David B. Erwin has only been Superintendent of Schools for a short time but in his brief stint he can claim some major victories for the education in the Town of Berlin.
The obvious notch on his belt today was being the superintendent when the renovation of Berlin High School was passed.
He was also here when the McGee air quality issue was finally dealt with in a meaningful manner.
Add to that that, led by Assistant Superintendent Brian Benigni, the requirements for graduation and the overall curriculum at the high school have been overhauled and you have some cogs in the wheel of a long-range plan.
Long range planning has never been a strong point in virtually any manner in Berlin.
“When I called (Berlin High School Principal) Matt Harnett to tell him the plan passed, his first reaction was ‘No way,’” Erwin said Tuesday night after the votes had been counted. “He is very happy and thrilled, especially by the amount of the win. If it passed by one that would have been OK too but the fact that it passed overwhelmingly is a great feeling for all the administrators.”
Erwin said while he was only here for a short time when the plan was voted down the first time, he felt the sense of loss by the parents he spoke to.
“It’ an uplifting feeling tonight,” he said. “When the plan was defeated last time I could feel the people were demoralized. I think this puts a little more pride in what we can do when we work together. We have great students, teachers and now we’ll have a great facility for them to learn at the highest level.”
Erwin deflected the credit for the plan moving ahead.
Matt Harnett and I have been getting some very nice notes of thanks but we did very little,” Erwin said. “This was a grass roots effort. Hopefully we helped a little bit. Matt gave tours to anyone who wanted to see the school. This shows you what a committed group can accomplish hen they put their mind to it. It speaks volumes of the pride this community has.”
Erwin said this would help in the overall plan for continuing improvement in education.
“Obviously, our operating budget will have an impact as well but I’m 100 percent convinced that with the new building plan and the support of the new curriculum we are moving light years ahead in the right direction. Look at Alice Mitchell being here tonight. She is a 40-plus year veteran and she was here to support the renovation. She is all about the kids and this is great for the kids.”
Berlin Board of Education President Gary Brochu, who has been working on this plan for the past five years, said he felt pretty confident during the day.
“But, we didn’t feel that confident,” he said as he pointed to the 1,600-plus vote margin on the wall. “It’s a really significant shift, it’s virtually two-to-one.
“It’s been over five years for me and when we lost last time, it was like a punch in the gut and I was so tired. Not just of the work on the plan but the way we lost and the slim margin. To see the people come out and speak for the kids was amazing. This is the own I thought I grew up in. This is as big a day as Berlin has had in a long time.”
The Group “Yes for Berlin” played a large part in turning out the vote.
Sue Kozlowski became the spokesperson for the group.
“I originally got an e-mail from someone and I knew the high school was in bad shape so I jumped in,” said Kozlowski, a Berlin High graduate. “All I heard when I was around town was that kids were going to magnet schools and private schools and I didn’t want to see that happen to this community.
“I became the person to send out e-mails, which might have annoyed some people, but I thought it was important. We needed someone to consolidate the information and I tried to do that with the e-mails. We jut wanted the facts to get out there. This was not political for us but the Republicans seemed to make it that way. They were spreading rumors and lies so I tried to stay out of the politics and just state the facts.”
Absentee 131 Yes, 107 No, +24
Willard School 937 Yes, 496 No, +441
American Legion 458 Yes, 345 No, +113
Hubbard School 515 Yes, 290 No +225
Senior Center 702 Yes, 476 No, +226
Griswold School 1199 Yes, 613 No, +599
3,942 Yes, 2,314 No, +1,628