Senator Welch: Bristol TEC has changed people’s lives for the better [Bristol Press]

December 15, 2011

Article as it appeared in the Bristol Press on December 14, 2011

Foundation’s small gift helps Bristol TEC in big way

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 10:43 PM EST
By Diane Church
Staff Writer

BRISTOL — The donation Wednesday of a $300 electronic scanner to Bristol Technical Education Center may appear to be a fairly inconsequential matter.

But in these days of bare-bone budgets, educators are thankful for any contribution they receive, and are increasingly dependent on donations and grants to secure the equipment they need.

The scanner was just one of the many gifts the school has received over the years from foundations and manufacturing companies. Teachers say the contributions are essential to training students for increasingly high-tech workplaces.

“We need these things to build the program up,” said Ben Russell, head of the school’s Department of Manufacturing. “Considering the small budget I get from the state, these gifts are a major lifeline.”

The scanner was provided by the Bill and Jean Johnson Technical Education Fund at the Main Street Community Foundation. The fund was founded in 2005 and recently was designated by the family to only assist Bristol TEC. The Johnsons lived in Bristol and now reside in Naples, Fla., but their son Neil Johnson is still in town and visited the school Wednesday.

“My father moved here in the early 1950s and got a job at (manufacturer) Associated Spring,” he said. “Later he started his own company. He was always passionate about preserving the technical aspects of education.”

Although the 63-year-old Johnson did not attend a technical school, his son, Steve Johnson, attended Bristol TEC for its culinary program.

Other grants provided by the fund include tools for students in need, graphing calculators, supplies to build an award-winning race car, and a reversible mobile white board and easel. More than $4,000 has been awarded to the school so far.

Susan Sadecki, president and CEO of the Main Street Community Foundation, said funds in a person’s or family’s name can be started with a minimum of $10,000.

“The money is invested and grants come from spendable income,” she said. “The principle is always intact. The plan is for the fund to be there in perpetuity.”

Members of the New England Spring and Metalstamping Association also support Bristol TEC and various initiatives. Russell said he recently received items from Ultimate Wireforms and Tollman Spring, both based in Bristol.

Students will use the scanner donated Wednesday to create portfolios of their work.

“I can use this to save recipes and menus,” said Jenna Miller, a student in the school’s culinary arts program. “I create a lot of my own recipes. I can scan pictures in, too.”

Meanwhile, a Technical High School System Task Force has been created to consider a proposal from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to transfer control of the technical schools from the state to the local boards of education. But state Sen. Jason Welch is arguing against it.

“I have heard multiple stories from area residents and students who have told me how Bristol TEC has changed their lives for the better,” he said in a prepared statement. “Connecticut technical schools like Bristol TEC are successful because they are part of a school system, not a random collection of local schools. Local schools boards do not have the expertise to run these schools, potentially undermining state efforts to train students in the skilled trades.”

Members of the task force are holding a series of public forums throughout the state to gather feedback on the governor’s proposal. It will report back to him in the new year.