Selectmen meet with Gilbert students
WINSTED — The Board of Selectmen met with students of The Gilbert School at the school's library on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
Because the full membership of the board was present, it was an official public meeting, and the agenda, where no official actions were taken, was properly noticed at Town Hall.
Seventy students from different grades attended the meeting and asked the selectmen questions concerning how the town operates and functions.
Social studies, history and world languages teacher Donald Goetz was one of the teachers with a class at the event.
"All politics are local," Goetz said. "[Former Speaker of the House] Tip O'Neil said that. Our system of government in New England will not survive without the numerous people who volunteer their time. It's all due to civic involvement, which is a hallmark to a democracy. The students that I have this year are all in tune with the election process — More so than in past years and that has made them interested in local government and all of our issues. They have some issues that they would like to bring up at this meeting."
"I think it is really important to talk to the students, and children of high school age, about the importance of giving back to your community," Selectman Melissa Bird said before the meeting. "If you can branch out to local government, you can make an impact and eventually make an impact on a global scale."
"When these students started out they didn't even know what our system of government was," Goetz said. "They don't deal with it, and they are just becoming aware of this stuff."
At the beginning of the meeting, the members of the board introduced themselves to the audience of students and spoke about why they became involved in town politics.
Members of the board also encouraged students to become involved in local politics.
"I'm here to tell every one of you that you are the future, not only of this country, but also this town," Selectman Glenn Albanesius said. "We need you to stay and help Winchester survive. Winsted politics has had its ups and downs, but I think we are on a strong path right now."
"The hope about this meeting is not so much you asking us a lot of questions about what it is that we are doing, but to tell us what you think of the future of Winsted," Mayor Candy Perez said. "If there is an issue in town, what do you think the solutions are? Sometimes we have solutions that don't work, but sometimes we have solutions that do. I hope today will be a dialogue with you about the issues in Winsted."
The first question posed by the student concerned Hinsdale School, why students are being "passed around" from school building to school building and what the future of the building would be.
"We're using the same school [buildings] that we've used years ago when I was going to school," Selectman Todd Arcelaschi said. "Through the years there hasn't been a lot of maintenance done on some of the buildings, which has caused some issues. We tried to put the kids in a school that is the healthiest for them and in the best condition. People have varied opinions on that."
Arcelaschi said the town is still trying to determine what will happen to the school building.
When the selectmen asked students what should be done with the building, a student in the audience suggested that the building becomes "a public pool, because we don't have any in town."
At another point in the meeting, social studies and history teacher Wendy Sultaire spoke about an experience she had in a class.
"I asked my class yesterday 'How many of you plan on staying in Winsted?'" Sultaire said. "Did anyone raise their hand? The question is: What would have to change in Winsted that would make you want to live here for the rest of your life?"
One student said that many students are saying that they want to leave the town right after they graduate, while another student said that there were not enough activities in Winsted.
Mayor Perez deferred to Bird, who lived in several different places with her family before she moved to Winsted.
"My family moved here from England in 2008," Bird said. "I have lived in other places, including New York, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. When we came back from England, we were looking for a place to raise our family. We fell in love with Winsted. I did grow up in Torrington and I went to the University of Connecticut, so obviously I was well aware of the area. When you get away and you come back, it's so all American. It's a perfect place for an international program because it's a small, idyllic place. We fell in love with everything in this town."
Another part of the meeting included a discussion on attracting families and businesses to town.
"In this town there is greenery and the opportunity for great schooling," Selectman Jack Bourque told the audience. "There's the opportunity for doing great things that you cannot do in the city. If we market that in a very special way, this is where we need some help from you and your families. What makes us special? I have always said that we are two hours away from New York City, Boston, good skiing and one hour from the ocean. What better place can we possibly be than to have that location develop into a community to attract businesses? You, as young adults, make this place special for us. Help us to continue to grow that kind of community that will attract new businesses and families, which will continue to help this community grow."