School Board Looks At Calendars, Superintendent Searches

The Board of Education began its Tuesday, March 5, meeting with a brief announcement that it received Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson’s letter of resignation, and by the end of the meeting, the board passed two motions to begin searching for both an interim and a permanent superintendent.

Also during the meeting, the school board supported its previous motion, made at a January 23 meeting, not to remove days from this school year’s set April break, and voted on calendars for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, with some caveats.

School board Chair Debbie Leidlein said Dr Robinson’s letter of resignation will be effective on June 28. 

“She’s accepted the position as the Stratford superintendent of schools,” said Ms Leidlein. “She has stated in her letter that she is very committed to helping Newtown through this transition.”

The previous night during a meeting, BOE Vice Chair Laura Roche explained Robert Radar from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education discussed the process and procedures of searching for interim and permanent superintendents.

The interim superintendent, Ms Roche said, will start his or her time in the district while Dr Robinson is still with the district, allowing for an overlap. She also said the school board intends to begin interviewing for an interim superintendent in the next week.

Ms Roche said the school board hopes to hire a superintendent search firm in the future to help find a permanent superintendent.

The processes of hiring an interim and a permanent superintendent are different, Ms Roche explained, with the latter requiring more in-depth research.

To start looking for both positions, the Board of Education passed two motions that will allow it to meet in “nonmeetings,” which board member Keith Alexander explained are not accessible under the Freedom of Information Act, allowing all contenders for both the interim and permanent superintendent positions to be interviewed anonymously.

Ms Roche said she wanted people to understand the nonmeetings are not “secret meetings,” and Mr Alexander said the Board of Education intends to make public as much of the discussion as possible. The board, according to Ms Roche, will also, “ensure that there is ample community and staff input into the hiring of the new permanent superintendent.”

The school board, Ms Roche said, will also continue looking for principals.

The school district has two interim principal positions to fill with permanent placements, and Newtown Middle School Principal Diane Sherlock recently announced her planned retirement at the conclusion of this school year.

“We want them to be here and ready to go for the next school year,” said Ms Roche.


A Possible Holiday To Remember 12/14

After Dr Robinson asked the BOE to give further explanation on how it intends to handle the 2012-13 school calendar, members agreed it would uphold the board’s previous decision to not alter the scheduled April break, and that the last day of school will still be June 21.

During its meeting on January 23, the board voted to apply for a waiver with the state that would exempt the entire school district from having to complete the 180 required days of school, should there be further school cancellations.

Without further school cancellations, having the school year end on June 21 allows for Newtown’s schools, except Sandy Hook School, to complete 182 school days. Teachers are still projected to complete 187 days, according to the superintendent.

Dr Robinson said March 5 the school district has had nine weather-related school cancellations so far this academic year.

Following the discussion of the 2012-13 school calendar, the board turned its attention to the next two academic years.

Ms Leidlein said she recommends her board consider the possibility of adding in a school district holiday in memory of 12/14.

“I don’t know [if this would be] permanent or for a special amount of time,” said Ms Leidlein.

While the day falls on a Saturday next year, Ms Leidlein said she wanted to learn what people thought of the idea.

Mr Alexander said he was concerned a holiday on that day may not be used for its intentions, and Dr Robinson offered that if students and teachers are in school for that day, support staff will be there to assist them.

Sometimes, the superintendent said, it is better not to be alone.

Especially for the one-year mark of that tragic day, Ms Roche said she feels it is important to offer the district the ability to “spend time with families.”

“We don’t know what is going to come, and I think it is something we can do for our district,” said Ms Roche.

Ms Leidlein said she would like more feedback before the board votes on whether to add a holiday to both the 2013-14 and the 2014-15 school calendars.

The Board of Education did unanimously pass both calendars, with the caveat that if a holiday is applied in December the projected last day of school will be altered.

Also during the school board’s meeting, it voted to add a new public health course elective at Newtown High School.

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