Over the last 3 years parents and taxpayers from the towns of Bethany, Orange & Woodbridge have been battling the Superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Byars and Board of Education at Amity Region 5 High School located in Woodbridge, CT. As children were coming home with genderbread worksheets and being told they are “white privileged” in Spartan seminars (the Spartan is our mascot), it became obvious to parents they needed to look further into the curriculum and what was being taught there. What they learned about the promotion of DEI and the indoctrination of “oppressors vs. the oppressed” was alarming. The prescribed path to expose and challenge in the district is public comment at the monthly Board of Education meeting, where speakers are given only 3 minute each to speak about their concerns, then shut down once the 3-minutes expire. Constructive, bidirectional communication was non-existent as parents/taxpayers flooded the email boxes of BOE members. Paul Davis, president of the Board of Education, publicly and during meetings repeatedly stated there is no Critical Race Theory/DEI training being taught at the school. However, a 640-page FOIA returned to a parent/taxpayer clearly stated otherwise.
The students at Amity are being asked about their sexual orientation in a day where sexual harassment suits still exist. They are being asked by a Geometry teacher on a back-to-school questionnaire their preferred pronoun. A librarian not only has on display but is recommending books to students that the Department of Justice would recognize as clearly illegal because they contain pornographic material. These progressive agenda efforts rob Amity students of the necessary focus on academics and present a threat to their future as they are drawn into one-side, highly questionable view of their peers, our nation and the world around them.
The Superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Byars, in 2021-2022 school year violated 5 school policies by allowing an anti-racism protest to go on within the school itself What was supposed to be a silent protest turned into something which created an unsafe environment for all children attending school that day. To date, Dr. Byars has not suffered one consequence for her behavior and poor judgement. The truth is the school is receiving funding to push this agenda on children at the most informative years of their lives. Which brings up the subject of the Amity School Budget.
Residents of the Member Towns are now fully aware that Amity continues to run unreasonable surpluses. This current year is no exception. Eight months into the operating year, February 2023 data, the stated surplus is $1,379,237. To that we must add $111,758 re-allocated this month to OPEB expense (Other Postemployment Benefits). Not only was this $111,758 not in the budget that was passed but it was a “cut” made after voters rejected initial budget requests last spring. Now it’s back. Fully funded once again.
Then, you add to the surplus the historically over-budgeted Medical & Dental account, now projected to underrun by $400,000. The Bottom-Line: another fiscal year where the surplus is now expected to be approximately $2,000,000. And it could be higher.
The ABOE voted to approve a 2.25% budget increase which would increase spending $1,200,000. Therefore, combining the $2,000,000 surplus within the current FY 22-23 budget with the $1,200,000 increase for FY 23-24 budget means that Amity is requesting taxpayers from the Three Members Towns to support an Amity budget that has a $3,200,000 increase in spending.
In summary, the request to support a 2.25% budget asks taxpayers in the Three Member Towns to support $3,200,000 in spending which represents a 5.99% spending increase from one year to the next.
More importantly, there has been a shift in policy at Amity regarding these Surpluses. In the past, Amity returned ~ 80% of the surplus money to the Member Towns. So, while there was a major concern over budgeting that produced large surpluses, taxpayers realized that surplus money would be returned to the Towns for other uses such as roads or K-6 needs. Now, ALL surplus money is being retained at Amity and not being directly returned to the Towns.
The Orange Board of Finance UNANIMOUSLY – both Democrats, Independents, & Republicans -- supported up to a 0.46% increase for Amity’s FY 23-24 budget, noting that a more modest increase, or in fact a ZERO increase, would not hurt Amity at all. As seen in the comparison in the graphic, the OBOF position has been FAR more accurate – compared to Actual Spending -- than ABOE approved budgets. Moreover, even the OBOF’s positions have been far HIGHER than the ACTUAL SPEND needed at Amity in each of the past 4 years.
Superintendent, Dr. Byars, falsely stated if the budget did not pass there would be cuts to sports and late buses. She continues to ask for more money despite the rapid decline of enrollment at Amity High School. Bottom line is the school could have run exactly as is with what was presented from the BOF. This administration has gone rogue, is receiving money to warp the minds of children and needs to be stopped.
Michele Tenney is a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutritionist & Wellness Coach with over 16 years of experience. She is a member of the Orange Board of Health and is an active member in her community. She is a wife and mother of three spectacular sons and a grandmother of 2 (+ 1 due in September)