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The Board of Education expects to hear a presentation and a final recommendation from its Future Forecast Committee on closing Newtown Middle School or not closing any district school at its next meeting, October 18.
Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, said the Future Forecast Committee is prepared to share a detailed report at the meeting.
“I’d like to share what we believe is a plan going forward for the school board for consideration,” said Dr Erardi.
Dr Erardi said the report would end with “the option we believe is the best option for consideration.”
A report on district facilities and enrollment was delivered to the board in July, following a February charge for a Future Forecast Committee to research school use and projected declining enrollment. At the school board’s meeting on September 6, it was voted not to close an elementary school. The decision leaves the option of closing Newtown Middle School or not closing any district school on the board’s scope for future discussions. If no school is closed, the conversation has included ways to repurpose space.
The committee’s report in July included options for reconfiguring the district if a school is closed or if space is repurposed. According to the report, all of the options have different years when they would be feasible. The three options involving closing NMS are listed as possible by the 2019-20 school year for one option, or by the 2022-23 school year for two of the other options. Dr Erardi said the earliest school year a decision could impact is the 2018-19 school year.
Due to this year’s enrollment data, Dr Erardi said at the board’s September 20 meeting, the Future Forecast Committee has been focusing on studying potential outcomes from the highest projection of a 2014 Mallone and MacBroom enrollment report, which included high, medium, and low projections.
Focus On Facility And Enrollment
The October 18 Future Forecast Committee presentation, Dr Erardi said this week, will by followed by two Board of Education meetings in November that will focus, as entirely as possible, on only the facility and enrollment discussion and decision.
“Anything that doesn’t need to be on the agenda, shouldn’t be on the agenda,” said Dr Erardi, about the two November meetings. “You are going to need quality time at all three of the upcoming meetings if you follow this path.”
The first Board of Education meeting next month is scheduled for November 1, and the second meeting is planned for November 15.
“That November 1 meeting would be dedicated to the recommendation for consideration, [and] the curriculum and instruction impact that recommendation may have,” said Dr Erardi, adding the discussion around repurposing space will also be held.
Dr Erardi also suggested the board makes it final decision at its November 15 meeting.
The superintendent said the school board will have enrollment data as of October 1, by the October 18 meeting.
The committee, Dr Erardi said, has focused its discussions around offering an “evidence-based” final recommendation.
“I think that it makes a lot of sense to try and come to a close on this conversation,” said Board of Education Chair Keith Alexander, “and to… bring data to it, have numbers behind it, and have everyone have a chance to look at the numbers.”
Mr Alexander also thanked all of the community members involved in the committee efforts to bring the information to the board.
“This committee is obviously looking at the numbers,” said school board and Future Forecast Committee member John Vouros, “but the real charge is what the educational programs are going to look like for the children.”
The focus is on “the education,” Mr Vouros said.
When looking at building capacity, school board and Future Forecast Committee member Rebekah Harriman-Stites said the committee has been saying, “It is students, not boxes, that you are trying to move around.”
The committee “drilled down into the data,” Ms Harriman-Stites said, to look at the optimal educational capacity.
“It’s suitability and sustainability that we just keep coming back to and have really driven our conversations,” said Ms Harriman-Stites.
The committee is anxious to deliver a “solid recommendation,” according to Ms Harriman-Stites.
The Board of Education also approved two contracts at the meeting.
As recommended by Dr Erardi, the board approved Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jean Evans-Davila’s three-year contract, with a two percent increase, for June 2016 to June 2019. The board approved the contract unanimously with one abstention, by member Andrew Clure, as he said he was not present for the executive session discussion of the contract.
The board also unanimously approved the administrators’ four-year contract, spanning 2017 to 2021, for a 2.25 percent salary increase for district administrators in all four years of the contract.
“We were able to work through our differences and come to agreement on the issues that were at hand. So I feel that we have a very solid four-year contract going forward,” said Board of Education Secretary Debbie Leidlein.