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Letters to the Editor

March 29, 2007

Not Necessarily for the Kids

What is the "discussion of uniforms" teaching the children of Hamden?

1. If you are in a leadership position and want to implement a questionable policy, start by stacking the deck. What better way to make a recommendation than to create a panel where 85 percent of the testifying members favor your position?

2. If you can't convince the public your plan is good, keep the plan quiet. Don't publicize meetings or provide contact information for committee members. The less information available to the public, the easier it will be to avoid resistance.

3. Confuse the issue when possible. Although shoes are not included in the definition of a uniform or dress code, panel members can still decry the inappropriateness of flip-flops in school.

4. If evidence does not support your argument, demand evidence that you are wrong. It is easier to demand research from others than to do it yourself.

5. Rely on anecdotal evidence. Personal experience means much more than statistics, especially when statistics aren’t available to support your argument.

6. Keep your more expedient motives in the background. If a supporter acknowledges that school uniforms are easier to enforce than the current dress code, change the subject by insisting that uniforms will improve attendance, student behavior, grades, school spirit and reduce crime and drug use.

The Hamden High School debate team would tear the uniform committee's arguments to shreds. Are these really the leadership principles we want to teach our children? Our administrators should be role models for our students, not bad examples for future leaders.

David L. Brunsma has edited a recent study, “Uniforms in Public Schools: A Decade of Research and Debate.” A close reading of this book will find that discipline problems will drop if a uniform policy is implemented, unless the problems increase due to objections to the uniform policy. Attendance of students improved, except in those schools where attendance dropped. Similar results can be found regarding grades and test results, which support school uniforms only when regarded selectively.

No studies disputed the finding that fewer weapon problems occurred where students wore uniforms. But how big a problem is this in Hamden’s elementary and middle schools? Hamden High, where weapons may conceivably be an issue, would be unaffected by the proposed uniform policy.

Does Hamden have a curriculum problem that can be solved by forcing students to wear uniforms, or are we merely being urged to accept a change to suit the preferences of administrators and teachers? Is this a public school system to meet the needs of children or is it a system for employees of the Board of Education?

Pamela Miller
Hamden parent

March 27, 2007

I Gave the Council Piece of Mind

I attended the Town Council committee meetings last night and had the opportunity to comment during a public hearing on amending the ordinance that provides tax relief for elderly or totally disabled homeowners.

I said the following:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Council,

I would like to ask that you support this ordinance offering much needed tax relief to certain Elderly and Disabled town residents. For taxes continue to rise, yet many residents are on fixed incomes. Energy and fuel costs continue to rise, yet many town residents are on fixed incomes which offer no increase. Today you have a chance to do what’s right, to do what’s just. I thank you for your time, and hope this will pass unanimously so we can help those tax payers who so desperately need it.

Thank you”

When this issue came before the committee it was subsequently pulled so that the new legislative subcommittee Veteran and Elderly Tax Team could crunch some more numbers. I would like to say that I believe this is an excellent opportunity for the administration and those of us on the VETTS committee to really assist those residents who really need the help.

Joe DeLuca

March 26, 2007

Farce of a Forum

Rudeness, bad behavior, arrogance and dirty tricks seem to come natural for school officials in Hamden. On March 21, there was a promised district-wide forum on school uniforms at Hamden High. Instead, over 100 parents, three TV camera crews and several personnel from other media witnessed an intentional dirty trick performed by Ms Portia Bonner, assistant superintendent of Hamden public Schools. Instead of a forum parents got long-winded speeches, false information, poorly placed scare tactics and an overall bad sales job by Ms. Bonner and several other robotically programmed members of a panel she organized.

After being polite for over an hour and a half, 100 parents got only 27 minutes to voice their views, hardly any time at all. Some of the so-called facts that this panel presented were "that grades increase in schools that have uniforms.” My contention is that grades will increase in a school system with strong leadership and a nonpolitically motivated agenda.

Two of the panelists said "uniforms could prevent a Columbine." I have sent this “fact” to the Columbine school district so they will never have any more problems. "Uniforms prepare students for the workforce," the panelists also claimed. Problem is, the uniform proposal is for K-8. "Uniforms give students a sense of community.” I ask, Is it community or an introduction to communism? "Uniforms give students a sense of pride." After what parents witnessed at this "forum," I can’t see anyone take pride in Hamden.

This "forum" was designed to discourage parents and silence their concerns. I feel Ms. Bonner and some members of her panel should have more respect for us, the parents in Hamden. After all they are the hired help. 

Frank Santoro
Park Road


School Uniforms -- Achtung!

Maybe I am naive, but from what I had read about the school uniform committee, it was to consider whether school uniforms were a good idea and if so to make suggestions on implementing them. However, when I read the minutes of the committee on the school Web site it turns out that in actuality the "charge" of the committee is to "form policies for uniform implementation." Not to consider the idea, or weigh the pros and cons, or do research, or see what other schools’ experiences have been. But to implement school uniforms.

Of course, I would have thought that decision was actually up to the School Board, but then again, I am naive. I am sure that a large number of parents would be upset to learn that they wasted their time speaking to a committee that is designed solely to decide how to implement a policy rather than to decide if in fact that policy is even a good idea. They must be naive like me. I was not at the Board of Education meeting at which this committee was formed, but from what I read the committee was "charged" with studying the pros and cons, not simply deciding how to implement a uniform policy. The parents who attended the hearing obviously felt the same way.

Is this the "charge" the BOE intended? The minutes of that BOE meeting are not on line, and I do not know the actual motion that was made. I have been attending BOE meetings and trying to stay informed about BOE decisions for a number of years, and I am shocked and appalled at how this issue is being handled. In my experience, this is out of character for the Hamden BOE (more naiveté?). Despite clear opposition from a number of members of the Board and a large portion of school parents, the issue is being pushed because a few administrators and teachers have decided on their own and without public input or consideration that this is a good idea.

We now learn school uniforms are the panacea for all the ills faced by the schools, from test scores to behavior issues to tardiness and poor attendance to school security issues, drug use and gang violence! All based on what? Maybe school uniforms will also solve childhood obesity and global warming; there is about as much evidence. In a district with a lot of issues on its plate and entering the annual budget cycle, this uniform proposal does nothing but waste people's time and energy, time and energy and enthusiasm that could be better used in so many ways.

I would urge the Board to consider the voices of the parents, and not simply implement a broad-ranging new policy at the whim of a few. Maybe I am so naive that I believe they will.

Paul Begemann
Guenevere Court

March 19, 2007

‘The Joke's on You, Hamden Taxpayer’

If Councilman John Flanagan spent more time wondering about the veracity of the Henrici Administration and less about that of his fellow Councilman Ron Gambardella, the town of Hamden would be far better served.

Instead of concentrating on the valid issues that Ron has raised in past articles -- rampant spending, raises for the mayor and department heads, selection of unqualified individuals for plush town jobs, myriad no-bid contracts cut to friends and campaign donors, arrogant flouting of the Town Charter and the endless, broken campaign promises of this golden boy mayor -- Flanagan finally feels compelled to speak out on this one burning issue.

Mr. Gambardella stated that the Democratic majority stood up and applauded the mayor's new proposed tax-hike budget. Mr. Flanagan says that the Democratic majority did not stand up and applaud as Mr. Gambardella has stated. He said that some members stood and applauded the news that 13 town cars will no longer be taken home by employees because they were so excited by this "significant savings" to the town.

OK, let's assume that Gambardella was wrong but let's take a little deeper look into the issue.

(Editor’s note: After the mayor finished delivering his budget address last Wednesday, some Council Democrats did give him a standing ovation. Beforehand, when the mayor read the bit about the 13 town cars, some councilmembers applauded but did not rise.)

There are 15 members on the Council and I would assume that none would miss such an important meeting. By his own admission, Flanagan states that the councilpeople from the 2nd, 7th and 8th districts stayed seated. That leaves 12. Subtract Mr. Gambardella and possibly the other Republican and that leaves 10 people joining in the celebration of this massive reduction in town spending.

Keep in mind that this is the same council and mayor that approved the greatest tax hike in Hamden history -- and promised fiscal austerity and savings -- and yet another giant 1.5 mil increase in taxes is being proposed this year. This is the biggest savings that they can come up with? This is something to be proud of? This is the type of hardheaded fiscal
restraint that has only added $10 million to this year's proposed budget?

Will the gas and repair savings offset the $50,000 being spent on the help desk position? This is what sent them into a state of rapture?

Mr. Flanagan notes that he and two other seated councilpersons were quietly chuckling over the antics of their enthusiastic colleagues. Perhaps they were laughing because they realized what a big joke this sop to fiscal responsibility really was. The joke's on you, Hamden taxpayer.

Mr. Gambardella once said to me, "If you can't cut 5 percent out of any budget, then you really haven't looked at it.” This may or may not be true, but I see little chance of it ever being put to the test with the present crew.

Mr. Flanagan says that in his 20 years off and on the council he has never seen such a degree of falsehood and misinformation as displayed by Mr. Gambardella. He should look around at the last 16 months of the present administration and council before he makes such a definitive statement.

Edward Beaudette
Central Avenue


Ask Me What I think

I am vehemently opposed to school uniforms. While I am a product of parochial schools and wore a uniform for most of my educational career, I believe that I, as a parent, have the right to choose for my child. We abide by the school district’s dress code because I am a parent who enforces it. I choose my child’s clothing. I purchase my child’s clothing, and I will make the choice as to whether I want my child to wear a uniform. I choose for my child to have freedom of choice, expression, and individualism. If I wanted my child to wear a uniform, I would send her to a parochial school where I would have no choice.

How did this uniform idea come about? Will wearing a school uniform really make a difference? I think not. My child is an academically sound student and will continue to be regardless of what she is wearing. No, we do not need to wear uniforms. The Hamden Public Schools needs to enforce the so-called dress code policy. Students only do what they are allowed to do. They are very much aware of the lack of consequences for their actions and the lack of accountability.

The district claims it wants to see more parent involvement. That cannot and will not happen as long as Assistant Superintendent Portia Bonner continues to make decisions that affect our children without first including us in the decision-making process. This is not the first time that she has brought her ideas (same-sex classrooms) to the Board to be voted on without asking parents to opine, until after the fact.

I applaud Board of Education member Lynn Campo for recognizing that parents do matter and that if given the chance, we will let our voices be heard. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alida Begina acknowledged that parents indeed make a difference and she attempted to be inclusive. Too bad Portia Bonner has not yet learned what it takes to be a bona fide superintendent of schools.

Yvonne E. Jones
Rochford Avenue

Pitter’s Stuff Stinks

So Lyndon Pitter has post-traumatic stress disorder and it makes him lie and steal from Highville Mustard Seed Charter School? What a crock of highly odiferous taurine excrement!

And his doctor said so but his former lawyer John Gesmonde (who just happens to be chair of the Mustard Seed board -- can you say “conflict of interest?”) can’t remember whether or not the doctor is a psychiatrist. In fact, can’t even remember the doctor’s name? What reliable evidence.

Evidence, moreover, that neither Pitter nor the lawyer presented to the investigators during any of their investigations. Curious, isn’t it?

This man is a thief. This man is evidently either a born liar or too disabled by his PTSD to function in a position requiring honesty. What sort of role model is this man for the youngsters at Mustard Seed? What lesson does he teach by example? That lying, that stealing, that cheating is perfectly all right if you can use your ethnicity or your military background as an excuse? “Oh, they are picking on me.” “Oh, I am being discriminated against.” “Oh, I have PTSD and that means I’m disabled and can do any illegal and immoral thing I want because I’m ILL”

Either the board of Mustard Seed should remove Pitter or the state should shut it down at the end of the year. Let’s see if Pitter puts the kids first or puts himself first yet again.

Mustard Seed is a “good” school. Pitter’s “vision” may have contributed to the school’s approach to education. But Pitter’s lack of vision in terms of honesty and ethical behavior may be the death of Mustard Seed.

Do the right thing, Pitter -- resign.

Do the right thing if he doesn’t resign, Mustard Seed board -- get rid of him, ASAP.

And if we’re going to talk about ethics, Gesmonde should get off the board as well for violating his ethical responsibilities to the school by becoming involved as Pitter’s attorney.

Mari Bonomi

March 16, 2007

Oxymoronic Rapping

I have a friend who worked as a union organizer. He's fond of saying, "The average working person doesn't get angry at the lies and falsehoods. They just get tired of it all." That's the point I'm at with the outrageous statements and wild characterizations of Ron Gambardella. I usually ignore his ramblings, but his latest tall tale goes too far. As the Council member with the most seniority present on Wednesday night, I feel it necessary to point out that I'm not angry about the falsehoods. I'm just tired of them.

It's been apparent for quite some time that "Ron's Rap" and the truth are mutually exclusive and clearly and completely strangers to each other. At the mayor's budget presentation Wednesday evening, Ron states that the Democrats gave the mayor's presentation a standing ovation for a tax increase. Nonsense!

When the mayor noted that he proposed taking away town-owned cars from 13 individuals (who probably shouldn't have had them in the first place) several of the more exuberant Council people stood up and applauded. It is a problem that has been costing the town serious money for a long, long time. Maybe Ron missed that item during his first term. But, then again, he appears to consistently have been more worried about how he plays in the press than serving his constituents.

Following his usual practices, on Wednesday night it seems he was concentrating more on what he might say afterward rather than paying attention during the meeting. If Ron had been paying attention he would have noticed that the councilmen from the 2nd, 7th and 8th districts were sitting and chuckling at the exuberance of their fellow Council members. Then, those standing sat down and the mayor concluded his presentation.

Perhaps being a Republican, Ron doesn't understand that Democrats tend to become quite emotional at times and usually for reasons Republicans can't seem to understand. But perhaps when it occurs in other life situations, all that emotion is the reason there are more Democrats.

It's been 20 years since the first time I sat on the Council. In that time, I've served with good people, a very few bad people, some saints and some sinners. However, in all that time I haven't run into such a collection of consistent and willful misstatements as Mr. Gambardella has included in his diatribes these past months.

Sorry to say that in Mr. Gambardella's case, the phrase "honest politician" truly is an oxymoron.

John P. Flanagan
Councilman, 2nd District


Needed: Real Reporters

I find it amazing that this huge police scandal was going on, probably for years, right under the noses of not only New Haven Police Chief Ortiz and the mayor but the New Haven Register itself. My goodness. Most cities the size of New Haven have a newspaper with at least one investigative reporter who eventually will uncover at least a hint that something big is going on illegally. Any newspaper can print reactionary news every day but to use its resources to actually go out and uncover news stories is the job of a news organization with integrity and journalistic aggressiveness with no regard to where the fallout will occur.

I enjoy the Register and it provides a wonderful service for the New Haven community. But it must act as a watchdog for its community and be able to inform all of us of the good, the bad and the ugly when called for. Mark Davis does a great job investigating out of WTNH TV and our newspapers need someone of his stature.

We, here in the town of Hamden, are very fortunate to have the Hamden Daily News that we can rely on to bring us up to date on most happenings in our town. Single-handedly, one very talented young lady reports local news in the mode of the good, the bad and the ugly as it should be reported with no thought as to fallout, as long as she has gathered all the facts on an issue. We should all be grateful and thankful for the dedication shown by genuine journalists who strive to get the job done.

Frank Baldino
Washington Avenue


‘Stop the Madness’

Taxpayers did not notice when the council and mayor practically stopped paying into the pension fund beginning in 1998 and kept approving labor contracts with unsustainable payments and benefits. Now we are paying for a generation of quiet ignorance.

The town of Hamden is about to mortgage our kids for the next 30 years in the form of pension obligation bonds, claiming that this is the only way to force future officials to pay into the pension fund so we can continue spending on labor contracts and projects we can’t afford and taking on riskier debt. There is simply not one success story with POBs.

Mayor Henrici had just proposed another significant tax increase. He promised a hiring freeze but hired a non-qualified person for the animal control position and three more police officers. Rules and regulations do not apply to some. Yet taxpayers, unhappy with the increases, are still not showing up at Town Hall to let officials know enough is enough. Taxpayers are still not eager to participate and stop the madness. Our financial house is burning and our kids will have to pay for our sins of quiet ignorance. This time we can look in the mirror and blame ourselves because we are not doing a damn thing about it.

Marianna D’Albis

March 7, 2007

Dear BOE: Vote for Adam

The following letter was e-mailed to the HDN from Hamden Democratic Town Committee Chair Joe McDonagh.

March 6, 2007

To the members of the Hamden Board of Education:

I am writing today to let you know that at the February 22, 2007, meeting of the Hamden Democratic Town Committee, the entire Town Committee voted overwhelmingly to recommend Adam Sendroff to fill the vacancy on the Board of Education created by the resignation of Jennifer McGrady-Heath.

We were fortunate to have two very able and worthy candidates to consider, Adam Sendroff and Rose Mentone. The Town Committee's endorsement of Adam, based on the nominations and the comments made by Town Committee members, was based on four important criteria:

1) Adam is the parent of one student currently in the Hamden school system (and another who will be entering Hamden schools in September). He will bring to the Board first-hand knowledge and experience of the school system as it operates today.

2) Adam has been an active member of the town-wide PTA Council. As a result, he has current and active knowledge of the issues facing parents, students, teachers and administrators throughout Hamden's schools, and will be an effective and articulate voice for all groups.

3) Adam is himself the product of Hamden schools. He attended Shepherd Glen elementary school, the Hamden Middle School and Hamden High School.

4) Because of his current knowledge of the school system and the many issues it faces -- from securing adequate funding to meeting the demands of state and federal laws -- Adam impressed the members of the Town Committee with his depth of understanding, his passion for addressing those issues and his belief in the promise of Hamden's school system. He made clear that his goals include improving relations (and financial oversight) between the Board and Hamden's other branches of government, and improving Hamden's classrooms, notably with regard to improving and equalizing the disbursement of technology and supplies throughout our schools.

Knowing all of you as I do, I know and appreciate that you will give this appointment careful and thoughtful consideration. I hope you will include in your deliberation the endorsement of the Town Committee.

Thank you for your time.

Joseph McDonagh
Hamden Democratic Party Chair

March 6, 2007

Dear BOE: Vote for Rose

The following letter was e-mailed to the HDN from the Hamden Democratic Town Committee’s 8th District.

March 5, 2007

Dear Members of the Hamden Board of Education:

As the Eighth District Town Committee executive board member, I am pleased to say that the entire Eighth District Democratic Town Committee supports Rose V. Mentone to fill the recent vacancy on the Board of Education for the following reasons:

  • Rose has a long, extensive education career in the City of New Haven where she served on numerous committees including those involved with crisis intervention and intergroup relations. I’m sure you will agree that the educational problems experienced by the City of New Haven will touch the Town of Hamden. In fact some of them are already here. Rose has the education and experience to recognize and resolve the problems faced by the teachers, students and the Board of Education.
  • She has both teaching and administrative experience in diversified school settings, giving her an edge on understanding both the educational, financial and political aspects of a town’s education system.
  • Rose has a long and varied background in politics, allowing her an advantage in dealing with the political nature of the Board of Education and Legislative Council. Rose also holds the distinction of being the only chair of the Hamden Democratic Town Committee who was female. This experience has sharpened her negotiating skills.
  • She has been and continues to be an active, caring member of the Hamden community. Rose is aware of what is happening in all parts of Hamden.
  • As a recent retiree, she appreciates the budget constraints of senior citizens and families who pay their taxes in the town of Hamden, while trying to balance the educational needs of the children of the Town of Hamden.
  • Not only is Rose product of the Hamden Public School System; but she and her husband have two grown sons who are products of the same system.

Rose’s resume shows that she possesses the qualifications required for this position. We hope you will agree that Rose deserves an opportunity to serve on the Hamden Board of Education.


Anne Ramsey, executive board member
John DeRosa
Susan Massaro
Anthony F. Mentone
Rose V. Mentone
James O’Brien
Angelo Vitale


Flags Flying Too High

Our men and woman are leaving Connecticut to be part of our military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of these men and woman will never return to Connecticut alive. They have made the highest sacrifice any soldier can make: They give their lives for our country and for the freedom of the Iraqi and Afghanistan people.

Last week Gov. Rell asked that all American flags to be lowered to half-staff in Connecticut out of respect for the soldier that was killed in Baghdad last week. This is not the first time that Gov. Rell asked flags to be flown at half-staff for one of our men and woman that were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Driving around Hamden last week I was amazed at how many flags were not flying at half-staff as the governor asked. This week we have some town-owned American flags flying at half-staff and others flying at the very top of flagpoles.
I would suggest to Mayor Henrici that one town employee be in charge of seeing that town-owned American flags are flown at half-staff when called for. I hope that Mayor Henrici takes my suggestion to correct this disrespect to our men and woman that have given their lives for our country.
If you see a town-owned American flag not flying at half-staff when it should be, call the town’s help desk and report it. I also urge the citizens of Hamden to fly their American flags at half-staff, when called for, out of respect for our fallen heroes.

Thomas Alegi
Benham Street


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