Since then, the town has grown considerably. The majority of those small houses have been rebuilt as large two-story houses with attics, basements and garages. The desirability of the town has soared and the housing prices have gone up accordingly, with only three dozen homes (including condos) currently listed on Yahoo's real estate site for less than one million dollars (and 162 properties listed between $1 million and $7 million). Granted, some of that inflation is due to the overall real estate bubble of recent years, but it is indicative of how much the town has changed.
I was thinking about the transformation I've witnessed over the decades and wondered what caused it (and, of course, how we might implement something similar in Waterbury). One important contributing factor was the quality of the schools. The real estate market became increasingly competitive because there were so many parents trying to get their kids into the schools. If you visit www.greatschools.org, you'll see that the highest-ranking Manhattan Beach public schools are rated 10 out of 10 points, whereas the Waterbury public schools range between 1 and 5 (very low scores), with Rotella getting the only 6 and Kaynor Tech the only 7. (On a side note, this answers some questions I've heard from people wondering why Kaynor Tech is so popular and why so many of its students are college-bound, rather than going straight into the work force).
This is by no means a comprehensive or even scientific analysis, but I think this is definitely something that does make a difference in a town's prosperity, not only because having the best schools will make Waterbury more desirable, but because better schools will give Waterbury's students better educations, and we will all benefit from that.
Alan Stein, a professor at UConn-Waterbury, wrote an excellent letter to the editor that appeared in yesterday's Rep-Am newspaper. The focus of his letter was an argument in favor of electing aldermen by district (which I strongly support), but he also wrote a very good observation about the Board of Education:
Some may question whether it's even appropriate for a Board of Education to be an elected body.
The political nature of that board is probably partly responsible for the recent attempt of some of its members to force school principals to ignore the Constitution.
I think that our Board of Education is fundamentally flawed, and I think that Prof. Stein is probably correct in assigning part of the blame to its political nature. Given the less than wonderful ratings of our schools (not just from the Great Schools website), the sole focus of the Board of Education should be searching for ways to make the schools better and implementing those improvements. Instead the Board seems to spend its time squabbling and grandstanding over Christmas parties vs. Winter Celebrations, the Duggan School construction project, and problems with the management of the school buses.
Our schools are some of the lowest-rated in the country. Let's make them the highest-rated.