Journalism / New Haven Register

Guilford parents’ PAC aims for school needs

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
April 39, 2008

GUILFORD — As the school district continues to study a possible renovation or replacement of two schools, a group of parents and other residents is forming to encourage people to support upgrades to the school facilities.

The organization, calling itself GuilfordPACT — Parents and Citizens Together — hopes to work on voter education and turnout efforts, co-founder Chris Moore said.

School officials have been investigating the options for improvements to Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School and Guilford High School for months. Currently, they are looking at a range of alternatives from basic repairs to new schools.

The new group, which has filed as a political action committee with the state Elections Enforcement Commission, is in the early stages of development and is holding an organizational meeting May 13.

Moore said one of the first aims of GuilfordPACT is to educate other people on the schools’ needs.

“My view, and I think the view of a lot of parents, is that it’s time to do something in Guilford with the schools,” he said. “There’s going to be people who are against that because it’s clearly going to cause a rise in the taxes — you have to pay for it — but we feel that it’s not only important for the kids, but important for the community.”

So far, the group has about 30 members, many of whom joined through the Web site, guilfordpact.org.

Moore said he is hoping that the group’s work will help a situation like in 2003, when a $55 million bonding referendum to replace Adams Middle School and renovate Abraham Baldwin Middle School failed at the polls.

“The driving issue right now is the school facilities, but we do feel that on a larger scale voter turnout and voter — I don’t know if it’s apathy — but under-education is an ongoing problem in Guilford,” he said.

He added that the group is not advocating a particular building option right now, other than not supporting a “Band-Aid” solution. The committee is also hoping to work with other educational organizations in town, like the Guilford Parent-Teacher Association.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella said there was no similar political action committee working on voter turnout at the time of the 2003 referendum. The group is separate from the school district, he added.

“They have a lot more flexibility than we do at the school system,” Forcella said. “They can advocate much more strongly than the school board does.”

Board of Education Chairman William Bloss said the board is seeking more input from residents during the planning process than it did for the 2003 referendum.

“There is no other decision that elected members of Guilford’s boards will make that has a greater impact on the town, both in terms of finances and in terms of facilities,” Bloss said.

Moore, who has four young children and two currently in the school system, said that the first phase of GuilfordPACT’s work will be education about the school facilities. After the Board of Education votes on a bonding option, he said, the group would work on marketing it to voters, and finally would emphasize voter turnout in the run-up to the referendum.

“Guilford has a reputation for excellent schools,” he said. “There are excellent teachers and excellent students, but we don’t want to see the facilities bring it down now or in the future, and we’re worried that if we don’t act now, that’s going to happen.”

The first meeting for GuilfordPACT is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. May 13 at at the Nathanael B. Greene Community Center.

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