Anti-regionalization group arranges buses for public hearing

buses
Lisa Sallese, and her daughter Daniella, 14 of Wilton, hold signs for the tarffic to see on Main Street at a rally against Senate Bill 454, held in front of Town Hall in Ridgefield. Saturday, Feb. 23. — Scott Mullin photo

The group Hands Off Our Schools, which opposes forced school regionalization, has arranged for two buses to bring people to Hartford who are interested in testifying or attending a public hearing being held by the state legislature’s Education Committee.

The public hearing is being held Friday, March 1, starting at 1 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building, Room 2E, in Hartford. It is open to all members of the public.

Three bills pertaining to school regionalization will be discussed: SB 738, SB 457, and SB 874.

Tammy Ward of Wilton, one of the organizers of Hands Off Our Schools, has provided a transportation schedule for Friday, March 1:

Two buses will be leaving for Hartford at 9 a.m. sharp from the WEPCO parking lot, 48 New Canaan Road. Parking is available in the back parking lot.

The buses will leave Hartford around 7:30 p.m. and return to Wilton around 9 p.m.

The cost for the round trip is $25 per person. Ward said the group would appreciate payment in cash.

Each bus holds up to 55 people, and seating is first come first served. However, advance sign-ups can be made by contacting the group through its Facebook page: Hands Off Our Schools, or its website: handsoffourschools.org. “People do not have to reserve a seat in advance, but seating is limited,” Ward said.

People bringing young children to the hearing are advised to travel by car as the hearing is expected to last all day and the buses will not be leaving Hartford until evening. Anyone seeking information on sharing a ride should contact the administrators on the group’s Facebook page or website.

People interested in testifying at the public hearing need to sign up at the Legislative building between 10 and noon on Friday.

Testimony is limited to three minutes per person, and the Education Committee gives preferential treatment to high school students who want to testify, Ward said.

Members of the public who do not want to testify but just want to attend the hearing are welcome. “Even if you do not testify, being there in person will speak volumes about where you stand on the matter and will send a very big message to Hartford about your position on proposed forced regionalization of our schools,” Ward said.

Honing testimony

For those interested in honing their testimony for the public hearing, there will be a workshop on Wednesday, Feb. 27, from 1 to 4, at the Comstock Community Center, 180 School Road.

The workshop will provide copies of the three bills for review. Experts will be available to help residents prepare for their three-minute testimony by helping them explain their message and hitting on key points, practicing their delivery, and doing a videotape on their cell phones so they can see how it looks when they testify.

Ward said the group plans to meet with state legislators around noon outside on the Capitol steps.

Because it will be a long day in Hartford, attendees are advised to bring lunch, snacks, water and spending money for the cafeteria in the building.

Teacher pension sharing

In conjunction with the school regionalization bill public hearing, the Education Committee will also be hearing testimony about HB 7150, regarding teacher pension sharing.

The bill requires local school district/municipal participation in the cost of the annual pension contribution for their current teachers.

On her Facebook page, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice suggested people may want to testify separately about this bill, which would increase Wilton’s financial contribution.