DANBURY, Conn. -- Members of the community gathered Thursday to discuss the many challenges facing the Danbury Public School system in the coming year and to hear from the city's leaders, including Mayor Mark Boughton.
About 40 people attended the Danbury Public Schools Funding meeting held at the Western Connecticut Academy of International Studies.
Challenges include the continued growth of student enrollment across all grade levels, the growing list of high school graduation requirements and the increased number of English language learners, low-income students and special education students in the Danbury schools.
"At the local level, we're all on the same team. We all want the same things for our kids.This is about out children and protecting their education going forward," Boughton said of meeting those challenges.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Katie Roy, founder of the Connecticut School Finance Project, said it costs the Danbury school district $12,728 to educate each child.
Roy said Danbury should receive more state funds to support its schools. She said funding is often determined by what a school district has received in the past -- as well as what type of school it is, where it is located and what political power it has.
Danbury receives about $3,000 in education funding per student from the State of Connecticut, she said. But cities with similar school districts receive significantly more. Roy said that Danbury receives relatively little state funding based upon the needs of its students.
On the topic of graduation requirements, incoming Danbury High School Principal Dan Donovan said while students now need 21 credits to graduate, this number might be increasing to 25 credits.
He said students are capable of earning that number of credits, but many don't have the time because they are forced to hold jobs and contribute to their family's incomes.
In addition, Donovan said that in order for each child to meet the 25-credit requirement, within the next four years, Danbury High would have to hire 20-plus teachers. "This is a huge impact in this community," he said.
Emanuela Palmares, editor and partner of the Tribuna newspaper, spoke about ways to include the Latino community in the conversation.
"We need to go to them. Go to where they are and present to them in their language," she said. A meeting held on a weekday morning at the Magnet School is not likely to draw many people from the Latino community, she said.
Jessica Stram, a lobbyist for Danbury who is employed with the Hartford firm of Sullivan and LeShane, said that if the city wants to see results, it must take action. Ways to speak up include testifying at public hearings, regularly communicating with state representatives -- and if all else fails, starting a rally, she said.
"Danbury needs to tell its story. Parents, teachers and students should put a human face to the story," Stram said. "Unless this community speaks for itself, no one will speak for it."
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