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BOE Discusses Coach Training, School Closure

The Board of Education discussed training for coaches and heard the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee findings.

In addition to , Newtown's Board of Education heard updates regarding the training of coaches at the high school and the possibility of closing a school, among other issues.

Bullying at NHS

Tuesday's meeting at the began with a follow up on an issue raised by several parents at the Feb. 28 . Parents described an atmosphere of bullying and cruel behavior exhibited by NHS coaches.

Chairman Debbie Leidlein asked Superintendent Janet Robinson what kind of training paid and volunteer coaches receive.

"All coaches, paind and unpaid, have to go through training," said Robinson, noting that while state certification training does not need to be refreshed each year, the newly mandated Safe School Climate training does require annual renewal.

Leidlein asked if the fall roster of coaches will have been trained before school starts in August.

"Training may not take place until several weeks into the semester," said Robinson.

The board requested a list of NHS coaches that have received the Safe School Climate training and for that list to be updated as training seminars are completed.

Scheduling at RIS

Leidlein also brought up the issue of scheduling at the .

"This has been an issue that's come up for almost two years now," said Leidlein, who suggested the BOE set up an ad-hoc committee to look into the scheduling at RIS.

Leidlein asked members Laura Roche, John Vouros and potentially Keith Alexander to be part of that committee, whose tasks would include looking at additional programs, particularly the feasability of a foreign language program.

"What would be the task of the existing scheduling committee?" asked Robinson, referring to an already established group at RIS.

The ad-hoc committee would work with the RIS group as a "blended committee," said Leidlein. They would collect data and report to the board on the possibility of additional programming at RIS.

Newtown Budget Guide

After receiving a request at its Feb. 22 meeting for a spot on the March 6 agenda, the board decided not to add the , which is a document prepared by a group of Newtown parents.

Leidlein spoke with the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and legal counsel, both of which advised against having the privately compiled document on the agenda.

However, member Bill Hart acknowledged the hard work the group invested into the seven-month project.

"They took about as good a non-political look as they could," said Hart, "and it's an excellent piece of work."

Member Keith Alexander clarified that the group is free to disseminate the document themselves by handing it out at meetings or sharing the website link through their own efforts. However, neither the link nor the document may be distributed using the BOE resources, said Leidlein.

Ad Hoc Facilities Committee

Board member Richard Gaines presented the board with a slideshow (see attached) of the Ad Hoc Facilities Subcommittee's findings.

In 2009, an enrollment study was commissioned based on the economy and three years of decline in district enrollment, explained Gaines. This study, known as the , spurred the committee's exploration of closing a school if enrollment continues to decrease.

Gaines said the committee looked at a variety of scenarios, including:

  • PK - 4th grade in elementary schools with either Half-Day Kindergarten (HDK) or Full-Day K (FDK).
  • PK - 5th grade in elementary (HDK/FDK) with 6th - 8th grades at NMS or RIS.
  • PK - 6th grade in elementary schools with 7th - 8th grades moved to Reed Intermediate.
  • PK - 5th grade in elementary with 6th - 7th grade at RIS and 8th grade at NHS.

The committee cautioned that closing a school would impact several programs. For example, moving the fifth grade to the elementary schools would disrupt the music program, which begins for most students in fifth grade. Also, any school that closed would need to maintain its gymnasium and restroom facilities so the town's sports' programs could still use those facilities, said Gaines.

After weighing the costs and savings of shutting down and modifying some schools, the committee had the following recommendations:

  • The Board of Education should commission an enrollment study in 2013, and when the budgeted student enrollment is projected to be 1,500 or less for the PK-4th grade group (which would be in 2015 according to the Chung Report), the Board of Education should begin the process of closing a school.
  • If it becomes necessary to close a school, Reed Intermediate School should be closed because the closure would yield significant savings (estimated $3 million) and the school can be reopened easily because of its ADA compliance.

Other issues that the board discussed included creating a central email that would reach all BOE members, a donation of technology equipment to the NICE program, enrollment reports from the elementary school principals, and a progress report for the development of curricula. The minutes will be available on the BOE website.

Christine Sekelsky Hermes March 09, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Um, Bruce, if you go on the school district website you would be able to ask Debbie via email and perhaps she can answer your question a bit faster, as she may not check the patch very often! Then maybe you would also be able to encourage her to respond on the patch. I just thought it would be easier than to complain on here.
Christine Sekelsky Hermes March 09, 2012 at 08:07 PM
On another subject, where was the Patch for the O/O Labor Meeting?
Mary Ann Jacob March 09, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Bruce, I have to resubmit my comment because I can't spell! I am baffled by your accusations....I agreed with your observations about the PTA, commented that it's good to see more people get involved and suggested that with Debbie's busy schedule maybe she hadn't had time to respond. I personally think the public record should suffice, and didn't like your comments about the website, but as you say, we're all entitled to our opinion! Where's the personal attack?
Debbie Leidlein March 09, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Bruce, the area of concern has to do with equal access. The basic concept is if you allow outside groups to have access to/post items on your website, then you have to allow others. That said, you can limit access to certain topics (the BOE budget) but then you can’t really pick and choose whose material you post and whose you don’t, at least not without running the risk of a lawsuit. The problem is it becomes a slippery slope. Where do you draw the line? Therefore, we will not use any tax payer dollars to disseminate this information. PTAs, as independent organizations, may do as they wish with their own funds; however, no taxpayer funds will be used. I have commended this group for their hard work and the fact that they consistently advocate for education in this town. I have also encouraged them to seek other avenues to disseminate their work. I hope this clears it up.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 13, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Debbie thanks for your explanation it was helpful. I can see the issue of access, and the slope. I do believe however that many organizations outside of the Newtown Government zone are on the BOE and town web sites as we email. Will the Board of ED establish a formal policy on what organizations are allowed to go on the site. On the other hand we should not be afriad to do things just because of a potential, and perhaps small potential, that someone would file a lawsuit. But i do see your point. Speaking of the budget what role, if any will the BOE take once the LC finalizes it.

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