superintendent, the administrative team and all staff working together.

Though we are proud of the curricular and extra-curricular achievements of our students, there is considerable work to do. Before the pandemic, there had been an upward trend in district population and students presenting with needs. Now, in the midst of the pandemic, it is apparent that many more children with academic and/or social and emotional needs will require school support and resources.

Recently NEASC, the organization that accredits Connecticut high schools, noted among its many commendations of BHS these two in particular: The clear vision shared by the district to create the best possible learning and experience for all students, and: The strong sense of community displayed by the stakeholders of the Bethel School district (NEASC report on district website).

That “clear vision” is put into action every day to help each child achieve and involves the social and emotional well-being as well as the academic growth of the child. But the district can’t do it alone. That is where the stakeholders come in. During the pandemic the district has had the support of its community partners contributing PPE and volunteer hours. The Bethel Health Department and Parks and Recreation Departments quickly mobilized to help keep the district open to the extent possible. And the Building Department worked to keep two school building projects on track.

When we work together as a community, we are stronger and better. Please join me in supporting the Bethel Education and Town Budgets.

Melanie O’Brien is chair of the Bethel Board of Education.

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