Would you commute 144 miles a day to New York City for a job?

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According to the United States Census Bureau’s last American Community Survey update, 6.3 percent of the Connecticut workforce commutes out of state. In the State of Connecticut, it is common knowledge that the majority of out-of-state workers living in Fairfield County, aka “New York’s Backyard”, commute into Manhattan.

Especially because the cost of living is expensive in the New York City metropolitan area, there is a continued trend for many professionals and their families to move farther and farther away from this concentrated area in search of a better quality of life. This often means a much longer commute if they want to keep their New York City jobs.

One remote New England town with a large concentration of New York City commuters that’s just outside the high cost of living areas of Southern Fairfield County, Connecticut and Westchester County, New York is Sherman, Connecticut. This quaint resort town with 3,581 residents is the last town in Northern Fairfield County that borders New York.

Here’s how three extreme New York City commuters from Sherman, Connecticut get to work and what their daily commutes are like, which is a 144+ mile roundtrip commute…

Read the full article here: Would you commute 144 miles a day to New York City for a job?

Article and Photo by Alicia Sakal

‘Kitchens By Edward’ Brings the Showroom to Your Home!

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There Are Design Trends and a Top-Notch Customer Service Trend That Are Here to Stay.

Especially in today’s busy world, wouldn’t it be incredible “if” you could save time and have a showroom brought to you, within the convenience of your own home, for your next custom kitchen or bathroom renovation project?

What if you could “have it all” and hire an affordable, local master craftsman and architectural designer who happens to have trained with some of the best tradesmen and architects in the industry, stopped counting after the completion of his 1,000th renovation project, and was also featured in Architectural Digest, Homes Magazine, and Houzz…

Now imagine if this expert with over 30 years of experience was also your personal shopper who could offer his great visual eye and would help you to select all of your renovation project’s building materials such as tile, hardware, cabinet wood, etc.

How nice would it be if this professional was so particular about wanting to exceed your expectations that he was always there for you and was also part of every single step in the process, and personally took care of every detail?

When you hire Sherman resident, Edward Schultheis, for your next kitchen or bathroom renovation project, this is exactly what you will get. He puts his personal touch, “Kitchens By Edward”, and his seal of approval on every masterpiece creation!

What’s Trending Now

Because Edward’s business is local, what he sees in design trends are unique to the area and he thinks they will continue to be “classics” that will be around for a very long time.

The most popular design trend his clients are requesting is the open concept floor plan that’s in the “classic” New England Style. What’s also in high-demand right now is the open concept floor plan in the Transitional Style, which is in between the Contemporary and New England styles.

“Because the homes around here were mostly built in the 1950s to the 1970s, they are due for a remodel. Almost all of the homes involve taking out center walls and opening up the space in order to give clients the bigger and more open floorplan they desire,” Edward shared.

Onsite Customer Service

Another trend that is here to stay, at least for Edward, is that he literally brings the showroom to his clients because “onsite is the best location.”

Although he maintains a perfectly up-to-date showroom in Sherman, he has found that most of his clients don’t need or want to visit a grandiose showroom. Instead, they want him to go to their homes to discuss their unique needs with him, and they do not want to see “someone else’s model kitchen” on display. After all, every home is unique and so are his clients’ kitchen and bath areas, and their tastes, too.

Edward believes that getting to know a client in his or her own home environment is especially valuable because the relationship helps to build a good design.

As an added bonus, because Edward no longer has large and unnecessary showrooms in multiple locations, he is thrilled to pass on the savings directly to his clients. The business comes to your front door and you save money, no matter what the budget; now that’s customer service!

Shopping with Edward

Edward finds that the best way to come up with a design is to “shop around with the client to get the tile, granite, cabinet, countertop, and hardware samples. Then, it is very important to bring everything into the home to see things under the client’s own light.”

Edward is also an authorized dealer for several product lines so he will pass on these savings to his clients as well. “It adds up. There are always better discounts when you buy direct, and through the years I have built special relationships with many distributors and suppliers,” he said.

The Personal Touch

Kitchens By Edward is highly efficient when it comes to all phases of a kitchen or bath renovation project because he is onsite at all times and is personally involved throughout the entire process, from the beginning to the end. In other words, he is both a specialist and a generalist and is always doing the design and construction himself. Plus, he personally manages and oversees everything. This can be as simple as inspecting an appliance or cabinet, or working with another tradesman or craftsman that’s on his team.

Since Edward is an experienced architectural designer, the design phase is one of his many talents that he is renowned for. He does the actual drawings by hand with incredible accuracy and realism down to the tiniest of detail, too. As an example, the Kohler faucet his client wants is the same faucet that’s in the design. Added touches like this are helpful to clients because most people are visual and they need to “see it”.

In addition to creating the custom design with each client, Edward also helps to get the plumbing and electrical permits, does the lighting plan and the floorplan, and orders the materials before the actual build even happens. Most of his cabinetry has a lifetime warranty, too, and he can make the doors to-spec, which is completely unique to the customer.

“Extras” and Customer Appreciation

Kitchens By Edward offers a Chef’s Repertoire to only his customers, so you can conveniently shop Edward’s handpicked selection of household kitchen item must-haves at an attractive price. Chantal, Cuisinart, GreenPan, OXO, and TAG are some of the name-brands he carries. He’ll sharpen your dull knives, too, if you are a customer.

Shhh… As another added touch, after the completion of most every project, Edward will help to accessorize your kitchen. As a “thank you” for doing business with him, he “might” show you his appreciation by filling a drawer or two with nice, high-end products. Edward enjoys making custom cutting boards and inserts for only his customers, as well.

If you think you can’t afford to remodel your outdated kitchen or bathroom, then think again… Edward offers entry-level, midrange, and high-end solutions.

For a free consultation and to make an onsite appointment, contact Edward Schultheis at: 203.546.8650 / Email: KitchensByEdward@gmail.com or… visit his website to get inspired at: http://www.kitchensbyedward.com

This article is by Alicia Sakal and it was featured in the May 27th Edition of the Citizen News, serving Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut.

Contributed Photo.

P&Z’s Proposed Zoning Regulation Changes Initiative is Commendable

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Sherman, Conn. (Citizen News) – For the residents who attended the public hearing on June 4th at the Mallory Town Hall, the vast majority expressed to Planning and Zoning (P&Z) their overall appreciation for what the commissioners are trying to accomplish. However, as with any public hearing, many attendees still had questions and concerns they wanted to share with the P&Z Commission. As one resident and proponent, Marge Josephson, best put it… “I like most of it, but not all of it.”

Moderating this public hearing was Planning and Zoning Chair, Jeannene Burruano. There were four consecutive public hearings on the table and open for public comment / feedback. This latest round of proposed new regulations and amendments to the Zoning Regulations of the Town of Sherman, Connecticut document concerns Accessory Dwellings, Accessory Apartments, Residential Fencing, and Stone Walls & Historic Features.

PUBLIC HEARINGS 1 & 2: ACCESSORY DWELLINGS & ACCESSORY APARTMENTS

It’s NOT Affordable Housing

Barbara Ackerman, former Planning and Zoning Chair, congratulated and thanked the P&Z Commission. She said that she wanted to make it very clear to the public that what the P&Z Commission is proposing “is not Affordable Housing” and “these structures that would be the accessory dwellings, would have no provision for that.”

Housing Commission Chair, Art Von Plachecki, said he also wanted to clarify and put on to the record how the Housing Commission Report given to the Board of Selectman and shared with the P&Z Commission never indicated that the recommendations to Planning and Zoning were for Affordable Housing.

Mr. Von Plachecki then stated “the Housing Commission would like to express our support for the accessory dwelling changes” and “we think this is a strong start to diversifying the opportunity for different styles of housing in the Town of Sherman.” He added that by not diversifying, the Town is vulnerable to State mandates along with private contractors coming in and designating their units as Affordable Housing, which would avoid entirely the Town’s zoning regulations.

Related to this, Tony Guieker, a resident who wrote in, does not think the proposed changes are the answer to Affordable Housing and he will not support it if it is. Both Ms. Ackerman and Mr. Von Plachecki’s responses reassured attendees this is not the case.

8 Acre Minimum:

Before opening up the floor to public comment, Ms. Burruano said “the purpose of this proposed regulation is to permit property owners with parcels of 8 or more acres to create an accessory dwelling to provide small scale housing for a variety of occupants. Such occupants include, but are not limited to; family, caregivers, guests, and domestic help.”

Ms. Burruano then stated “there are approximately 234 properties of 8 acres or more out of a total of 2,484 properties, which excludes town owned, state owned, or conserved in the Town of Sherman. Therefore, this regulation change would potentially effect approximately 10.6% of all Sherman properties…” She added how the intent of the P&Z Commission is to also not compromise existing and developing properties, neighborhoods, or significant natural features. Here’s what attendees had to say…

Ms. Burruano read Katherine Russo Heyser’s March 4th letter and Mrs. Heyser, a resident, attended the public hearing as well. In summation, Mrs. Heyser has lived in Sherman since 1981 with her extended family. For 30 years, her parents lived with her family in a studio apartment on the property that does not meet the ever increasing acreage requirements. Recently, her daughter and husband purchased the property so that she and her husband can now live in the studio on the property with their daughter’s young family, just like her parents once did.

Mrs. Heyser “loves the proposal idea” and wanted to go on record as an accessory dwelling proponent. However, she is not a fan of the 8 acre limitation. The reason being, the acreage limitation would not allow for more multi-generational families, like hers, to live in Sherman.

Thomas Piel, resident, also agrees the acreage restriction “denies an awful lot of people in our town majority who have less than 8 acres… it denies them the right to have an accessory dwelling.”

Samantha Addonizio, a resident who wrote in, thinks the 8 acre minimum is too restrictive and exclusive as well and wants the P&Z Commission to adopt a zoning rule that better balances Sherman families who are part of the Sandwich Generation.

Just Perfect!

Richard Gustovson, resident, was the most enthusiastic proponent that spoke at this public hearing. “This proposal seems like it was meant for me,” he stated. The reason being, he thinks what the P&Z Commission is proposing is a great improvement. For two years, he has tried to plan for a 750 sq. ft. accessory apartment for him and his wife to live in once one of his children with a young family moves to his main house. He couldn’t make the space work because the size restriction was too small. Now, he thinks the proposed 1,200 sq. ft. restriction is just the perfect size so he can add a bedroom for visiting grandchildren and guests if he builds an accessory dwelling.

Mr. Gustovson would also like to have a two car garage and wants to see this added in the language. “I think this is a very well-written plan and it happens to work perfectly for me! …I appreciate it.”

Owner Occupied, Principal Dwelling

Mr. Piel has a concern with the principal dwelling occupancy requirement that the owner must live in it because he thinks the property owner should be able to live in either the accessory apartment / dwelling, or the principal building, a single family dwelling. In other words, as long as the property owner is living on the property, then it shouldn’t matter.

Small House Quandary

Marge Josephson, resident, shared her square footage requirement concerns, because with her situation, the acreage is there but her 200 year-old house is small. She wanted to know if the P&Z Commission would consider letting her build an additional building with a small house as the principal building. She added “there are some older, very small buildings where it would be better, ultimately, to have that as the accessory building and another one as a primary building.”

Shared Driveway / Curb Cuts Restriction

Ms. Josephson also said she has a short driveway and is hoping there would be special permits to deal with her special case regarding the no additional curb cuts restriction.

Ms. Ackerman was interested in knowing where accessory dwellings would be located on any property because they would need to have “a driveway shared by the principal house.” She does not think this is realistic for many properties to accomplish.

Why a Landscaping Provision?

As for the proposed landscaping provision, Ms. Josephson does not understand why there should be one since she believes there are currently no landscaping regulations for homes with smaller parcels.

PUBLIC HEARING 3: OBSTRUCTION IN LOT AREA / ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES & RESIDENTIAL FENCING

Mary Cusack, resident, read a letter she wrote about her concern regarding residential fencing because she lives in a residential farming zone and does not want to see tall vehicles and equipment. She is worried that the proposed front lot fencing language will eliminate the side lot fencing language.

Ms. Burruano said that any side or rear lot can have a 6 ft. fence and this language is already in the regulations. In other words, the proposed new language should not affect sides and rear height and that it will allow for a 4 ft. front yard fence, with conditions. The P&Z Commission will review the wording.

Regarding fencing regulations, Ms. Josephson thinks it’s good to have them. However, she has a concern regarding how a residential fence shall not cross any easements because she thinks there should be the option to put up fencing across a conservation easement.

Ms. Josephson asked if residential deer fencing is okay and it is. She wanted to know if barbwire fencing and electrified fencing are okay on farms, and they are okay on farms. The P&Z Commission said that what they are proposing is for residential properties and not for farms. The P&Z Commission will review the wording.

PUBLIC HEARING 4: SCENIC FEATURES, STONE WALLS & HISTORIC FEATURES

Ms. Josephson said “I am pleased that we will have something finally in the regulations about stonewalls and foundations, it’s long overdue.” However, she thinks the wording needs to be strengthened or clarified regarding how the intent needs to be applied to all existing walls and foundations on existing lots AND new lots. She said the proposed wording seems to only apply to new subdivision plans and not existing lots.

NEXT STEPS:

The Commissioners listened attentively to the public’s input and suggestions, and the public hearing is closed. The P&Z Commission will do deliberations at their mid-month meeting on June 18th at 7 p.m. in Mallory Town Hall. If there are final decisions made then the P&Z Commission will vote on the amendments and newly proposed regulations. This is a public meeting, and all residents are welcome. However, there will not be an opportunity to speak. If the P&Z Commission drastically changes anything then they will schedule a new public hearing and go through the same process again.

Written by Alicia Sakal, Citizen News Journalist, June 10th Edition.

New Planning and Zoning Regulations Proposed: Stone Walls and Accessory Dwellings

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Sherman, Conn. (Citizen News) – Sherman’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) is holding a Public Hearing at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 4, in the Mallory Town Hall.

On the agenda are proposed amendments and additions to the Town’s Zoning Regulations regarding Accessory Apartments, Accessory Dwellings, Residential Fencing, and Stone Walls & Historic Features.

One newly proposed regulation concerns the preservation of Historic Stone Walls so they remain intact. This came about mainly to continue the preservation of historic features such as stone walls which delineates the “meets and bounds” of properties.

Another main discussion point at this Public Hearing will be a newly proposed Accessory Dwellings regulation that will allow for a detached Accessory Dwelling. This would benefit some seniors so they can stay with their families. This would also provide economic relief for some current homeowners because they would have an extra income revenue source.

Planning and Zoning Chair, Ms. Jeannene Burruano, stated “the Housing Commission was asked to attend the hearing to address specifically their recommendations to the BoS as they relate to the Accessory Dwelling regulation as a forum for public information.”

She commended the Housing Commission (HC) for their recommendations they made to the Board of Selectmen (BoS), which is a separate document “from what The Planning and Zoning Commission has been creating and refining.” She added “the Public Hearing is a continuation of that refinement process for Planning and Zoning.”

Housing Commission Chairman, Art Von Plachecki, along with the HC members, will be formally presenting their P&Z recommendations at this Public Hearing. On January 22, Housing Commission Chairman Von Plachecki and Commissioner Bruce Hoag provided a New Senior Housing Report at the monthly BoS meeting. In this proposal, recommendations to P&Z were included regarding Accessory Apartments and Accessory Dwellings regulations in reference to the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).

Ms. Burruano encourages residents to attend this Public Hearing because “the P&Z Commission welcomes public input as it makes for better regulations. That is what we hope will be accomplished by this and all public hearings.”

She elaborated “public hearings provide an opportunity for commissioners to detail proposed regulation changes and to listen to the public voice their opinions and ideas allowing for further refinement of a proposed change. It is an integral part of the partnered relationship between an elected commission and the community they represent. We hope to hear from all residents who wish to contribute their thoughts and ideas to this process. Any change to the P&Z Regulations guides the way the Town develops and therefore impacts residents not only now but into the future.”

From a resident and former First Selectman perspective, Mr. Von Plachecki thinks that “anyone who has an interest or opinion on Accessory Apartments or Accessory Dwellings” should attend this Public Hearing and that “every resident of Sherman is impacted by any change in the P&Z Regulations.”

Resources

Plan of Conservation and Development

Zoning Regulations

New Housing Commission Report: Copies are available at the Mallory Town Hall.

Written by Alicia Sakal, Citizen News Journalist.

Veterans Career Fair is in Connecticut on Monday, June 1

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Several well-respected companies in Connecticut are specifically looking to hire veterans who possess easily transferrable skills for their open positions. No matter what the skill level, there are employers across a wide range of industries that are looking to hire.

The Veterans Career Fair will take place this Monday, June 1, 2015 at the Ethan Allen Hotel in Danbury, Connecticut. The hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Connecticut Department of Labor is organizing this Veterans Career Fair. “With more than 40 employers signed up to meet with former military personnel, their spouses and other family members at the Danbury Veterans’ Career Fair, this is a great opportunity for veterans to find a job, research new careers, and get free résumé assistance from Labor Department staff,” said the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Commissioner, Sharon M. Palmer.

The impressive partial list of employers that are looking to recruit veterans include companies such as 2020 Air Mechanical, Amphenol RF, Belimo Americas, Cartus, ComForCare Home Care Services, Connecticut Department of Administrative Services, ESPN, Federal Bureau of Prisons – FCI Danbury, Global Partners, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Melwood Contracting, Mohegan Sun, Norwalk Police Department, Union Savings Bank, Verizon Wireless, and Yale University.

In addition, the Connecticut Department of Labor will offer a Veterans Orientation Workshop at 1 p.m. to help veterans learn more about the several different training services that are available at the State’s American Job Centers.

For a complete list of participating employers and to find out more information go to: Veterans Career Fair is in Connecticut on Monday, June 1

Written by Alicia Sakal, Examiner.

Photo by USAFE-AFAFRICA, Flickr.com.

57% of Middle School Parents Refuse SBAC Testing at the Sherman School

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Sherman, Conn. (Citizen News) – Last week, Dr. Michael Pascento, Sherman School Principal, officially confirmed the updated refusal rate percentages for the new Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) exam. The Middle School breakdown for Grades 6 through 8: 57% of parents refused testing for their children this spring. As for the Grand Total for Grades 3 through 8: 48% of parents refused testing for their children, making this an 8% overall increase from the last reported number of 40%.

These statistics are an update to the feature article: 40% of Parents Refuse SBAC Testing for Their Children at the Sherman School. Susan Zeitler, Mom of Two and a Local Grass Roots Activist, Knows Exactly Why…

This is the first year at the Sherman School where the SBAC test results will count. Dr. Pascento said the Sherman School anticipates receiving the official results in the Month of July.

The Citizen News would like to hear from parents about their children’s positive and negative test-taking experiences once the SBAC test results become available.

The dates the SBAC testing took place at the Sherman School:

Grades 3-5

March 23 – 24: Language Arts

March 26 – 27: Math and Language Arts

March 30 – April 6: Language Arts and Math

Grades 6-8

April 27 – 29: Math

May 4, 6, 8: Language Arts

Written by Alicia Sakal, Citizen News Journalist.

Photo by Peter, Testing Times Ahead, Flickr.com.

40% of Parents Refuse SBAC Testing For Their Children at the Sherman School

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Susan Zeitler, Mom of Two and a Local Grass Roots Activist, Knows Exactly Why…

The original version was printed in the May 6th Edition of the Citizen News, serving Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut.

Article and Photo by Alicia Sakal

Invalid “experimental” testing with extremely high predetermined failure rates. Bill Gates and Microsoft. Pearson Publishing. Google. For-profit, corporate stakeholders set to make billions off education. Data mining. Federal Government control. Labeling children for life.

These powerful, negative words are only some of the reasons why 40% of Sherman School parents have refused their Grades 3 through 8 children from taking the new Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) exam. Dr. Michael Pascento, Sherman School Principal, confirmed this updated statistic last week.

For the parents who refused the SBAC test for their children at the Sherman School, they are far from alone in their opposition and are part of a growing movement across the Nation. The exact and current refusal rate percentage in Connecticut, and in other states, is unknown because the testing is not complete. However, several schools, towns and states across America continue to make the headlines with their high, preliminary opt-out numbers.

To illustrate, the New York State Allies for Public Education recently reported that “a record number of parents across the Empire State will again refuse to take part in Grades 3 through 8 testing this spring… The latest 2015 refusal total is 190,836 with 75% of Districts reporting.”

Critics deem that New York’s refusal numbers are much higher than other states, such as Connecticut, because New York is one year ahead with implementing Common Core and aligned testing. They also assert New York parents are more informed and have experienced firsthand the myriad of Common Core’s ill effects and are reacting in unprecedented numbers by refusing the test for their children.

Why is Sherman’s Refusal Rate So High?

Susan Zeitler – a Sherman resident and fulltime professional, wife, and mom of two daughters – can certainly tell you why there is a high 40% opt-out rate for Grades 3 through 8…

At the beginning of the interview she stated “one reason for Sherman’s high refusal rate relative to other Connecticut towns is that Dr. Michael Pascento and Mr. Don Fiftal, Superintendent, recognize and respect the parental right to refuse the test.”

She elaborated “many states and administrations across the country are deceptive about these rights. They have even tried to intimidate parents. This intimidation seems to cause parents to back off because they do not want to be perceived as making waves or they do not want to endure negative ramifications for their children and this can greatly limit refusal rates, unfortunately.”

Regarding Connecticut, Zeitler said “the State, in the form of a letter from the Department of Education, instructed schools to deny parental requests to “opt out”, up to three times, before saying their children can forego the test. Parents have the constitutional right to refuse the SBAC test and I’m grateful for the Sherman School Administration’s upstanding response.”

Another reason, perhaps even the main reason, why the Sherman School has a high refusal rate, might very well have something to do with Zeitler herself…

For someone who does not particularly enjoy the limelight or public speaking, one can hear her voice Common Core concerns at the Sherman Parent Teacher Organization (SPTO) and Board of Education (BoE) meetings. She also organizes educational information sessions and will drop everything in her already hectic schedule to speak with parents about why Common Core is detrimental.

Zeitler also takes pride in “helping to empower parents and communities so they can better advocate for students, teachers, and their public schools.” She shared how she has spent, literally, hundreds of hours researching Common Core and collaborates with a group of other concerned parents from New Fairfield and New Milford. “We are dedicated to bringing awareness about Common Core to the forefront within Sherman and surrounding communities. We have plenty of data to share with other parents about all the negative aspects of Common Core.”

According to Susan, a third reason why Sherman has a 40% refusal rate is because “many parents have taken matters into their own hands and have learned the ‘undisclosed’ truths about Common Core. It appears that the fortunate combination of a respectful Administration, a knowledgeable and persevering group, and a proactive public is the formula to Sherman’s large anti-Common Core / SBAC statement of refusal.”

What is Common Core?

Before trying to understand the particulars of why there is a high SBAC testing refusal rate, one should first understand what Common Core is all about because the premise of the SBAC test is to be “aligned” to the Common Core State Standards.

For starters, the Common Core Standards website defines Common Core as “a set of clear college-and career-ready standards for Kindergarten through Grade 12 in English language arts / literacy and mathematics. Common Core was “designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.”

Investors of Common Core, like Bill Gates who is its biggest financial supporter outside of Pearson, explain that the United States education system is flawed and test scores lag behind other countries. Their solution is a “transformation” of our education system. This means the new Common Core standards with aligned curriculum, and testing.

As for the development of the Common Core Standards, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pearson Publishing Company, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation were, in fact, some of the big non-government and non-education contributors.

Zeitler, and other critics, define Common Core as “a repackaged education agenda that is backed by Corporate America and the Federal Government who do not have the best interests of the American children in mind.” Opponents like Dr. Chris Tienken, Assistant Professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall, disagree with Gates and think that America happens to groom the best innovators in the world, and many countries want to be like us, not the other way around.”

Zeitler elaborated “proponents like to say Common Core is just a set of improved standards. This is not so. Mr. Gates said ‘we’ll only know if this effort has succeeded, when the curriculum and tests align to the standards’. David Coleman, Chief Architect for the Common Core of the English Language Arts Standards (ELA), stated ‘teachers will teach toward the test.’ These proponents seem to want to make Common Core appear to not affect the teacher’s choice in curriculum, but they are misleading. I actually feel it is futile to discuss the standards and whether they are good or not. The standards conversation is a smokescreen as I see it. Common Core is NOT about education at all. Common Core is about Federal Government control, removing our local representation, and Corporate America making billions off our children’s private data, tests, technology, the new aligned curriculum, etc…”

The Awakening

How does one become a local grass roots activist on a mission to stop Common Core? For Susan, she didn’t exactly wake up one morning and say “gee, I want to be an activist.”

In January of 2013, she learned the school was going to get a “very expensive computer testing system” in the coming year, but had no idea what that meant. Then, in June of 2013, she made the Common Core connection with the computer system. “A friend shared with me what Common Core was all about and how detrimental it was to our children’s education and to our country. This is when I made the connection; that very expensive computer testing system was the SBAC test,” she stated.

Zeitler then began to ask leaders in Sherman about Common Core. To her surprise, “nobody really knew much about it, although the schools had been transitioning to Common Core a few years prior. I think that school systems all across Connecticut ‘did what they were supposed to do’ and did not realize the full scope of how Common Core originated, its purpose, and what its outcome would be. Common Core was adopted by the majority of the States before Common Core was even written,” she said.

As Zeitler came across Common Core information online, such as documents and video and audio clips from experts, like Anita Hoge and Jonathan Pelto, she began to share her findings with the BoE and the Administration in the fall of 2013. Ever since, she provides Common Core information and legislative updates via email to Sherman and New Fairfield parents, teachers, and BoE members. In June of 2014, Zeitler and her team also organized a well-attended event that brought in local experts from across the State to speak at a Common Core Informational Presentation, and “this contributed to the larger number of informed citizens and the higher refusal rate percentage in Sherman,” she stated.

Why Refuse SBAC Testing?

When asked, what is the #1 reason why you refused to have your children take the SBAC Exam? Zeitler replied matter-of-factly “there is NO reason to take this experimental test. No research went into designing the test and it was written by non-educators.” To back this statement: Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, stated in her book, Reign of Error that the Common Core standards were never field-tested and that no one knows whether they will improve education.”

Zeitler continued to say “this was a corporate push to develop a compliant workforce and to make billions of dollars off education products and our children’s private data. The problem with education is poverty but there is no money in fixing poverty. However, there is money in testing, technology, the revamping of curriculum materials, etc.”

“There is also a predetermined 60% to 70% SBAC test failure rate and it is even higher; a 90% failure rate, for special education students,” she said. As for the failure rate for English language learners, it is also extremely high. The SmarterBalanced.org website publishes this kind of failure rate field test data. For instance, Grade 6 non-native English speaking children have a 95% failure rate.

“The actual cut scores, or failure rate, were approved by Connecticut and other States at a November 17th SBAC meeting in Olympia, Washington. The predetermined failure rate is obtained by testing the students with age-inappropriate material, questions that have more than one answer, questions that are vague in what they are asking, etc…” she explained.

“No exam in life has such high failure rates, so why do we want to expose our children to this unfairness and stress for an unproven exam that sets up most of them to fail, and thus shows that there is another agenda behind the test?” she said.

Zeitler continued to say “under Common Core, much time gets wasted in the classroom. The students practice for the experimental test, take the test, and miss technology class time because other students are using the computers to take the test. Plus, the teachers need training on how to administer the test, have workshops to learn how to teach Common Core, etc. In other words, this time adds up to more time spent on the test instead of on academic education.”

“Another issue with the test are the delayed results that get returned well into the next school year. This is too late for them to be utilized by the teachers to help the students, which is the main purpose of testing, and further incriminates the purpose of the SBAC.”

Dr. Peg Luksik, a teacher with over 35 years of experience in both special and elementary education, and a former advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, who has extensive experience in assessments in a classroom setting and has written and evaluated curriculum, explained how the adaptive SBAC test is being manipulated, as it is being taken, so it is not a valid assessment. As an example, in the more philosophical areas, like history, you have to answer a question by complying, before you can move on because the test won’t let you move on unless you do.”

“Teacher evaluations are also tied to the test, which makes no sense whatsoever since a test is not representative of overall student performance. Common Core is harming not just our children but all American children. It’s hurting teachers and schools, too. By refusing the test, you’re protecting your children, but you’re also taking back some control, and making a bigger statement. This is one small step for stopping Common Core in its tracks, she added.”

Why Refuse Common Core?

“For me, refusing the test is not only about my daughters not taking the harmful, unethical test, but it’s also about saying NO to ALL of Common Core, which encompasses much more non-education pieces than one can imagine,” she said with resonance.

“For starters, Bill Gates is the main individual behind the funding of Common Core. There are corporations and Bill Gates. This man has no background in education but he has deep pockets. The way I see it, this is the first time in American history that one person has basically owned an American institution. This is unacceptable.”

“Companies, such as Google, that support Common Core are also setting themselves up to make billions of dollars by rolling out new testing materials, copyrighting a new way of doing math, creating new curriculum that aligns with the test, coming up with new training materials and programs, selling brand-new technology, and data mining the children’s private information, etc. When the schools buy into this they do not always realize they are just setting up the framework / infrastructure for deceptive Common Core,” she stated.

“As for keeping children’s private information private, this will no longer exist. As an example, Common Core data mines 400+ data points of private information from children and their families. The children’s new behavioral, attitudinal, and psychological data; in addition to their academic data, can be accessed by the Federal Government and other third-parties who claim to use the data for ‘educational purposes’ which may label the children for life, and potentially limit their futures.”

“Right now, education technology companies boast 10,000 data points per child, per day, more than Google, Netflix, or Facebook. Common Core uses our children’s mined data in a ‘decision-making’ model to determine our children’s careers for them by Grade 6, similar to what China does. Why do we want to be like China? They have the highest rates of testing, China wants to learn from us, and now we are becoming like them? This decision-making model is clearly abusing children’s private information. This is different from mining adult data because the information is not used to shape the future of adults,” she said.

“To make matters worse, our children’s medical records collected by schools are also non-exempt. Parents often think the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) protects them but it does not because their ‘educational records’, including IEP’s, 504’s, and future school health clinic data, now fall under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), not HIPAA. In other words, FERPA was gutted, so now this data is allowed to be accessed,” she stated.

Another point Zeitler made “Common Core’s plan is to replace public schools with Charter Schools, which have no Boards of Education, local representation, or parental input; and for-profit investors run them. This means parental and local control of education can become obsolete if Charter Schools continue to take-over the Public Schools. The Charters still take public tax dollars for public education and that is hurting public schools.”

Zeitler firmly believes this grand experiment “limits children’s full potential, stifles their growth, and creates unnecessary stress. Common Core is unacceptable. I am spreading awareness to quicken the return to purposeful academic education for our nation’s children, teachers and schools, at a local level” she stated.

What Every Parent Should Know

Zeitler strongly believes that Common Core is not about bettering education. “It is a fact that educators did not advocate for this. Instead, it was a corporate / government initiative. I believe we need to know the full picture, so we know the history, purpose, and outcome of Common Core. It is a repackaged education agenda that was decades in the making,” she stated.

“For parents who don’t know much about Common Core, please research online and find out what is really going on so you can make a difference for our children. There is so much information out there for your review and the information can be overwhelming but extremely eye-opening,” she stated.

How to Refuse the SBAC Test

Available for comment was Dr. Michael Pascento. “The procedure for parents to not have their child take the SBAC Assessment is called a ‘refusal’. Parents submit a letter to the school stating their refusal right and the student is not entered into the assessment system.” As for the students who are not taking part in the assessment they “were / will be assigned to a teacher and an alternative academic lesson takes place during the assessment period,” he stated.

As for other school districts and states, this process varies. Zeitler said “unfortunately not all towns are like Sherman. If there is resistance to exercise your parental rights and constitutional rights then refusal forms are available at ctagainstcommoncore.org and unitedoptout.com.”

When asked about what the consequences are for refusing this assessment test, Zeitler stated “there is no law in existence right now that penalizes these children. There is a fear instilled in parents that the States will withdraw school funding if there is greater than a 5% refusal. This has never happened and experts say it won’t.”

A PARTIAL LIST OF SUSAN’S READING RECOMMENDATIONS:

Connecticut:

Sample Test Rate Failure Results in Connecticut: No, the Common Core SBAC test is not like a blood test.

Jonathan Pelto: Common Core test Opt-Out movement steamrolls across the nation

Jonathan Pelto’s Blog, Connecticut Common Core Headlines: www.jonathanpelto.com

Connecticut’s Student Privacy Bill at Risk: HB 7017 Bill

Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission

New York:

Chalkbeat New York: As opt-out numbers grow, Arne Duncan says feds may have to step in

NY Opt Out Advocacy Group Report: 2015 Refusal Policy and Count

Across America:

Anita Hoge: The End Game of Assessment

The Cost of Common Core: Dr. Tienken: Common Core Unproven Yet Costs $15 Billion +

Jane Robbins on Vimeo: Data-Mining Your Child: Building and Using the Psychological Dossier

Truth in American Education: A Mental Health Professional’s Perspective on the Common Core

Jonathan Carroll: Common Core 101 – The FAQ

Common Core is Unconstitutional and Illegal

Mercedes Schneider Explains: Who Paid for the Common Core Standards

China: Chinese High School Pays for IV Drips for Studying Students

Local Parents and Teachers Speak-Up: Why They Refused SBAC Testing For Their Children…

Printed in the May 13th Edition of the Citizen News.

“One of my biggest concerns is that it appears the tests are written at a level that is three to five grade levels above the child’s academic level (children in the 3rd grade are tested using materials that are at a 6th, 7th or 8th grade level).

In my own research, I also found a sample elementary level question where I could not choose the correct answer choice, even though I knew the actual answer to the question.

Furthermore, it appears that the test designers purposely have created questions with ambiguous answer choices to test the children’s reasoning and critical thinking skills, however I would argue that the depth of knowledge that is required to reason out the answers makes those type of questions all but impossible to answer at the elementary and middle school level.

This is very upsetting to us because it seems to support the notion that the tests were in fact designed for the children to fail. It seems like an unnecessary amount of stress to put the child under for something that doesn’t appear to truly evaluate the child’s mastery of the subject matter. We are all for high standards, critical thinking, and rigorous curriculum, as long as it is presented in a developmentally appropriate way.

In the end, we decided to refuse the test because after reading several articles, we have a lot of concerns about the test design and what it is really measuring (don’t get me started on the whole data mining issue). We have heard nothing from our school, nor any other school, which explains why our child should be taking this test. No one can seem to give us one good reason not to opt out, which leads me to believe that they may not know enough about the test themselves. Until someone can give us some proof that this is a valid and reliable evaluation tool, we will continue to refuse to participate in this testing. There is too much at stake for our children, our teachers, and our school.”

Sincerely,

Stephanie S., Parent and Teacher

“I believe it is very important to support my child’s teachers and my child’s school, by being involved in my child’s education. Local control of public school is slowly eroding. As a parent, it now comes down to, what can I do? So, I write and phone my state representatives and I sign petitions. If I see curriculum that is age inappropriate or wrong- in any sense of the word, I speak up. Most importantly, I REFUSE all computerized Standardized Testing for my child. As Common Core is all about the testing, and is turning K-12 education into a profit generated enterprise, using tax payers dollars to fund it. There is an entire industry built around the copyrighted curriculum, the manufacturing of this curriculum, the cost of each test, and the grading and preparation of these tests. All of which generates millions of dollars in profit.

Let’s not forget the data collection on each and every child, across this nation. Our children are being sold for profit. Our children are being pigeon-holed. Our children are the subject of a nationwide 10 year experiment. As Common Core and the Standardized Testing that goes along with it, has never been proven to elevate education. Common Core violates three federal laws and the 10th Amendment. So it all comes down to the power of the parent. I have an obligation to protect my child and his educational future. The best way to do this is to REFUSE the tests. Cut the money that feeds the beast. We as parents must find the courage to say enough is enough, and, we must take action to make sure our children receive the best education possible, for their individual needs.”

Suzanne R.F., Parent

“I didn’t want to have my son take the test, as I don’t feel it helps HIM.  He is not a native English speaker and is still learning the language, and there doesn’t seem to be a provision for that in the testing. I don’t feel it would be productive for him, and would not reflect what his teachers have done to help him, which is quite a lot.  Also, I am trying to protect his privacy, and that of our family.”

Susanna M., Parent

“It seems the assessors need to be assessed! Standardized tests are created for assessors to assess with the least amount of effort, thus putting the yolk on teachers, and ignoring the peripheral abilities of students.

Smarter Balanced? Isn’t it ridiculous to claim the test is smarter and balanced? If they are going to name the test after a margarine, Promise would be a better name. Next year we’ll call it I Can’t Believe it’s not Better!”

Sincerely,

Parent and Teacher (wishing to remain anonymous)