Nearly 80 residents came out on a bright spring afternoon Sunday to voice their opposition to the a proposed new location for an entirely new high school that was proposed late Friday by a 4 to 2 vote on the Stratford Board of Education. In attendance were Mayor John Harkins, former Board of Education and Councilman Gavin Forrester, Councilman James Connor and Councilman Craig Budnick. All have expressed their frustration over the seemingly unplanned manner in which the site was proposed. Very little social media and marketing was advertised to draw people out for the event, and it has already surpassed other rallies in recent years in attendance.
"You elected your Board of Education members, they are responsible to you. It is important you contact your Board of Education members and tell them how you feel," stated Forrester. Councilman Budnick also commented, "This is not going to get past the Town Council." Forrester, Conor, Budnick and Mayor Harkins explained to the crowd gathered at the rally the history of events, and the process in place that would help stop the proposal in its tracks, and what would happen if a new Stratford High School were to be built.
"Three years ago, the Town Council unanimously passed bonding for renovations at the current Stratford High location, and the Town waited for the Board of Education to make their revisions before we would apply for a bond and over a 50% grant match from the State of Connecticut," added Mayor Harkins. "We were ready to go when the Board of Education needed us to," added Councilman Budnick.
The new location that was proposed passed the Board of Education by a 4 to vote around 4 pm Friday afternoon, before a school vacation, irking the community for a last minute and seemingly non transparent manner. Residents were also concerned that the Town may lose out on matching grants from the State of Connecticut if the Board of Education continued to change the project. "We would apply for a waiver" commented Councilman James Connor, which would allay concerns of any potential loss of state funds.
Board of Education member Jim Feehan was not present for the vote due to a work conflict, and Board of Education members Len Petrucelli and Chris Barnaby voted no to the proposed Longbrook Park campus, winning praise from residents who live near the park. Board of Ed members Robert Chaloux, Terri Sheehy, Jancee Pust Marcone and Chairwoman Andrea Vellieaux voted in favor of the new location, after previous Board of Education voted in favor of renovating the current site off North Parade in the center of town.
The Town Council is anticipating it will reject the new locatin Monday, April 14.