Now is the Smart Option
for Guilford CT Taxpayers by William G. Quirk, Ph.D.
Links to Sections of this
Building for the Past, Not the Future
The conceptual design of the proposed new GHS facility
assumes that education in the future will be very similar to education in
the past. The classroom size decisions have been based on State guidelines
that were last revised in 1997. But a large number of such classrooms
won’t make much sense when interactive tutorial software becomes the
dominant method for student learning. We will still want students to
gather in buildings for some academic activities,
social reasons, team sports, and group activities in music, art, and
theater. But students in the future won't
be limited by today's school-based methods for teaching academic content.
They'll be able to learn when they want, where they want, and at their own
pace. They won’t need to meet in classrooms, and they won’t need large
lockers for today’s large textbooks. Such textbooks will eventually be
Information technology will make the proposed new
GHS facility obsolete just a few years after it is built. The power
and low cost of interactive tutorial software will greatly reduce the need
for both teacher-centered direct instruction and student-centered
collaborative learning. It will happen first in home schools and charter
schools. And the word will spread. Public school parents will demand
interactive tutorial learning for their children. They will start using it at
home and public schools will be forced to adapt. The education establish
will resist in the most intense way, because they will see this as a threat to
jobs, but it's not a threat for good teachers. They will still be needed,
but the way they will teach will be very different, and their pay,
benefits, and job satisfaction will be much better than today. The power
of interactive tutorial software will go well beyond the needs of school age
children. It will be the educational method of choice for the unemployed,
veterans returning from war, and anyone who wants to learn any subject
A New GHS Will Cost at Least 107.8 Million
DollarsEmails from Sheila Villano,
Guilford's Finance Director, state that the cost of bonding over 30 years
will be $43.4 million. This assumes that Connecticut taxpayers will
provide a $25.6 million school construction grant, allowing the principal for
the Guilford bond to be $64.4 million, not the full $90 million cost of
construction. So if the State grant is $25.6 million, the 30-year
cost for Guilford taxpayers will be $107.8 million. This has been
acknowledged in an email from Matt Hoey, Chairman of the Guilford Board of
But the cost may be higher. The State of
Connecticut school construction grant may be less than $25.6 million, and the
bond principal would then be higher than $64.4 million. The June 14th
referendum authorizes the principal to be any amount up the full $90
million cost of construction. If X = the amount of the State grant,
then the 30-year bond principal is $90 million - X. In the worst
case, X= 0 and the bond interest would be $65 million for the $90
million bond principal. The total cost to Guilford taxpayers would
then be $155 million. But even this isn't certain. Sheila
Villano has assumed that a 4% bond interest rate will be available when bonding
occurs in 2015 or later. Not to worry about inflation. And we
don't actually know the cost of construction, because Guilford voters
didn't authorize the $400 thousand requested last June for a detailed design of
a new GHS facility.
9, 2011 Update: Good
News! According to Sheila Villano, it's $148 million, not $155
On page 18 of the June 9th Guilford Courier, the reporter
wrote: "Villano noted that Quirk might have used a higher percentage
interest rate to reach the $155 million estimate. After the meeting,
calculating on a four percent interest rate, she reached a total of $148
million, should the town not receive reimbursement."
conventional way to find the total 30-year interest for a $90 million
principal is to use a mortgage calculation program to find the total
30-year interest for a $90 thousand loan at 4%. Then multiply by 1,000. The
result here is $64,682,560 or approximately $65 million. How did Ms.
Villano get $58 million? She has
assumed an amortization model that retires principal at a faster
rate than the conventional model.
The June 9th
Guilford Courier quote from Ms. Villano is the first public
acknowledgment of the cost of bonding over 30 years. In
the New Haven Register on June 13th she gave the first public acknowledgment
that the minimal cost of New Construction will be 107.8 million
dollars. On June 9th she said the maximum possible cost will be 148
Waiting Doesn't Mean Doing Nothing About Current
ProblemsWe will need to wait until
there's an emerging consensus that building traditional classrooms no longer
makes sense. In the meantime we need to invest in the current
facility. Heath, safety, and security concerns should have been eliminated
long ago. Let's look to the wise investments at Adams for a guide.
Now Michael Ayles describes
Adams as “sturdy,” “well constructed,“ and “ worth preserving.“ Upgrades
at Adams included roof replacement, new windows, ventilation, HVAC upgrades,
drainage, replacement of electrical systems, new lockers, and lavatory
a 2002 letter to me, Bill Bloss wrote
"I am convinced that the Adams
building simply cannot continue to be used as a school with anything
approaching the number of students who are there now, much less the number who
are likely to attend as a result of increases in enrollment." [See item 5 in my reply
to that letter].
Mr. Bloss predicted that the
enrollment at Adams could be 780 in 2011. It's now 570. Back in
2002 Mr. Bloss said Adams couldn't be saved. Now he says Adams is the
best building we own. He was wrong about Adams. Why should we believe that
he's right about GHS now? Let's not trust his judgment and build for the
past. Let's intelligently invest in the current facility and wait to
see what the revolution in educational
technology reveals we will need in the future GHS.
What is Interactive
Tutorial Software?2014 Update: See Math Education Game-Changer: Khan Academy Math
This is a topic for a
book. The key idea is a question/answer dialogue, where the software asks
the questions and the student answers. A typical learning session would
cover one topic, such as the concept of equivalent fractions. When
the student answers a question, the software responds with another question, but
this next question depends on how the student answered the last question.
If the student answers rapidly, with right answer after right answer, the
software can shift to more advanced questions, leading such an
excellent student to a richer understanding of the topic, potentially well
beyond what is possible in today's group learning environment. On the
other hand, if the student selects too many wrong answers, the software
will attempt to diagnose the problem, perhaps leading the student back to
questions from an earlier topic. If the student gets lost or confused, he
pushes the HELP key. The software may also prompt the student to
press HELP. Pressing HELP opens a connection to a live, expert
teacher. Such a teacher can be anywhere in the world. This teacher
will be able to see the Q/A sequence that led to the request for HELP, and this
teacher will be able to see the student's computer screen and take control of
this screen, if that makes sense. The teacher will then engage the
student in a short Q/A dialogue. This may be with text messages, but
voice is also possible. This teacher/student Q/A dialogue is captured to
be used in later analysis. Why did the student need HELP? How can
we modify the software so that the request for HELP is less likely in the
The Future GHS: A Meeting Center for Music,
Art, Theater, and Team SportsFor a few more
years, the primary purpose of student activity in the high school facility will
continue to be knowledge acquisition in the major academic knowledge
domains, such as English, math, science, and history. At the May 31, 2011
Guilford Town Meeting, most speakers talked about the importance of programs in
music, art, and theater. No one mentioned academics. This
perfectly points to the natural "activity center" for future Guilford high
school age students. Eventually, more and more students won't need
to meet in classes for academic reasons, so the need for large classrooms
will gradually decrease. Students will continue to want to meet for some
academic activities, social reasons, team sports, and group activities in
music, art, and theater.
Let's not rush to build for the past.
Let's live for a while with the current facility, and plan for
something much more exciting. Guilford could actually lead the nation
with such wise thinking. Once a large amount of traditional academic
classroom space is no longer needed, ample space for music, art,
theater, and team sports will be provided without complaint from
taxpayers, because community support for such activities will become the primary
purpose of the new GHS. Without the need for so many large classrooms,
the overall size the the future GHS can be smaller, and smaller
means less expense for Guilford taxpayers. They will smile. But if
the new facility plan passes on June 14, the space for non-academic
activities won't be as currently desired, and it won't be as much as will be
possible in a few more years. If we build now, too much space will be
necessarily devoted to traditional classrooms and other academic space. At
205,000 square feet, the proposed new GHS is already 6,450 square feet
larger than desired by the State of Connecticut.
The Future GHS: A Training Center for Blue Collar
JobsOur society has elevated the
importance of a college education and not adequately supported the
educational needs of so-called "blue collar workers." Blue
collar jobs include automotive technician, carpenter, electrician, HVAC
technician, aviation mechanic, plumber, painter, pipefitter, welder, and other
skilled trades. The "blue collar" designation has the ring of disrespect,
and this is unfortunate. Many with advanced academic degrees would be
ill-suited to a skilled trade. Mastery of most trades requires aptitude,
intelligence, attention to detail, and endless hours of hands-on practice.
We desperately need such people, and we should do our best to support
their educational needs.
For some of these jobs, state-of-the-art tools
and equipment rapidly change. It might make sense to join forces with
surrounding towns and provide a regional training center. But if Guilford
takes the initiative, such a regional training center could be connected to GHS,
and students from other towns would pay tuition to attend.
We Don't Need to Wait Until the Classroom-based Academic Era is
OverThe future GHS could evolve as an
extension of the current facility. For example, new space for music, art,
theater, and team sports could be connected to the current
two gyms. Taxpayers will be pleased if these gyms can be saved.
Such a gradual transition could begin as the classroom-based era winds
down. Once classrooms are no longer needed for traditional academic
reasons, they can be torn down or modified for the needs that we don't currently
visit was not required by the State of Connecticut. It was requested by
the BOE. The last NEASC visit for the Hand High School in Madison was
carried out in 2001. The NEASC "team" consisted of teachers and school
administrators, 13 from Connecticut and 2 from Massachusetts. In this 82
the physical plant is mentioned in 2 sentences on page 8 and in a long
paragraph, beginning at the bottom of page 73.
not carry out an analysis of the GHS physical plant. They reported back
what they were told by GHS faculty and staff. For example, on page 74 they
report: "Despite a May 2008 indoor air quality report that returned 'minimal
amounts of identifiable fungi,' numerous faculty members express [sic] concerns
regarding temperature, mold, air flow, and air quality."
been told that the science wing was rapidly built in a less than careful way,
because these science classrooms were "required" to satisfy the NEASC.
But the NEASC is an independent for-profit organization
and can't require anything. If you want their blessing, you can
pay for it, but participation is voluntary.
the Cost of the Baseline Option to the Cost of New ConstructionBOE
member, Dr. Alan Meyers, recently asked us to compare two options: Baseline vs.
New Construction. Baseline refers to maintenance of the current GHS
facility for 30 years. For New Construction he included $2.5 million for
maintenance over 30 years. According
to Dr. Meyers, the total cost for Baseline will be $67 million,
while the total cost for New Construction will be a little
less, $66. 5 million. Thinking fuzzy math? Dr. Meyers failed to
include the Guilford Finance Director‘s recent recognition of at least $43.4
million for New Construction 30-year bond interest. And do you believe $67
million for 30 years maintenance of the current facility? Do you believe
only $2.5 million for 30 years maintenance of a new facility? That's just $83 thousand a year for a 205 thousand
square foot building. Tell that to
Middletown taxpayers. They’re now living with a less than perfect new high
school. Just the cost of construction for them was well over $100 million!
There's a slide presentation at the end of the GHS tour.
Slide 29 compares "Average Annual Tax" for Baseline vs. New
Construction: $339.93 for Baseline vs. $368.00 for New Construction.
Slide 42 gives Dr. Meyers numbers: $67 million for Baseline vs. $66.5
million for New Construction. But slide 42 says this is for 20 years, not
the 30 years stated by Dr. Meyers. Now Dr. Meyers is most likely correct
here, but notice the carelessness about details. Also notice the
inconsistency. For slide 29, Baseline is approximately 92 percent of New
Construction. For slide 42, Baseline is approximately 101 percent of New
Construction. Note that if we compare the claimed $67 million for Baseline
to [the acknowledged] $107.8 million for New Construction, Baseline is
approximately 62 percent of New Construction.
Perhaps the prime movers
here have been influenced by the fuzzy math programs currently being used
in Guilford public schools. Programs such as Everyday Math are best
described as courses in math appreciation. Students don't master standard
pencil-and-paper arithmetic, and without such mastery, they can't master
algebra. And algebra is the gateway to higher math. Don't be fooled
by today's high-tech algebra programs. Students need to learn traditional
algebra. For more click on The Key
Fallacy Behind Fuzzy Math.
GCTV Pulling the Conversation with Bill Quirk VideoA
Conversation with Bill Quirk
originally appeared on GCTV, but was prematurely pulled at noon on
D-Day, June 6th. In an email, the GCTV Operations Manager wrote that the
interview was scheduled to air three times after noon on June 6th, but it
was pulled at noon on that date. Why
this was done has not been explained. The interview had aired in the 1, 5,
& 9 AM/PM slot and that slot was available going foward through June
10th, but a "rule" prevented a Conversation with Bill Quirk
from continuing in that slot.
Subsequently, Bridge for
Youth was inserted to run at 1, 5, & 9 AM/PM.
Since June 6th, only vote
Yes GHS videos have aired on GCTV. But Guilford taxpayer, Nils Dailey, stepped in and
posted the complete interview at his blog.
With a June 9th letter in the
Guilford Courier and a June 10th letter in the Shore Line Times, it's clear that
GCTV Board Member, Joe Goldberg, is pulling for a Yes vote on June 14th.
But it's disappointing that Joe and his fellow GCTV Board members appear
to feel no responsibility to pull in No vote voices, so that Guilford taxpayers
might have a more balanced view before the June 14th vote.
June 9, 2011 Update: Good
News! The interview is back on GCTV. It
was selected for a "second run" and is currently scheduled to be aired at 2
& 8 AM/PM, from now though the end of the day on June 13th. Thank you
to those who decided to do this.
June 13, 2011 Update: Bad
News! The interview was scheduled to run at 2 PM and 8 PM today, the
day before the referendum. But it was pulled and no explanation has been
About Civil BehaviorI
want to the acknowledge the assistance provided by Matt Hoey, Michael Ayles, and Whit Iglehart.
Although we disagree, they have treated me decently and always responded
quickly to my email questions. Society functions best when people behave
like this. Thank you gentlemen!
Bill Quirk is a Guilford CT
taxpayer. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and holds a Ph.D. in
Mathematics from The New Mexico State University. Over a span of 8 years, he
taught 26 different courses in math and computer science at Penn State, Northern
Illinois University, and Jacksonville University.
For a 15
year period, beginning in 1981, Bill developed and presented courses dealing
with the design of interactive software. His company, William G. Quirk
Seminars, specialized in software usability and served hundreds of
organizations, including AT&T, Bank of America, FDIC, Federal Reserve
Board, General Electric, General Foods, Harvard Business School,
Hewlett-Packard, Hughes Aircraft, IBM, MIT, Mobil Oil, NASA, NIH, Texas
Instruments, The Travelers, and The Executive Office of the President of
the United States.
in 1996, Bill embarked on a public service endeavor to help parents besieged
with new "math" programs. He is a major contributor to Mathematically
Correct and a national advisor to NYC