The School Board Election and Save Our Planetarium

Over the couple of weeks or so there has been a lot of activity on the Save Our Planetarium Facebook page. The Save the Planetarium group started after the Colonial School Board supported closing the Planetarium at Colonial Middle School due to the cost. On October 13 the the group invited the two slates of candidates to make a statement about the future of the planetarium. Below is the invitation:

“There is a very important election coming up in a few weeks. While you might not be voting for the next president or vice president, you might be deciding the permanent fate of our beloved planetarium. Please vote on Tuesday, November 8th.

There are FIVE school board positions (out of a total of NINE) up for grabs.. That is more than half of the board and if we are ever going to make a difference, this is it.

With that in mind, I want to publicly invite each of the 10 candidates to come forward and present their position on SAVING THE COLONIAL PLANETARIUM. I am asking for more than a “Yes, I want to save the planetarium.” Please tell us the truth. Give us your honest position and tell us what you will be willing to do or not do if elected. Post here on our wall so all 2000+ supporters can see what you have to say.

The following candidates are running and I invite them all to post here. Hopefully, they are already members of our group but if not and you know one of them, please let them know about our invitation.

I realize the planetarium is only one issue and there are many. As a supporter, you must decide if you want to make a difference. Many of us have friends who are running. This election can’t be personal. It has to be about the issues. It doesn’t have to be partisan. All of the candidates will have an opportunity to present their position regardless of party affiliation.

Susan Moore
Kelly Jowett
Mel Brodsky
Elisa Redican
Christina Frangiosa
(added by this website, the Republicans)

Dara Nasatir
Julie Knudsen
Leslie Finegold
Crystal Taylor
Terry Ferris
(added by this website, the Democrats)

It you want to SAVE OUR PLANETARIUM, please listen to what each candidate has to say and vote accordingly. Thank you for your time and continued efforts to help SAVE OUR PLANETARIUM.

Yale Joseph on behalf of the

The Democrats slate, which has branded themselves on Facebook as “Friends of the Colonial School Board” responded to this invitation with:

“While the current School Board has opposed funding the planetarium, we believe all efforts should be made to save this unique asset of our school district. We believe that studying astronomy in the planetarium has a wider educational and cultural significance because:

  • It is rooted in almost every culture by virtue of its appearance in historical texts
  • It shows our planet’s place in a universe which is vast, varied and beautiful
  • It shows how our view of the universe can benefit from a cleaner ecology
  • It provides a unique informal educational experience into astronomy by engaging in participatory-oriented programs
  • It fuels curiosity, imagination and a sense of shared exploration and intellectual stimulation
  • It helps to advance the interest and understanding of physics, the sciences and engineering (which young girls tend to avoid)
  • It has the potential to increase public interest in science by inviting families to visit
  • It has the potential to increase excitement toward the sciences in school
  • It has the potential to attract the student who may not have considered the sciences as a career
  • It is a unique asset in our schools which raises the value of our district as compared to other surrounding districts

There is no need for a debate. This is where we stand, and we hope others in Save The Planetarium will stand with us.”

The Republican slate of candidates, which has branded themselves “Colonial School Board Candidates” on Facebook, responded with the following:

“The blanket response of the Friends of the Colonial School Board to the planetarium issue is at best a show of the lack of knowledge and concern of budgetary and curricular issues, and at worst a pandering for votes.

The decisions of the Board are not made in a vaccum, or on the basis of what will get votes come election time. In fact, the Democratic candidates might understand how decisions are made if any of them had ever chosen to attend a Board meeting. The former superintendent, current superintendent, director of curriculum, and science supervisor were unanimous in their recommendations to us that the planetarium remain closed.

In order to restore its function, according to the proposal we received last March, it would cost the taxpayers approximately $320,000; to maintain it for five years would be an additional $150,000 plus the cost of an instructor. What programs should be shut down in order to accommodate that? How many teachers must we lay off in order to re-instate a program that is no longer a part of the curriculum?

It’s easy to say yes in any situation when you haven’t taken the time to become educated on the issue, do not have to be accountable for the decision or live within a budget. The current school board, both the Democratic majority and Republican minority, voted as one to accept the recommendation of our experts and to use what funds we had available for other instructional areas.”

The Democrat candidates then responded with:

We beg to differ. Simply saying NO is easy…it is finding a creative solution within our means which is hard. We must do more with less.

It is no secret that these financial times require sacrifice on everyone’s part. Further, the unconscionable cuts in education advanced by our Republican governor and supported by our Republican opponents, leave even less funding available for our children. Nevertheless, in our view, we must make every effort to save our planetarium and support our science program for all of the reasons we set forth below. Let’s work with the community, many of whom seem ready, willing, and able, to raise more funding for the planetarium and to develop a plan of action for reviving this valuable resource. Can we guarantee a fully operational planetarium right away? Of course not, but anything is better than entirely closed.

If elected, our team will bring five fresh sets of eyes to the budget.

We are committed to performing a line-by-line review of the budget to cut waste and support those programs that provide the most benefit to our kids. Only then can we truly reach “above and beyond.” Our kids are worth it!”

The Republicans hadn’t responded as of Sunday, October 23rd at 10:30 a.m. So if you would like to follow or join this debate, join the Save Our Planetarium group on Facebook.