Buying gun control.

Commenting on the recent Fort Lauderdale shooting incident, “Barry Soetoro” reminds us to examine city budgets in trouble and legislation up for vote before mass shootings occur. (Click here.)

For instance, the Marysville, Washington shooting (October 2014) happened just before a major gun control initiative was up for vote in that state. Billionaires like Michael Bloomberg spent millions to make sure it passed.

In Newtown, Connecticut, several elementary schools were well behind schedule for necessary upgrades and repairs due to serious budget problems. Then, bingo. After the 12-14-12 incident, money was no obstacle. A $50MM school was built on the sawdust of the demolished Sandy Hook Elementary School.

What were the pre-existing conditions in Fort Lauderdale? Beyond the airport’s need for an upgrade, Florida State Senators were about to vote on a bill (SB 140) to lift restrictions on guns in airports. Bang. A shooter who claims to have been trained by U.S. intelligence (using ISIS films, of course) arrives on the scene. We can easily predict what will happen next as the fake news version overtakes the real one.

View this other video by “Barry” for the criminal records of mayors who have joined Bloomberg in his campaign to restrict gun rights for ordinary citizens – through Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG).

We wonder what the odds are that so many mayors with rap sheets should be members of the same club.




“As we wrap up a busy summer at Sandy Hook School, we have a great deal of news to share. As you know, uncertainties surrounding our school resulted in the late notification of classroom teaching assignments. In order to ensure the best possible start to the school year for all of our students, your children’s previous teachers meticulously prepared multiple class lists to meet any of several contingencies. I am extremely grateful to them for their many extra efforts and double-checking!”

So begins the first paragraph on the first page of “The Sandy Hook School Connection, August 28, 2012,”  written by Dawn Hochsprung, principal of Sandy Hook Elementary school from September 2010 through December 2012.

Uncertainties? Contingencies? Multiple class lists? Previous teachers? Late notification of classroom teaching assignments? We wonder what all of this means.

The words used in this paragraph signal big change – change that has already occurred and change that is surely to come. We know, of course, about one of those unfortunate changes, but on the premise that the past is prologue, we need to review what came before with our usual patient attention.

So let’s go back to Spring 2012.

March 2012: The Chung conundrum. In March 2012 this  became part of the Sandy Hook building renovation saga. Dated March 6, 2012, it’s an ad hoc facilities sub-committee’s recommendation for shuttering a school in Newtown, based on 2009 declining enrollment projections by a “Dr. Chung.” (His/her identity remains a mystery.)

Long story short, Sandy Hook was rejected for shutdown, because it wasn’t ADA-compliant. The logic: ADA-compliant schools are more easily reopened if enrollments go up again. Reed Intermediate (still open) was the chosen one for shuttering because it would save $3 million per year.

The committee recommended that the Board begin the process of a shutdown once elementary enrollments drop to 1,500.

March 29, 2012: One Reed, indeed. In the same month, this appeared: “One School, One Read” in the The Sandy Hook School Connection, March 29, 2012, announcing that a Sandy Hook event (a sock hop) was to be held at Reed Intermediate. Why Reed? Why not the sparkling gymnasium floor of the Sandy Hook Elementary school?

July 12, 2012: An approved school budget.  After much tension over the Board of Education’s proposed school budget in May, it was finally approved in July. Elementary education overall got skinned a bit: by a 0.34% cut.  Sandy Hook Elementary lost $4,517 from the previous year’s budget, a 0.15% dip in funding. It isn’t nice, but it isn’t something to cause a great stir, either. The biggest cut was the elimination of a vice-principal position and the installation of a lead teacher. Music educators got clobbered, too, losing $16, 649. To view it for yourself, go here, page 10. Note, on page 40, that the previous year’s decision (which Cinderella has made much of before) held: the expenditure on building and site maintenance remained a stark $0. But everyone already knew that. It was a done deal.

July 19, 2012: The “Mum” emails. On July 19, 2012, a peculiar email exchange occurred between Mrs. Hochsprung and Kevin Anzolotti, the school janitor. Email with JanitorReproduced below in larger type:

  • On the morning of July 19,  Mrs. Hochsprung emailed Anzollotti: “How does this look? [Apparently referring to an attached pdf excluded from the document disclosure.] NOT set in stone! I have to notify teachers after we meet next Thursday, then we can get moving. Of course, they will need to come in and pack… This is going to be really hard!”
  • That afternoon Anzollotti responded: “I got it and it is what it is it’s bad [sic] for us but I would not what to [sic] be in your shoes as your [sic] telling them but all still have jobs I guess that’s a good thing mums the word [sic]

Was Mrs. Hochsprung’s email referring to the “uncertainties” she mentions a month later in “The Sandy Hook Connection August 28, 2012,”?  Let’s review the foregoing:

  • Possible school closings
  • Sandy Hook is spared from closing; Reed is targeted
  • Reed is used for a Sandy Hook sock hop
  • A busy summer
  • An approved budget
  • Secrets
  • Last-minute packing and moving
  • Uncertainties
  • Multiple class lists
  • Contingency plans
  • Meticulous preparation
  • Late notification of class lists
  • Job retention

To put it in perspective: Mrs. Hochsprung already knew about the approved budget a few days before the email exchange with Anzollotti. Yes, she was losing a vice-principal and gaining a lead teacher. Yes, the music department was taking a hit. But, for the most part, things were much as they had been. So what’s this new kerfuffle about in the email exchange? And why does it continue in the items outlined below?

July 26, 2012:  “Placement.” In The Sandy Hook School Connection, July 26, 2012 came this from Mrs. Hochsprung: “We are in the final stages of determining the impact of the reductions reflected in the passed budget. We will send placement letters with class assignments early in August. Please be assured that your child’s placement will be handled with the same level of personal care and attention to which you are accustomed. Before teachers left at the end of the school year, we worked together to develop class lists that would accommodate any scenario that could result from the final decisions of the Board of Education.” (my bf)

Placement where? In new classrooms? In other schools? In other towns? Why? The budget that passed didn’t require the termination of any general teaching positions.

Ms. Epple exits. On August 22, 2012, a week before “The Sandy Hook Connection August 28, 2012,” there appeared this article, reporting that Sharon Epple, Reed Intermediate’s principal, (and principal of STARR) was leaving for greener pastures in East Hartford. Why? Was she convinced that Reed would be closing? She would have known: she sat on the ad hoc committee described above with Mrs. Hochsprung.


And that’s about all we could find on the subject of big Sandy Hook changes before September 2012: A strange, confusing concatenation of seemingly related events in which fluster and change abound and most jobs are mercifully retained.

Decisions and revisions. Did budgetary changes lead up to Mrs. Hochsprung’s uncertainties, contingencies, multiple class lists by previous teachers and late notification of classroom teaching assignments? Or did something else? Whatever it was, it also led to the following:

 Staffing changes. Let’s return to Mrs. Hochsprung’s article of August 28, 2012, which continues below:

Staffing changes

The eight bulleted items above are detailed staffing changes Mrs. Hochsprung announced. In a few instances, teachers are described as leaving. But in most instances, they’re “returning.” (You’ll recognize many of their names.) But returning from where? Don’t teachers always return – from summer vacation? Why devote nearly a page to such returns?

Unless … teachers were coming back from a longer absence, say a sabbatical or boot camp down South. Remember, this communication was dated August 28, more than a month after the “Mum” emails and the secret move in July. Where did the teachers go, and to what did they return? Or was a return unexpected because the Sandy Hook School became the target for a shutdown – despite decisions made earlier in the year?

And … what is this about preschool classes? Mrs. Hochsprung’s last bulleted item above concerns a preschool:  “We welcome two preschool classes to Sandy Hook this year. Teachers will be Janet Walker and Eileen Cullen. Speech language pathologist Judy Silverlight will also join that team.”

Strange. I had thought Sandy Hook Elementary School was a K-4 school. I don’t recall seeing anything about preschoolers in the news reports about the massacre. (If you remember, please comment.) What became of these little ones on 12-14-12? Was the preschool closed that morning?

The bulleted item mentions a “speech language pathologist.” Were these special-needs preschoolers? In the 2012-13 budget, page 5, there is a footnote about a “Speech Therapist for St. Rose.” Hm. What is St. Rose (of Lima?) doing in a Newtown public school budget? Or perhaps I’m misinterpreting something. Speech pathologist Judy Silverlight recently retired. Perhaps she knows.

In any case, there is no mention of a preschool at Sandy Hook Elementary in the 2012-13 budget. (See for yourself. Go here and do a search for “preschool.”) Like Dr. Chung and STARR, a special-ed school housed in Reed Intermediate, the Sandy Hook preschool remains an unsolved mystery for now.

Scolding. Cinderella wondered if such attention to teacher comings and goings was paid by Mrs. Hochsprung in the previous year. We found The Sandy Hook Connection, August 30, 2011. And there’s not a word in it about teacher returns or departures. In this issue, the focus appears to be on obeying rules: “It is imperative to both the learning of your child and his or her classmates that we minimize late arrivals and early pick-ups.” This appeared in boldface as shown.

(“Imperative”? Honestly. Why the sternness over an occasional trip to the dentist?)

Housekeeping was a matter of note in this issue, too. We found this reference: “The halls and classrooms of Sandy Hook School are sparkling and ready for another exciting year!”

Ugly wall

More housekeeping. Just to be thorough, we checked   The Sandy Hook Connection, Sept. 8, 2011 for references to teacher returns. Once again, nothing.

But we did find another enthusiastic reference to housekeeping: “As always, the amazing and dedicated staff of Sandy Hook School has everything ready for your children. Our custodians worked tirelessly to ensure that our school is sparkling in every corner, even without power.”*

Ugly floor

As a ballroom dancer, Cinderella can attest: There is absolutely no substitute for a sparkling clean, shiny floor.



  • The Sandy Hook Elementary School forensic photos in this post are available here.
  • *Reference to “without power” in the above excerpt —  due to Hurricane Irene.

A brief history of missing roofs, windows, systems and time.

In a castle long ago, Cinderella had an old roof that needed new shingles.

She hired a carpenter to install the shingles, but aloft and unobserved, he cut a hole through the roof. It sprang a leak that damaged the ceiling, and soon the walls streamed with water that came through the hole that the carpenter had cut in the roof that needed re-shingling.

The carpenter said, “I’ll fix that roof, but first, looks like you need a new ceiling and brand new walls.”

But while fixing the ceiling, he shattered a window with the ladder he’d brought, and on his way out, he damaged a door and tore out a cornice, which fell on a mirror and cracked it.

And the roof was never re-shingled. (Cinderella has had a car like this, too.) What began with a secret hole ended in bills, legal parries and, ultimately, an abandoned castle.

The never-ending, shape-shifting repair budget. The old Sandy Hook Elementary school was a lot like Cinderella’s castle. Needs were acknowledged; at one time, needs may have been met. But after all the many things that were said and projected and analyzed, nothing much in recent history seems to have been accomplished.

In sum: Too many change orders. Not enough change. Or, at least, not the kind we were expecting.

Good intentions were stated. But in place of actual activity was a kind of talking, planning, analysis and budgeting ritual. Meantime, decades-old roofs, windows, HVAC and phone systems, shelves, wall tile, floors and paving aged and moldered and rotted and sagged and became obsolete.

No wonder, then, that the school appeared as it did in December 2012. Tacky and pocked, with nearly every corridor and hinge in need of serious attention. Non-ADA compliant, out of money and out of time. Click here to see it through the unforgiving eye of a forensic camera.

To a discerning eye, the school looks decades past its prime – likely shuttered well before 12-14-12. Many, including Cinderella, have seen merit in this conjecture.

Empty of schoolchildren, the Sandy Hook Elementary school would have made the perfect setting for a lone shooter FEMA drill. Or a data storage facility. Or something.

But … what?

The building: A remembrance of things past. Some high and low points in Sandy Hook Elementary’s building repair history deserve a careful review. A few of the items below were once substantiated in the Newtown Bee, but recently the Bee has removed or reset (“memory-holed”) the articles. See my article on “memory holes” here. Note that the items for 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2013 were well-documented in the Fellowship of the Minds blog here.

1956: The original Sandy Hook Elementary school was built on Dickinson Drive in Newtown, CT.

1957-1963: Cinderella found much about Elvis and the Beatles, but nothing about Sandy Hook Elementary. That is a project for another day.

1964: An addition was built onto the original school.

1965-1991: Fishing for news about the Sandy Hook Elementary school building during these three decades is a project Cinderella hopes to undertake at some future time. For now, here’s a 1970 article about a new $7000 well that had to be dug for the school due to a silt problem. (Reed Intermediate would have silt problems of its own decades later. History repeats.)

well at sandy hook school, top

1992 or 1993: Yet another Sandy Hook Elementary addition was built. (Cinderella found conflicting information on the year.)

2000: Four portable classrooms were added. In the Sandy Hook Elementary school  2010 handbook, this is the last of three additions mentioned.

2002: Consulting Engineering Services recommended to Newtown schools that Sandy Hook Elementary be “worked on in 2010 over a nine-month period” to upgrade and renovate its heating and ventilation system. Newtown Bee  memory-holed the link to the original article, but here is the quote Cinderella found in her old files:

“Sandy Hook School was also built in three sections — 1956, 1964, and 1993. It is being recommended by CES to be worked on in 2010 over a nine-month period. It is estimated to cost $4.5 million for heating and ventilation and $400,000 for air conditioning. The design of the school, the shape of a square, poses problems for efficient ventilation. It has hot air heat and heat coil in the ductwork, according to Mr Posca. The ventilation system is noisy in the library, which also does not have air conditioning and becomes quite warm. The school’s computer lab is in the library.”

Cinderella could find nothing to indicate this work was ever actually begun or completed.

2003: Newtown was toying with the possibility of “landbanking” acreage in the southeastern portion of town to use for a new elementary school. The reason: Sandy Hook Elementary school had an enrollment level that was 30% higher than the other elementary schools. ( See p. 10 here.) Note what’s in the southeastern part of Newtown: Fairfield Hills. (Also note the funny captioning typo on p. 9 here! Hawley Elementary is captioned as “Sandy Hook Elementary School.”)

There is no mention of the possible $4-5 million investment in Sandy Hook Elementary’s HVAC system, discussed in the previous year. It was apparently supplanted by the “landbanking” idea.

2004: Newtown Board of Education was told “there were serious problems with the Sandy Hook elementary school roof.” (Note that the link to the original report in Newtown Bee has been memory-holed.)

2005-2007: Cinderella looks forward to a time when she can fish and find Sandy Hook building history for these years.

2008:  Newtown Schools Superintendent John Reed made statements about asbestos in various Newtown public schools. Cinderella found his remarks from the now memory-holed  Newtown Bee article in her files:

“The asbestos levels in Newtown schools pose no threat to the health or safety of those using the schools, according to Superintendent John Reed. The areas in the schools where there is evidence of asbestos — the ceiling above the high school pool, areas of the upstairs floor of the Middle School A wing and the girls’ and boys’ locker rooms, are also considered acceptable and safe.”

But despite this breezy analysis, in Sandy Hook Elementary school’s case, the presence of asbestos would be confirmed in 2013, when the decision was made to raze the school due to serious hazmat issues. (See 2013 below.)

2008-2009: Cinderella could find no evidence of Sandy Hook building improvements during 2008 or 2009 where pertinent reports, if any exist, might be expected to appear here or here.

It was during 2008 that Sandy Hook Elementary’s website URL showed signs of inactivity according to the Wayback Machine. It attracted strong Wayback Machine interest from 2001-2007,  then got no Wayback attention  for a long time: four years, from early 2008 through 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. (Go here and look at item 5, then see the Wayback results here.) Then the Wayback Machine started noticing it again in 2013.

2010: Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung began her short term as principal of Sandy Hook Elementary school. She and others produced a handbook for parents and students. The front cover of the handbook features an old sketch of the school, with the address “Dickinson Drive” beneath it. There is no mention in this handbook of the $4.5 million upgrade recommended in 2002. Nor is there any mention of a roof repair. And, of course, the word “asbestos” doesn’t appear. However, see page 16, top, for info on the emergency phone system:

“EMERGENCY PHONE SYSTEM An automated notification system has been designed to alert parents to an emergency (unexpected) school closing. If an emergency situation occurs and Sandy Hook students are to be returned home at a time earlier than usual, the automated system will be implemented and parents / emergency contacts notified.” Interesting.

In June 2010, Newtown Schools allotted a modest expenditure ($25,000) for Sandy Hook Elementary’s building and site improvements in the approved budget. (See page 86, here.) Curiously, the items included HVAC for the computer room ($10,000), but zero for the classrooms, as the chart below shows:

2010 Sandy Hook building cost

Why would the computer room and portables merit more attention than, say, the Sandy Hook Elementary roof? Or the scruffy hallways, rotting wood and water-stained ceilings?

The total Newtown Schools building expenditure for 2010 (all schools) was $242,000. (See page 86, here.)

2011: In May 2011, a budget was passed that allotted Sandy Hook Elementary school a grand total of $0 for building maintenance during the 2011-2012 year. Yes, you read that correctly: Zilch. You can read about it in detail in Cinderella’s article here.

However, the budget also included a 5-year capital plan, during which Sandy Hook Elementary was to receive $369,500 – eventually, in installments, for building improvements. The biggest item? A $100k cafeteria roof. Not a new roof for the whole school, but a “cafetorium roof.” Take a look at the diagram below (upper right, with my added red arrow) to see how very small that roof would have been if the work had ever actually been done (to my knowledge, it wasn’t):

Sandy Hook Floor PLan, 2011

On pages 72-74 of the same document, you can read about the abysmal condition of many of the items slated for repair at Sandy Hook Elementary and other Newtown schools.

2012. In March this  appears, truly one of the oddest documents to emerge in this timeline. Dated March 6, 2012, it’s an ad hoc committee’s recommendation for closing down a school in Newtown, based on 2009 declining enrollment projections by a “Dr. Chung.”

Around and around the committee went, entertaining various “consolidation” and closing scenarios. Closing Sandy Hook Elementary was one option, but it was rejected, along with two other schools that weren’t ADA-compliant. The logic seems to have been that an ADA-compliant school is a better choice for a shutdown – because it could more easily be reopened if enrollments were to go up again.

Head O’Meadow school emerges as the favored school for a shutdown. But in the end, it’s rejected in favor of closing Reed Intermediate. The reason seems to be that closing Reed would reap the biggest cost savings: $3 million per year.

The committee also recommended that the Board begin the process of a shutdown once elementary enrollments drop to 1,500.

And yet. In the same month (March 2012), this little item appears: The Sandy Hook Connection. You can read about it in my post, “One School, One Reed,” here. Cute, whimsical, blithe, it announces that a Sandy Hook event (a sock hop) is to be held at Reed Intermediate. Why?

In August 2012, Sharon Epple, Reed Intermediate’s principal, leaves for greener pastures. Why? Was she convinced that Reed would be closing?

Then, on October 16, 2012: The Board of Education holds a public meeting at 3 Primrose Street. (See it here.) It reminds Cinderella of the famous tea party – in Lewis Carroll’s  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 


(Image above used with permission)

Suddenly a $600,000 expenditure is being discussed to replace the Sandy Hook school’s windows — slated for 2016. (See page 53, here.) Yet, nothing is mentioned about replacing the cafeteria roof, an item earmarked for future funding in the 2011 budget. It’s almost as if the Newtown Board had taken off in a tardis and landed in a different region of the multiverse. Or, like the Mad Hatter, it became stuck in time. Newtime.

(In the 2011-2012 budget nothing was mentioned – at all – about the Sandy Hook windows. Nothing.)

If the vintage 1956 windows are as bad as they say (see p. 53 here), why wait until 2016 to repair them? And why were they never mentioned in the 2011-12 budget? All of a sudden, they are the focus, for $600,000, nearly twice the amount Sandy Hook was to have received over a 5-year period in the 2011-12 budget. Why?

The closing of Head O’ Meadow school and, possibly, Reed Intermediate is also discussed. (See pp 56-57 here.) And this provokes confusion and distress among the poor parents who attended, beginning on page 56. Here are a few of their remarks:

  • If we close a school, where will those funds be used?
  • Will the process be made public?
  • We had a $1.3M surplus, and none came to education.
  • There is no proof it is necessary to close a school. Besides the loss of flexibility of space and large class sizes, we would lose talented staff.
  • All schools should be ADA-compliant.
  • Parents should be involved in the decision.

On December 10, 2012: At a Newtown Board of Finance meeting, the Newtown Schools superintendent Janet Robinson leads a discussion about decreasing enrollment in Newtown’s elementary schools and the possibility of a school closing. (Click here.) But there’s no specific mention of Sandy Hook Elementary school’s physical plant.

Then December 14, 2012 happened, changing everything forever.

2013:  On Oct. 5, 2013, nearly 10 months after the 12-14-12 event, Newtown passed a referendum to demolish and rebuild Sandy Hook Elementary with a $49.25 million grant from the state of Connecticut. The reason for the demolition:  “asbestos abatement.” (Note that the link to the original report in Newtown Bee has been memory-holed.)

Then, on Dec. 2, 2013, Newtown’s Public Building and Site Commission Chairman Robert Mitchell justified the approved demolition with a report, saying that “had the town decided to reoccupy the school on Dickinson Drive, it would have faced a daunting and possibly insurmountable challenge regarding the presence of hazardous materials.” The school was found to be contaminated by asbestos as well as PCBs. (Note that all of the links above to original reports in Newtown Bee have been memory-holed.)


Well after 2008 – when asbestos became an issue in Newtown schools – Sandy Hook Elementary was still being discussed and treated as an active school facility.

It had a school handbook with a calendar, bus regulations and an alleged emergency phone system. Its physical plant was still in the budget – though just barely. In the March 2012 ad hoc committee recommendation, it was considered and rejected for mothballing precisely because it wasn’t ADA-compliant. Because if it ever had to be reopened, it would be harder to upgrade than, say, Head O’Meadow Elementary or Reed Intermediate.

If Sandy Hook Elementary was still a functioning school complex in 2012, then it was operating without a known school website URL. It was operating despite problems with ventilation, roofing, asbestos and PCBs, not to mention severely worn-out finishes. And it was operating in defiance of the ADA. As one Newtown parent put it, “All schools should be ADA-compliant.”

If it was still a functioning school in 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary wasn’t providing a healthy environment for children. Given Newtown’s financial and other difficulties, which Cinderella explored here, perhaps we can understand the ever-shifting budget. The confused and confusing decisions. The refusal to follow through on recommended repairs. The endlessly revolving planning game. What we cannot understand is why small children should be forced to pay the price.

If it was still a functioning school, Sandy Hook Elementary was on the verge of costing Newtown taxpapers quite a lot of cabbage: $600,000 worth of windows, perhaps in addition to the $369,500 approved in 2011 for the 5-year capital plan. (Of course, other schools would be costing even more.) Was Sandy Hook Elementary the actual school selected for shutdown? Because everyone knows it did shut down – on 12-14-12 – while all of the other Newtown schools have remained open.

If, on the other hand, Sandy Hook Elementary was an empty, aging hulk in 2012, where were the 454 children being educated instead? Cinderella has speculated on this subject here and here. She hasn’t yet exhausted all the possibilities.

And one more If. If Sandy Hook wasn’t used for teaching K-4 schoolchildren around the time of the 12-14-12 event, then just what was it being used for? Was it merely a dingy and drafty cave? If so, why spend anything on it at all?

Remember, there was a $0 building improvement budget for the school in 2011-2012.

But not so in 2010-2011. The last known improvements were:

  • Painting and repairing the portables ($10k)
  • Repairing the skyshades ($5k), and
  • Adding HVAC to the computer room ($10k)

Is this significant? If so, what does it tell us?


This post has been written to aid others in their exploration of these questions. Cinderella has her own theories, but cannot prove them at this time. Therefore, she leaves the answers to the patient, probing and capable minds of her readers. ~ C.










History: Bad news and big dues for Newtown.

Cinderella decided to take a look at the Newtown Board of Education budget for the 2011-2012 school year. The budget, approved on 5-17-11, was for $67,971,427, with an increase of 1.16%.

Mind-numbing and eye-straining though it was, Cinderella’s search turned up anomalies characteristic of the Sandy Hook saga.

There are strange divergences, with numbers bouncing all over the place so that the two budget documents still available for perusal would almost seem to be for two totally different towns.

What follows is a sampling of line-item weirdness from the 2011-12 school year. It isn’t possible to point out all of the oddities in these documents, so I’ve chosen to focus on only a few.

As always, if a dear reader can offer a better explanation or analysis, please share. Cinderella wholly supports free, open-source information – and isn’t afraid to admit her silly mistakes!

Bad News: “The Superintendent’s Estimate of Expenditures for 2011-2012.” Click hereThis is likely the January 2011 version of the budget that was passed in May 2011, but it isn’t dated, so we don’t know exactly when it was entered into the public record.

The initial ask was for a 5.76% increase. That is breathtaking. But this document doesn’t actually cough up the exact figure. Ultimately, the ask gets scaled back to a 1.16% increase.

So for the purpose of simplicity, let’s just focus on building and maintenance issues and ignore staffing and other matters that came up the same year. (If anyone would like to delve into other issues, please have at it – all hands on deck.)

Bad News lists the following long-term school maintenance costs on page 39:

Bad News - Long-term Maintenance

Sandy Hook is slated for $197,500 of expenditures for maintenance in 2011-12, but only $24,500 (“status quo”) was being spent on Sandy Hook’s maintenance needs presumably at the time of the report.

Note that Hawley can anticipate receiving $98,500 in 2011-12 in this version.

And the system-wide total for 2011-12 long-term maintenance items is: $815,500. (The term “system-wide” here seems to be a sum, not a reference to grounds or shared buildings.)

Bad News just gets badder and less specific. On page 38, it lists a goal of $2.5 million in maintenance and restoration projects for schools over a  five-year period, without itemizing costs.

How did the Superintendent arrive at this number? It must have been a guesstimate.

Big Dues: “Newtown Schools Board of Education Approved Budget for the 2011-2012 School Year.” Click here.  This is the BOE budget that was passed in May 2011.

See page 47 for a very different building maintenance chart from the one in the previous budget proposal. The numbers, in fact, except for Reed, might be for an entirely different school district:Building and Maintenance chart from BOE 2011-2012Sandy Hook Elementary gets naught for 2011-12. Zero, as in $0! (How can you not do any maintenance at all on an elderly school? Unless, of course, it isn’t being used.) The other elementary schools are likewise shunned, except for Hawley, which collects a respectable $31,000. Not as good as Bad News, but something.

However, the “total” for 2011-2012 is only $96,500, delaying or deleting quite a bit of the maintenance pain that Bad News proposed ($815,500) for 2011-12.

But Big Dues also includes a five-year capital plan for all Newtown schools. See page 74 for the total cost for all Newtown schools: $3,237,500. 

That’s a significant jump from the $2.5 million estimate in Bad News.

Over five years, the 2011-12 building & maintenance breakdown for all schools in Newtown is given below. Cinderella has also included the costliest items in most cases, just for the sake of seeing. You never know – some of this info might be helpful down the road.

  • Sandy Hook: $369,500 — biggest item: $100k cafeteria roof
  • Hawley: $426,000 — biggest items: boiler and generator, ea. $150k
  • Middle Gate School: $576,000 — biggest item: $200k boiler
  • Head O’ Meadow: $145,000 — several $20k items, such as gym floor striping
  • Reed Intermediate: $194,500 —biggest item: $75k wall system on stage
  • Middle School: $575,500 —biggest item: $110k front parking lot paving
  • High School: $716,000 —biggest item: $380k parking lot paving
  • Buildings & Grounds (System-wide): $235,000 —biggest item: $150k phone system

Sad buildings. Pages 72-74 of Big Dues also tell us about the sorry state many of Newtown’s schools were in, especially Hawley, Sandy Hook and the Middle School.

Many of the items needing repair are “worn,” “badly worn,” “badly deteriorated,” “damaged/ADA,” “damaged beyond repair,” “inefficient,” “end of warranty,” “poor condition,” while others are health and security/safety issues and even described as  “past life expectancy.”

Sandy Hook’s biggest ticket item is its “cafeterium [sic] roof” – $100,000. There’s no mention of its heating and ventilation system, subjects of BOE discussions in 2002, when a $4.5 million repair was discussed, but, to Cinderella’s knowledge, never completed. (See the Fellowship of the Minds (FOTM) article here. Note that the links have been memory-holed since the article was written on Sept. 9, 2015. )

The same FOTM article points out that in 2004, the Newtown Board of Education was told that Sandy Hook Elementary’s roof had “serious problems.”  And in 2008, problems with asbestos in Newtown public schools were being discussed.

Yet, years later, in Big Dues, the focus has narrowed to Sandy Hook’s cafeteria roof, book shelves, some cabinets and doors, etc. No mention of many other things this photo album reveals in the all-too-familiar drab, faded Sandy Hook colors – hanging wires, a raddled parking lot, water damage, possible leaks, plywood patchwork, dismally worn and neglected finishes.

Consider: this is a public school not far from relatively new (2009) swanky town offices that are across the street from a luxurious sports complex.

Cinderella isn’t a town planner or an accountant or even a journalist. She’s just a house cleaner and ballroom dancer!  She knows that budgeting is often a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul affair.

But it seems very strange that a public school system in Connecticut’s richest county would keep its elementary school buildings in such frowzy fettle.

And then, just to add insult to injury, it releases budgetary figures that dart and zig-zag from one extreme to another like drunken bees. (And speaking of Bees, keep reading.)

Whoosh! But, of course, the money flow picked up immediately after the 12-14-12 event: Over $19 million through various sources. Click here for an itemized list, which doesn’t count the $50M from the state for the new Sandy Hook school, repeat lottery winnings or subsequent charity windfalls.

Speaking strictly economically, the 12-14-12 Sandy Hook event was one of the best things that ever happened to Newtown taxpayers – and tax collectors.

It sounds crass because it is. And Cinderella can find much stronger words for it.

Let’s put the budget issues aside for a moment and devote some attention to Reed Intermediate school, which has swallowed up quite a portion of the Newtown taxpayers’ dollars (and likely various insurance proceeds) over the years.

Reed: Two recipes for disaster. The most expensive trouble occurred between 2001 and 2008, but other kinds of trouble loomed over Reed well into 2012.

  1. Silt, mold and oil spill soup. The long, legal perils that arrived even before the $22,123,000 Reed Intermediate school opened in January 2003 are worthy of a tabloid. Newtown Bee did its best.  In 2002, the DEP arrived after Haynes Construction, the contractor with the lowest bid, allowed silt to pour into a neighboring waterway. Then, after the school opened, an air handling system failed and flooded an interior area with 1,000 gallons of water, causing a serious mold problem that resulted in itchy rashes. Then a 4,000-gal.  fuel oil leak befouled the neighboring brook and necessitated a $1.2M cleanup. You can read about the legal ramifications and settlement here. No wonder the Reed school, from an aerial perspective, resembles the eye of Horus. In its early days, it seems to have been a sad and sorry money hole.
  2. Denniston stew.  Donna Denniston was Reed’s principal for 6-7 years, from 2003-2009. She had the misfortune of being married to a white-collar criminal, Garrett Denniston, who operated a fraudulent investment scheme from 2005-2012. You can find the entire FBI report on Garrett L. Denniston’s financial shenanigans here. Even the Newtown Bee ran a story on the “Former Newtowner” here,*  (“Former Newtowner Pleads Guilty in Elaborate Fraud Scheme,” 2-22-2013)  in which his name is linked to Donna Denniston. Such associations could not have been good for Mrs. Denniston or for Reed School or, for that matter, Newtown.

*Since Cinderella began writing this post, Newtown Bee saw fit to take their article on the Denniston scandal down. Click on the link anyway, so you can witness the memory hole.

Two cents from the taxpayers. At first, Newtown’s 2011-12 budget didn’t pass the April referendum because only 21.5% of the residents voted, a stunning show of apathy or perhaps something even worse.

In fact, it was the worst voter turnout since 2002 – the same year that the $4.5 million repair to Sandy Hook was being discussed. The same year that the DEP was investigating the silt being dumped into the brook near Reed school by Haynes Construction.

Not to be defeated, two Newtown legislative council members conducted an informal survey to find out why, in 2011, voters were still staying home – and what they thought about the proposed budget.

You can find the taxpayers’ responses here. Some wanted more spent (particularly on schools); others wanted less; still others approved.

Of those who wanted less, it’s clear they were cracking under the weight of Newtown’s taxes during a very bad year for the housing market and the economy in general.  So many interesting comments. Here’s a particularly revealing one:

“Ms Robinson and the Mr. Hart have not solved one real problem but have hired consultants to do their jobs, been found responsible for a FOI violation, and have an accounting system that has been determined to be in violation of state law by our auditor. I have no faith in their plans.”

As said, you can find all of the taxpayers’ responses here.

Let’s imagine. To conclude this dreary ramble, let’s engage in one of Cinderella’s favorite pastimes: A purely hypothetical, possibly silly, ultimately funny, just-for-fun thought experiment. This is an exercise solely in imagination, what we dancers call “improvisation.” Ready? Here we go:

You’re a town with money woes in 2011. You have schools that need refurbishing and you don’t exactly have a sterling track record in your choice of building contractors. You’ve made people on both sides of the taxation issue mad at you. Quite apart from that, your reputation has been sullied by bad people being associated with other choices you have made. A while ago, you bought a big, scary-looking mental hospital from the state of Connecticut with karma-laden buildings that you can’t find buyers for. Except, of course, for local taxpayers, who helped pay for your new offices there. An altruistic entrepreneur built a sports complex there, too, which boosts the tax base, but it isn’t enough. You already have one high-security prison in town and, much as you like the $1 million+ annual offset on taxes, you don’t want another state pen. You have to do something fast or more tax slaves and businesses are going to pull up stakes and move out. Your birth rate is quickly approaching zero per year. So what’ll it be? How will you rally the cooks and salvage the porridge? Let’s see …


“What’s past is prologue.”-Antonio, II. i. 288 from The Tempest by William Shakespeare