This letter is in response to Councilman Evans recent letter to the editor concerning his views on the Berlin High School project. Unfortunately, Mr. Evan’s views are based on a series of flawed assumptions.
By way of background, it is important for readers to understand what the Board of Education’s role in the building process is – and isn’t. By Charter, the Board of Education is responsible for developing and approving the “educational specifications” for the High School building. In other words, what should the building contain – number of classrooms, number of lockers, and so on. Beyond this responsibility, the Board has no formal role or vote in the building process.
As an initial matter, Mr. Evans writes that the “simple solution” is for the Board of Education to “adjust” it’s educational specifications to allow for a less expensive project. This suggestion ignores the fact that the Board of Education has already significantly modified its educational specifications twice in an attempt to have the project fit the approved budget, including the elimination of a 20,000 sq. ft. addition to accommodate new science labs.
As the project currently stands, the renovation is confined to the existing building footprint, with the only addition to the building a 12,000 sq. ft. pre-engineered building to house our tech education classrooms. What’s more, as Mr. Evans should know, this addition does not add any additional cost to the project as it is in lieu of necessary construction “swing” space, space that was not included in the original design.
In fact, the renovated High School will actually have less space for the library, gymnasium/fitness, locker rooms and tech classrooms than the current building. The focus of the Board is, and remains, the renovation of a 60 year old building and providing sufficient classroom space for existing and future educational programs. There are no easy reductions at this point, and if Mr. Evans has specific thoughts I invite him to share them with the Board of Education and the public, instead of blithely suggesting that a “simple solution” exists.
Unfortunately, Mr. Evans does not confine his comments to the building project, but makes a gratuitous and unwarranted statement about “substandard education.” This assertion, however, is not just unsupported, but incorrect. For example, according to CAPT results, Berlin High School is second in Reading and third in Writing in our reference group. More students are taking AP courses and they are scoring higher. And our new program of studies offers our students one of the most comprehensive and rigorous course of study in the State.
While we agree that instruction is compromised in some areas by our outdated facility, it is a gross misstatement to describe the education offered by Berlin Public Schools as “substandard,” and it is irresponsible for Mr. Evans to do so.
Mr. Evans speaks of the need for “leadership” as if he is not an elected member of the Council. The Board of Education identified the need for a new or renovated High School facility before the NEASC and OCR reports, worked to inform residents prior to the referendums, and has significantly modified its educational specifications in an attempt to save a project hampered by a flawed cost estimate. Perhaps Mr. Evans can display leadership similar to that already provided by the Board of Education, instead of looking to assign blame prior to the Council taking action.
President, Berlin Board of Education