BOE Accepts Educational Specifications For Sandy Hook School

The Board of Education unanimously accepted new educational specifications for the proposed design of Sandy Hook Elementary School as presented by Jay Brotman and Julia McFadden of Svigals + Partners during a meeting on Monday, December 23.

“The design team came back in and met with [Kathy Gombos, principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School]… and also went down and met with the staff in what I recall as small meetings to review the [education specifications],” explained Interim Superintendent of Schools John Reed, who also said he met with the design team on a few occasions.

Dr Reed said the school board was presented Monday with changes to the educational specifications of the proposed school design made as a result of those meetings.

Ms McFadden explained that some areas of the school contracted, while other areas of the school increased in size due to the changes. The building, she said, overall is larger, but the design was also “pulled in” to meet the project’s budget.

In response to BOE member John Vouros’s asking whether the staff at Sandy Hook School will be kept up to date with changes made to the proposed plans, Ms McFadden promised they would be. Regular updates to the school board will also be provided, she said.

The school board was also introduced to a “Coherence Plan” during its Monday meeting, by Jonathan Costa, Sr, of Education Connection.

“The purpose of this plan is to use a systems orientation to make plain for the district’s constituents all of the current improvement or management processes that are underway or need to be completed in the near future,” reads the document presented to the school board. “The use of the word ‘current’ is purposeful as there were no new initiatives added during this work, the group simply recognized and captured what was already in process. By doing so, the district hopes to increase efficiency and alignment while decreasing feelings of organizational fragmentation. Finally, by ensuring everyone understands what is being done, what needs to be done, and why, this plan will provide the incoming superintendent with an effective foundation from which to begin his/her tenure.”

BOE member Michelle Ku said as a new member of the school board, the document was also helpful for her.

A number of people from the school district worked on the Coherence Planning Team to create the document, including Dr Reed, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Linda Gejda, Joni Capoccitti of GE Capital, teachers, First Selectman Pat Llodra, district principals, BOE members, and district parents.

Also during the meeting, the school board unanimously adopted a The SOS Program, a research-based early intervention program listed on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMSHA) National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, according to a document presented to the school board Monday. The program, which is for high school and middle school aged students, provides education and screenings for depression to students.

Before unanimously voting to adopt the program, a number of board members, including Mr Vouros, expressed a need to also provide a similar type of program for lower grade levels.

The school board also adopted its 2014-15 Budget Goals during the meeting. After deliberations, the board passed goals to meet student and staff needs resulting from the events of December 14, 2012; support district and Newtown High School preparations for the 2015-16 New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation; provide educational infrastructure and support a number of endeavors in the school district; support all activities listed in the Newtown Public Schools Coherence Plan; plan for future needs of the school system; and to investigate ways to collaborate with the town’s municipal departments.

The 2014-15 Budget Goals passed in a 5-1 vote, with Kathy Hamilton opposing the motion. Member Keith Alexander was not present for the meeting.

Ms Hamilton had earlier moved to amend the budget goals to include the last item, investigating ways to collaborate with the town’s municipal departments to possibly combine expenses. She had also moved to add a seventh Budget Goal, which failed in a 3-3 vote, to have the school board attempt to meet a zero percent budget increase for the 2014-15 budget cycle. BOE Chair Debbie Leidlein, Ms Hamilton, and member David Freedman voted for that motion, while BOE Vice Chair Laura Roche, Mr Vouros, and Ms Ku voted against it.

Before voting, Ms Leidlein said she would vote in favor of the school board attempting to meet a zero percent budget increase, but she also plans to listen “very carefully to what Dr Reed presents to us, and I have every confidence that what he presents to us is going to be what is needed for this district.”

When it comes time to vote on the school board’s recommended budget for 2014-15, Ms Leidlein continued, saying she would “vote in the best interest of the children.”

Dr Reed is scheduled to present his proposed budget to the school board for review on January 21.


Deciding on a budget before hearingthe facts

Ms. Hamilton, Mrs Leiden and Mr Freedman should be ashamed of themselves. Having an agenda, a budget number before the budget and backup is even presented, is not in the best interest of the town. BOE members are voted with the hope that they will be open minded, have no agenda, and weigh the facts before coming to a conclusion. Thats does not seem to be the case here. What we have here is a radical movement to underfund our childrens education. We already spend less than 90% of the school districts inthe state, we have been adjusting yearly for changes in enrollment, and the system has the normal salary increase just as the municipal side does, yet these individuals appear to have an agenda, lets spend less than any town in CT.

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