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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.

Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 08, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Hard to understand why a report can not be on the agenda. I can see, perhaps, why the actual report can not be distributed, but the BOE can't even discuss the report. I would like Debbie to explain the attorneys reasoning..
Fedup911 March 08, 2012 at 01:15 PM
CLASSIC BRUCE - make a comment before you fact check for yourself! Go to the video BRUCE! The conversation takes place during the BoE March 6 meeting, 42:38 to 47:05. I believe Ms. Leidlein does explain the attorneys reasoning...
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 08, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Not sure who fedup911, care to identify yourself? it is great that there is more information out there. I think my request was very straight forward. Now since the article is in the patch, with no explanation, can Debbie please advise the rest of us why the attorney advised against discussing the report?
Fedup911 March 08, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Bruce...and you wonder why you didn't get elected? Did you even watch the video from the last BOE meeting?
yoda March 08, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Somebody call 911!
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 08, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Apparently asking Debbie to explain for the patch readers is a problem for Fedup911. I asked a very legitimate question, what was the attorney's logic, and for some reason Fedup doesn't want all the readers of the Patch to be able to read the reasoning. Attacking me is a nice diversion, but hardly informative to the readers.
yoda March 08, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Bruce, Why ask Debbie? Contact the Lawyer and ask him yourself! I don't understand your strategies when resolving a problem?
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 08, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Because Debbie is the Chair and she spoke with a lawyer and the CABE. She has the info and all I asked is that she share the reasoning with the Patch readers..Pretty simple question. Not sure what you and fedup's issue is?
Fedup911 March 08, 2012 at 04:42 PM
The meetings are public for a reason. The meetings are video taped so the public can watch them if they can not make a meeting. If you are looking for more information go to the source, watch the video. I find it sad that you don't understand that, especially because you ran for public office. Shame on you Bruce. Ms. Leidlein gives detail to what the reasons were. WATCH THE VIDEO.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 08, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Fedup911 unless you are a pseudo name, which I doubt, for Debbie Leiden the Chairman of the Board of Ed, I suggest, if she would like, that she respond to the readers of the Patch, not you. I asked a simple question based on the article I read and had a question about why the attorney she spoke with said the report could not be on the agenda. That is, after all, what this blog is all about.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 08, 2012 at 06:50 PM
As a follow up I just went to the web site to view the video. The site told me i had to down load a plug-in. When i went to do that my computer told me to be careful as to what I down load. Taking caution t the wind i did download the plug in,then had to close out the web browser and then restart it. After all of that the quality of the video was so poor i could not hear a word of it, even with the volume turned all the way up and holding the speaker to my ear. And Fedup911, as a former public official and candidate i am pretty computer savvy. LOL.
Fedup911 March 08, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Bruce - I do agree the sound is low. Something I figured out, is to use headphones. The sound is much better and there are no background noises to compete with. As far as the quality of the picture, do not watch the video at full screen. When the video gets stretched to the full screen, it gets blurry. My suggestion is to watch it in the smaller version. Now that you are all set up, you can go right to the source to get all your answers. I find it frustrating you chose to slam the quality of the videos and chose not to acknowledge the discussion did occur at the meeting and Miss Leidlein did address the reasons why the document would not be on an Agenda or sent out using tax dollars. Oh wait, didn't you try to get every one's email addresses during the campaign? Maybe Miss Leidlein should just send you the info and you could send it out. LOL
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 08, 2012 at 08:59 PM
That's why I like the Patch, its always good for a laugh.I'm not yet to the point of needing a hearing aid. Interestingly Trumbull took the opposite position and the Local PTA promoted their Budget Guide and even held meeting in each of the schools.I guess they can walk a slippery slope better than us. It appears that the main reason not to provide easier access to the Guide is a worry that someone else might also ask for exposure for a similar piece. That doesn't seem to me to be that big an issue, the more info on the Budget process the better, don't you agree.
Mary Ann Jacob March 08, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Speaking as a former PTA president, I would say what happened in Trumbull makes sense. They are independent entities who's role is to advocate for their children. They do not use taxpayer funds and have the right to support this guide. Kudos to any citizen who cares enough to get involved. Perhaps when Debbie gets home from her full time teaching job, feeds her kids dinner and has time to read these comments she might be able to respond. Although I'm not sure why the meeting video is not sufficient either. Scaring people into not downloading the plugin is more of the same...
Sam Mihailoff March 08, 2012 at 11:52 PM
it appears you must be a first timer viewing the town videos...here are a couple other goodies for you Bruce http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-ngpwPWvBE&feature=player_embedded http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVreKy-rbhI&feature=share
yoda March 09, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Sam, He can't download I guess it;s a IPN thing!
Alex Tytler March 09, 2012 at 12:17 PM
If you close Reed, will we spend less? Or are we mandated to spend more no matter what?
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 09, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Mary Ann other people might be offended by your type of comments, but I am not. So far i have asked for a pimple explanation of the attorney reasoning and all I have gotten back so far are personal attacks from you, Fedup and Yoda. Fedup suggested that I watch an hour of video to get an answer to a simple question. So I reported my experience as to what I went through to do that, and then found the video barley audible. Can you imagine what people who are not very computer savvy feel when they encounter the same thing. Video, news reporting,the Patch and blogs are all valuable communication tools, I am still not sure why you and your compatriots seems so set against Debbie explaining what the attorneys reasoning was.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 09, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Eric my guess is we'll spend it on something else and then tell the taxpayer the budget didn't go up. We have saved millions over the last few years from reduced interest on bonding and then spend the savings on something else rather than return the savings to taxpayers in the form of reduced taxes. With all those savings our taxes still keep increasing.
Fedup911 March 09, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Bruce - Here is what you don't get. Miss Leidlein did give an explanation, the Patch chose not to report it. Yes, the Patch, The Bee and Blogs, are all good ways to get info. Sometimes, if you want more information go right to the source! Or, here is an idea, go to the source and verify what you read. I made it easy for you and gave you the exact time the conversation started. You did not have to watch 45 minutes of video, just 5 minutes. You attacked two public officials this week, Pat Llorda and Debbie Leidlein. As a FORMER public official yourself, I would think you would check your facts first! People have had enough of you and your ways, bring an intelligent debate to the table and I/ others will be happy to engage.
Fedup911 March 09, 2012 at 01:04 PM
This is a JANET ROBINSON problem!
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 09, 2012 at 01:48 PM
I did not attack anyone. Please review my comments above. The only personal attacks are from You, Mary Ann and Yoda. . I asked for an explanation from Debbie of what the attorney said. That's it. I also did not attack Pat Llodra, I said the budget seemed like a shell game. Save in one area and spend it in another. The taxpayers are told there is a small increase in the budget, but spending is actually going up a lot more in other areas. It appears that all you anonymous bloggers can dish it out, but when some one questions the budget or an attorney reasoning you get upset. Elected officials should not be offended when their budget is criticized, they serve the taxpayer. And taxpayers have every right to comment on the budget game.
yoda March 09, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Bruce, People only feel attacked when they are on the defense?
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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