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.