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Kiner's Korner: Donna Szewczak - The Voice of Reason and Fiscal Restraint

Bill Kiner applauds the lone school board Republican who voted in favor of settling a lawsuit.

Republican Board of Education member Donna Szewczak is a voice of reason on the Board. Under both Republican and Democratic leadership, she has used moderation, fairness, and intelligence in making her decisions. The Republicans of Enfield should thank Donna. Her vote Wednesday night helped Republicans foster the image that they like to portray-that they are the party of fiscal moderation. They didn't show much fiscal moderation that night-except for Donna that is.  Let me explain what I mean.

Since 2010, the town has been under a legal cloud surrounding the settlement of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over high school graduation ceremonies held at First Cathedral Church in Bloomfield.

The ACLU brought suit against the town, on behalf of two students and their parents who believed that holding graduation ceremonies in a church, violated their First Amendment Rights concerning separation of church and state.

The insurance company that represents Enfield was willing to settle for approximately $500,000. If the town refused to settle, the insurance carrier informed the town that they would not be responsible for any higher costs. The town had two options.

Option number 1 was to settle as the insurance carrier suggested. This would mean that Enfield had to promise not to hold graduation ceremonies at the Cathedral. It also meant that no taxpayer dollars would be spent on the settlement. And case closed!  

Option number 2 was not to settle. Option 2 meant lengthy litigation with a potential loss to the Enfield taxpayer in the millions of dollars if we lost the case. No one could guarantee the outcome. Which option would the Board choose? Would the Board vote to save the taxpayers a lot of money and settle, or gamble with our tax dollars. No brainer, right?

Well not really, to three Republicans sitting on the Board. They all understood the ramifications of not accepting the settlement. It meant that if the Town pursued this longer (perhaps for years and for millions of taxpayer dollars) and ultimately won, we could then "stick it to the ACLU". To the Republicans on the Board, fighting the ACLU was a fight of "principle" and a fight for "freedom". But if we lost, then the town would be on the hook for millions of dollars.

The three Republicans who voted against settling were convinced that principle (fighting the "bullies" of the ACLU) was more important than saving the taxpayers potentially millions of dollars. Look, the fact is the town may have won. I don't know and the attorneys don't know. If the case ultimately went to the Supreme Court, it would have taken years to resolve. This Board, and perhaps those following, would have been burdened for years with this one distraction. That, to my way of thinking, is absurd. The potential cost if we lost would stagger our fragile education budget. And who would lose, but you, me, and our children.

Donna understood this. She wanted the Board to focus on education. That is what the Board of Education is supposed to do. She wanted the Board to focus on the eventual merger of the two high schools. She was more interested in saving the town potentially millions of dollars in attorney fees-money that is needed to balance the budget each year and to educate our children. Donna is pragmatic. She is also principled, but not to a point of being ridiculous.  Listening to her Republican colleagues talk of socking it to the ACLU out of principle, something that would potentially cost millions, is just downright stupid.

The majority Democrats who supported the settlement, and Donna Szewczak, truly represent our kids and our taxpayers on the Board of Education.

Doug McComas July 20, 2012 at 09:59 AM
Again the strong arm tactics of the ACLU won, or should I say greedy lawyers. The ACLU is a large reason why this country is in the mess it is in today. ACLU and their liberal agenda prevail again, not the people of Enfield.
Olive3 July 20, 2012 at 12:02 PM
The ACLU is not a fair minded organization and you are right about the mess it has contributed to our country. But our cities and states are broke as well. A "rock and a hard place". The BOE made the right choice, the only choice it could have to help our children. Maybe we the citizens (all US citizens who want to right the wrongs they have caused) could start a class action suit against this unsavory organization? Infringement of "our" personal rights on the principals we have had to give up for the one or two who made the most noise!
Olive3 July 20, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Thank you again Bill for writing about someone who demonstrates common sense. What a breath of fresh air.
Joe Saxton July 20, 2012 at 12:40 PM
The one or two who made the " noise " also had principals and rights. They did not use public funds to finance their cause. Seems like a BOE agenda caused this mess and expected the taxpayers to finance it.
Frank Halish July 20, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Thank you Bill for supporting the right choice.
Sam July 20, 2012 at 01:33 PM
"The ACLU brought suit against the town, on behalf of two students and their parents who believed that holding graduation ceremonies in a church, violated their First Amendment Rights concerning separation of church and state." Bill you wrote the the above comment, Can you please show me in the US Constitution there are the words "separation of church and state" ? Here is what I found please show me where it is. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The term sepration of church and state comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson the some CT baptists in 1802. "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State." Out of all this crap Bill the only rights that were violated was "the right of the people peaceably to assemble" Maybe some of us should get together and sue the ACLU for violating our right to peaceably assemble. I could use a quick half million. The liberals are ruining this country.
Marty Salvatore July 23, 2012 at 05:51 PM
So what if the church were a mosque instead? I think you would be OUTRAGED over that, wouldn't you? Why don't you find some moral (and logical) consistency before you puke out your talking points, Sam?
Sam July 23, 2012 at 07:14 PM
So what if the place was a mosque Marty? it would not bother me at all as long as it was as nice and comfortable as this Cathedral place was supposed to be. Do you have a problem with mosques? Sure sounds like you have a problem with mosque's. Maybe you dont like people who attend mosques? So let me get this straight Marty, from your comment it sounds like you believe that it is "immoral" & illogical to hold a gather other than a prayer meeting in this Cathedral Hall? I think the only person "puking" anything out here is you Marty. Do you know Marty back when our country was founded a lot of town meetings were held in churches because they were usually the largest gathering places in town back then. Of course this is before people and organizations started twisting the words in our constitution around to fit their own agendas. Go sit down and read the "U.S." constitution Marty the words "Separation of Church and State" just arent in there sorry. Have a nice day Marty, maybe you should sit down and talk with someone about you issue with mosques.
Spiff July 24, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Well, there is certainly something to say about standing up for your principles and not taking the easy way out. Unfortunately, there are not enough people with principles in this day-and-age and most resort to the path of least resistance. I know if I was clearly in the right about an issue and someone was trying to extort money from me, it wouldn't happen! While I don't know all the specifics about this particular issue, it certainly wasn't cut and dry, although the attorneys seemed to think that the BoE had a pretty good case. That said, I probably would have voted to settle as well. The unfortunate side effect is the precedent it sets and the increased insurance premiums.
Marty Salvatore July 25, 2012 at 06:50 PM
I think there is a correlation between how many times a person uses another person's name in an argument and how poor of an argument they are making. Like, the more times you feel the need to say "Marty," the more hollow the words in between each use are. Just because separation of church and state isn't in the constitution, doesn't mean it's a bad idea. There are a lot of good things NOT in the constitution. And seriously, Sam, you should stop puking. It's starting to stink in here.
Sam July 26, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I guess "marty" from your response you just didnt have any answers to my questions to you. As far as your correllation theory, I mentioned your name each time not because of how poor of an argument I was making, it was just in case you were not smart enough to know I was addressing you with that response. From your answer I think I may have beek correct in my assumption. It is very hard to converse with people with small minds so sometimes you have to call out someones name over and over just so they know you are speaking to them. Again marty the only person puking in here is you. Have a nice day.
Marty Salvatore July 26, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Wait... were you talking to ME? I couldn't tell. I mean, I know the FIRST sentence was addressing me. But I think you were talking to someone else after that. Someone who wanted to listen to a senseless word/puke salad. And to answer your question: yeah, I would have a problem going to a mosque to see my kid graduate. I'd have a problem going to a temple, too. Just like I would have a problem going to a church.
Sam July 26, 2012 at 04:57 PM
I guess by not including a name is a good way to find out if a person has the attention span of a gnat also.
Robbie Tangreti July 26, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Sam, it looks like you fell into Marty's trap of making you look foolish! Sam, surely you're smarter than that, aren't you… Sam… SAM!
Sam July 26, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Robbie not sure how he made me look foolish but I was enjoying the back and forth lol

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