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LETTER: School Board Member Expresses Disappointment With Graduation Suit Settlement

Kevin Fealy was one of three board members to oppose settling a two-year-old lawsuit.

The previous Enfield Board of Education voted to sue the ACLU, over the use of a religious building in which we could rent to hold graduations.

Unfortunately, our insurance carrier has negotiated a settlement (using a clause in our contract - that the BOE didn't endorse) to pay the ACLU a substantial amount of money and would restrict Enfield in future choices of graduation sites.

The Democrat majority would prefer to adopt this insurance settlement rather than continue to pursue this lawsuit. Our attorney recommend we should continue, as it is becoming clear that we have a strong case, and our attorney is confident we will be the victors on this issue. We must keep in mind; our taking on this issue will become precedent setting for all future towns.

When I ran for office, it was because I felt as a citizen we are put in these positions to be the voice of the people. This evening the public was given the opportunity to speak and discuss in an open forum their thoughts on how the Enfield Board of Education should proceed.

The Republican minority had to insist with intensity to get this special meeting before the community because our current Chairman, Tim Neville was clearly trying to stifle public input and participation. He along with Vice Chairman Grady tried to keep this from the Enfield residents and let the decision be made "behind closed doors."

The public has the right to participate in issues and be privy to what elected officials are doing by seeing discussions and debates in the open with all the facts clearly stated. This settlement offer has not been vetted in public and I believed it is vital Enfield residents at least hear the options and have a voice in deciding what our next course of action might entail.

Public sentiments lead to this court case, and I believe the public is who we answer to and a decision to settle or continue should be directed to the Board of Education by the same people who put us in office - the Enfield residents. Unfortunately Chairman Neville's and the Democratic majority disagree.

Kevin P. Fealy, Jr.
Enfield

The writer is a member of the Enfield Board of Education. 

j wig July 20, 2012 at 11:15 PM
It's extremely troubling the board of education even entertained the idea of holding graduation ceremonies in a church. In such a litigious society it would only be a matter of time before a lawsuit was filed. Sometimes ya gotta cut your losses and move on. Hopefully they, the B.O.E members have learned from their ineptness.
Bob E July 20, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Partially agree the Board that approved that decision to move graduation from the schools,the students labored at to earn the honor to graduate from and move it to the Bloomfield location (forget the Church issue) they were idiots. They have subjected the Town and students to all this distraction from their achievements. It seems it was politics that governed this decision to go to Bloomfield--they tried to please their voters at the $1,000,000 expense to the Taxpayers (make no mistake about it, we the Taxpayers will pay for it the long run) For years the graduation ceremonies were held at the schools at minimal cost and yes only a few the people closest to the students was allowed to be present because facility limitations but only made it more meaningful. Let the previous board Republican or Democrat controlled pay the $1,000,000 for their idiotic decision!!!
Wen L July 21, 2012 at 01:23 PM
My daughter graduated in Bloomfield and it was SO much nicer than the graduation in Enfield on the field! Had Enfield been able to be there this year, we wouldn't have had to worry about folks in the heat, rushing through the entire ceremony, the poor kids sweltering in there gowns... It was awful! Furthermore, if it had rained and they had to move it into the high school, most grandparents, aunts/uncles etc... Would not have been able to be there as seats are so limited. I agree entirely with Kevin! Beyond the graduation issue, the ACLU is one huge scam of an organization. They are the big bullies, looking where ever they can for the next big win. They search out and find one or two people who are "against" going into a building that's used as a church one or two days a week, once they find them, they're all set to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars!! This is the best bribery scam against cities and towns for them!
Wen L July 21, 2012 at 01:35 PM
It wasn't just Enfield (and Enfield was not the first) using the building in Bloomfield, towns all around there have and several continue to use it. Shouldn't this be a decision that the graduating class makes?? What happened to democracy?? Hold a vote with all families involved that year and majority wins! Unfortunately, majority does not matter these days. Something has to give, Americans needs to get their spines back and stand up for what's right and stop giving in to the ACLU and whoever else wants to stomp on our rights. A couple years back, at the first Get Motivated seminar, there was a speaker/author from Pakistan, he nailed it when he said, "Political Correctness will be the death of this Country".
Amalita Grimes July 21, 2012 at 06:58 PM
does this new 103 million dollar high school include some type of facility that will adequately provide for the increasing demand for pampering and comfort that the parents seem to now require for their ... barely adequately performing children. Not for nothing but I just graduated from a fairly good college and we, like most colleges, graduated on the lawn, in the heat, in black caps and gowns, with our families sitting on folding chairs, in the heat like most other students in New England.
janet July 22, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Big deal so they held the graduation at a Church. Will they accept American Money which is labeled in "In God We Trust" Doesn't that bother them also or do we have to convert the currency to EUROs. I would have told the ALCU to stick it in their ear. Thats why everthing is so expensive from medical care, car insurance, business expenses, because of all these lawyers and nothing to do.
Spoof July 22, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Kevin Fealy's preference for applying his own brand of spin is staggering. The BoE did not sue the ACLU. Who in their right mind believes that?!? To whatever made the BoE hold a public meeting on this issue, we all owe a debt of gratitude, as it shines a spotlight on the dysfunctional dynamics expressed in this op-ed. "Public sentiments lead to this court case, and I believe the public is who we answer to and a decision to settle or continue should be directed to the Board of Education by the same people who put us in office - the Enfield residents. Unfortunately Chairman Neville's and the Democratic majority disagree." There is nothing more unfortunate than to realize the elected official is part of the problem, and light years away from the solution. If you want to graduate from a Bloomfield building, attend a Bloomfield school. If you want air-conditioning and comfy chairs in Enfield, demand it from your elected officials that these accommodations be made. When they say it isn't in the budget, ask them why. To those "Big deal so they held the graduation at a Church" believers, your ignorance is palpable. Educate yourselves, and you will understand why your statement is incredibly ignorant.
janet July 22, 2012 at 03:01 AM
My ignorance is palpable. I love how whenever someone else has a point of view other than the left wing or atheists they resort to insults. Do you understand that not all students that attend Enfield Schools are from Enfield. Remember Sheff vs Oneill, well we have students from Hartford and Bloomfield that attend our schools. The whole issue was the graduation was held in a church not just some building in another town. So calling me ignorant is hardly the case here. I experienced the heat, bugs and thunderstomrs during the 2 graduations. Notices went out to us telling us if you can't handle the conditions stay home. Well if you can't handle a little faith in your life then go to a country that was not founded on Christian principals. Dont go Christmas Shopping or accept that Holiday bonus from your employer. Throw all that IN GOD WE TRUST money down the toilet and God bless you!!! By the way I am very educated
Laurie July 22, 2012 at 05:31 AM
I disagree with the decision to settle with the ACLU. It should of been at the location in Bloomfield this year and for years to follow. I have 3 children who will be graduating from Enfield and 2 of them will be graduating when the High Schools are combined. Where are they going to hold the graduation then?????? I HOPE it will NOT be on the Enfield High grounds!!!! If it gets very hot like it was this year, how are they going to "speed up" the ceremony???? What if there is a thunderstorm?? Where are all of these people going to go??? Relatives pay for AIRLINE tickets to see their grandchildren graduate and if it storms, they get the "boot".... "So sorry, you cannot see your granddaughter/grandson graduate because the ceremony has been moved inside of the facility. Oh yeah, did I mention that only 1 parent also because our facility can only hold 1 member of a students family because the ceremony is inside and we only have so much room...." Personally, I don't care if my kids graduate in a church or not, as long as it it somewhere where it can hold 3000 plus people and indoors to shield everyone from the heat/rain. SAFETY should be everyone's #1 concern, not complaining about if they are going to graduate in a church where no church services are in service @ that time.
Joe Saxton July 22, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Meeting video is on the towns website. July 18th http://www.enfield-ct.gov/content/91/109/13102/20588.aspx
Marty Salvatore July 22, 2012 at 07:59 PM
This article clearly reveals that the decision to move the graduation to Bloomfield was about nothing other than POLITICS. We have ideological blow hards that use their positions on the BOE to advance their own political agendas. "I fought the EVIL ACLU! Vote for ME!" This coming from the same guy who started his political career by causing a stink over what movie the library shows. So it's okay for a public school to have a ceremony at a CHURCH, but not okay for a library to show a film you disagree with? So we should be FREE to choose where to hold graduation, but not FREE to watch a movie at the library? This guy is a joke who puts his own personal gain above the job the voters hired him to do.
Marty Salvatore July 22, 2012 at 08:01 PM
What if it was a mosque? I bet you'd be singing a different tune then, lady.
Marty Salvatore July 22, 2012 at 08:12 PM
So why does a Jewish family have to enter a Christian church in order to see their kid graduate? Would YOU feel comfortable going to a mosque in order to watch your kid graduate? There are plenty of "safe" places to hold a graduation that don't also double as places of worship.
Joe Saxton July 22, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Amen
Olive3 July 23, 2012 at 12:12 PM
My thoughts again are to use the Town Green and close off No. Main St. from traffic like during the 4th. Use big tents (as does Asnuntuck for their grad ceremonies), and allow the graduates to be seen by all towns people to be proud!!! The town hall building would be available for anyone who needs bathroom facilities or to come in out of the heat for a while. Plenty of room, rain or shine.
Laurie July 23, 2012 at 06:57 PM
@ Marty. I would have absolutely NO problen with any one of my children graduating in a Mosque. Like I had said before, as long as there is a building big enough to hold the graduating class and their families(Church or not). I don't care where it is as long as it is in a building. Safety should be the number 1 priority, not a minority. By the way, I am Catholic, got married in a Catholic Church, and go to Church. I also DO NOT discriminate ANYONE because of their race, color, sexual orientation, or religious views. It is ONLY a Church. What is a Church?? A Church is ONLY a building. It has walls and seats..... Just like any other building.... Does a priest preform the graduation?? NO they don't conduct it. Enfield doesn't have a building big enough to hold that many people, but I'd rather the graduation be held in CT so the revenue stays in Ct, not Mass
Spoof July 23, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Next chance you get, ask your parish priest to explain the importance of the building that is "only" a church. Try to understand the significance of the design of a church, regardless of denomination. Cathedrals, basilicas, synagogues, mosques, temples... each and every one is designed with significance to the patrons of that building. To the comment "It has walls and seats..... Just like any other building..." you should keep in mind that outhouses have walls and seats. Do you feel comfortable attending a graduation in an outhouse?
Marty Salvatore July 24, 2012 at 02:57 AM
If you are a Catholic (like myself, by the way) then you should know that the Tabernacle is the where Christ resides. It's called the belief of transubstantiation. You know, the whole body and blood thing. So, we are SUPPOSED to believe that a church is FAR more than "ONLY a building." It is (NOT metaphorically speaking) the House of God. You are cheapening your own faith to prove a political point with your argument. And it actually kind of offends MY faith, too. And how exactly are school grounds "unsafe?" You mean to tell me we send our children, en mass, to dangerous facilities? EVERY DAY?!
Laurie July 24, 2012 at 07:16 AM
Spoof and Marty, the both of u are taking what I said WAY out of context. If you had read what I written before, I could care less if my kids graduate in a church, just some sort of building to shield everyone from the heat and rain and enough seating for everyone. That is my point. I understand both sides of this discussion, believe me I do. But why can't they have the graduation at another bldg???? And please don't say it's funding because the parents pay for tickets so the expense is paid for........ plus some in their pocket.
Marty Salvatore July 24, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Are you punking me, here? I feel I'm being punked... No one is saying they can't use another BUILDING! Just not one that is ALSO a place of worship. There are PLENTY of facilities out there that would be appropriate. The argument has NOTHING to do with funding or an irrational fear of the outdoors. It has to do with forcing people to enter a RELIGIOUS place of worship in order to watch their child graduate from a PUBLIC high school. You made the argument that "a building is a building" but YOUR OWN FAITH tells you that a church is NOT just another building. I didn't take anything you said out of context.
Spiff July 24, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Mr. Fealy is absolutely 100% correct that the public has the right to participate in town issues and be privy to what elected officials are doing!
Joe Saxton July 24, 2012 at 04:40 PM
There are situations for executive session. Maybe the guidelines for this procedure should be tightened. The public has a right to know what's being discussed is sensitive. Litigation is often sensitive enough for this procedure as this case was.
Marty Salvatore July 24, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I totally agree with that sentiment. However, it is hard to see this letter as anything other than ANOTHER attention-mongering move by a cynical political hack. This guy is the Michelle Bachmann of Enfield politics.
Susan September 27, 2012 at 10:23 AM
When you start a battle you ar going to lose it is better to cut your losses. This was one that we were NEVER going to win! I think it was a personal agenda and I think the Republican town commitee should be asked to help pay!

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