Protect our children
As you may be aware, Wilton is currently facing 2 civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a paraprofessional, Eric Von Kohorn, who was employed by the Wilton School System and assigned to the Pre-K program at Miller-Driscoll from 2007 until he was arrested in 2014. His eventual arrest was not related to the accusations in the two lawsuits, but rather by the State Police finding child pornography on his computer.
On reviewing documents from the lawsuits, Shipman & Goodwin legal billing and information in the press I was appalled at how the Wilton School System and the Board of Education failed to protect some of our youngest children. When a family alleged their daughter was sexually abused by a preschool paraprofessional at Miller-Driscoll School in 2012, The Director of the Pre-K, Dr Fred Repczynski:
- Failed to file a report with the Department of Child and Families (DCF) in the time prescribed in the law.
- When he did file, presented it in a fashion as if nothing had happened
- Did not tell parents that Von Kohorn had admitted taking Jane Doe into bath room against school policy.
- In his deposition stated Girl Doe’s teacher, considered her behavior “provocative” or “flirtatious” essentially casting doubt on a four year old child.
Dr. Rapczynski was not alone in failing to take action to properly investigate the sexual abuse complaint. It seems in the Wilton School System highly paid managers are never held responsible for anything ( Management failure ) :
- Ann Paul, Director of Special Services never pursued a thorough investigation.
- Superintendent Richards was aware of the complaint and never pursued it.
- The Board of Education (BoE) never called for a thorough investigation and even promoted Ann Paul to Assistant Superintendent, with a large pay raise, after the school system was advised of the investigation of Van Kolhorn. ( Bulletin article with detail )
We the citizens of Wilton also bear a responsibility for allowing this reckless behavior by the school system and the BoE. Sensible Wilton believes the only way to get the attention of the BoE is through the budget process. We believe a NO vote on the budget is important to get their attention.
Budget time is here again. Given the fact that that Wilton property taxes have increased at a rate of 2x the Cost Of Living (COLA) in the last 11 years, it is imperative that we all stand up and say enough is enough. The chart below shows some key measures of growth for Wilton. You can see that educational expenses have grown over 2.9x COLA, and continues to grow in spite of the fact that school enrollments are declining.
This year, the Board of Finance (BoF) gave the Board of Education a guidance number of a reduction of -1.25%. I encourage all of you to contact the BoF showing your support for the reduction. We expect a significant reduction in State aid and will have increased costs due to the Miller-Driscoll bonding. We cannot afford any increase in our mil rate. The email for the BoF is firstname.lastname@example.org .
To view the data supporting the above statements, go to: Key measures growth
The Miller-Driscoll project is an excellent example of what can happen when Town officials do not perform due diligence and use unsubstantiated claims to promote a capital project or budget.
The most egregious factor in this example is the use of deceptive projected Pre-K enrollment numbers, resulting in:
- False information presented to the BOE, BOS, MDBC and public.
- False information used to promote a $50M capital project.
- False information used to design the MD renovation.
- False information used in the town’s bond prospectus.
It has become obvious, even to town officials, that the enrollment estimates given were wildly inflated. Wilton is currently constructing a school that will have classrooms that will be empty, excess offices for staff that will not be needed and excess costs in the design due to these unrealistic enrollment estimates. In the last few weeks the First Selectman has expressed her concern based on more realistic enrollment projections and the BOE has admitted that Pre-K Special Education has dropped way below what has been provided in various budgets.
To see the full report: PreK Enrollment Deception
The world has changed, Wilton must also
Wilton is currently on a fiscal path that is having a significant negative impact on its citizens. Wilton has become uncompetitive with neighboring towns due to high taxes, which has depressed housing prices, caused businesses to leave, and discouraged new families from choosing. Wilton.Supporting documentation for these facts (as of Oct 2015) can be found at: WiltonQuick facts Final
- Wilton median home prices have not recovered from highs. Neighboring towns have done much better (Source: Zillow). Compared to 2006/2007 peak.
- Darien 100%
- Westport 95%
- Wilton 83%
- Fairfield County losing wealthier potential buyers
- UBS significant downsizing in Stamford
- RBS significant downsizing in Stamford
- GE considering leaving Fairfield
- Significant losses for many current sellers will affect comparables
- Spending per person currently 4th highest in State
- Growth in spending from 1996 to 2012, 3rd highest in State
- Wilton Debt per Capita $3289 in 2013 18th highest in State. After MD and Comstock Debt per Capita will approximately double and move Wilton to #1.
- Cost escalated from $5M in 2006 to currently $50.2M
- Enrollments have dropped by double digits and are projected by the state to drop by triple digits during the next 5 – 10 years
- MD renovation design does not incorporate the significant declining enrollment. This disregard of enrollment projections from multiple private and state experts has led to a plan to demolish existing usable facilities and build new unneeded new classrooms.
- Project as configured will result in empty classrooms for years to come. CT expects to lose population and 150 school districts are expected to have significantly lower enrollments. In 2025 Wilton Public Schools’ enrollment is projected to be 37% lower than in 2015.
SensibleWilton (SW) has raised these concerns but has been rebuffed by the Board of Selectmen, , Miller Driscoll Building Committee and Board of Finance. Nevertheless, our message has been heard by Wilton voters and every candidate for Wilton offices this election has acknowledged that high taxes and their consequences are key issues. SW will continue to be vigilant and work to ensure these issues are acted upon post election.