NEW FAIRFIELD – In her first regular New Fairfield Board of Education meeting, Dr. Pat Cosentino was eagerly welcomed by the board and parents in the public and board member comment sessions. She was also met with a litany of parents who stood up at the podium to voice support for fairness in paraprofessional pay.
Though Dr. Cosentino, and board chair Peggy Katkocin, stipulated that pending negotiations cannot be commented on, both expressed hope that the paraprofessional contract will be resolved soon. A mediator is going to attend the next contract negotiation session, set for August 14, with the paraprofessional union, administration and board representatives. If they cannot come to an agreement with the third-party mediator, the contract will go to arbitration.
In board member comments, the many paraprofessionals and parents in attendance heard that each member greatly values the work that the paraprofessionals do and hope for a fair end to their contract negotiations.
Dr. Cosentino gave a synopsis of her first month in the position, highlighting the work that has gone into hiring. She noted that there will be many new “young, passionate, enthusiastic staffmembers”. She then went into analysis of last year’s scores and attendance, and into teambuilding. She said, “I’ve met with so many different staff members and community members and everyone has been very warm and welcoming, and I appreciate that,” but acknowledged that, “I know that I’m on a honeymoon.” She is planning to present her goals at a future board meeting and follow up with a mid-year check-in on progress.
Given that this was a mid-summer meeting, the board was able to quickly give approvals and updates. In a nuts-and-bolts manner, they approved a Perkins Grant for consumer science courses at the high school and to update the signatory of the Child Nutrition Program. The board also agreed to join the TEACH Connecticut Partnership, a free state program which has been developed to provide recruitment help, and further collective goals such as elevating the image of the teaching profession, to Connecticut schools.
In committee updates, the board learned that the culinary arts wing is in progress, but that Dr. Sanzo is prepared to open school knowing that it won’t be ready until late September. The Permanent Building Committee, who is overseeing the culinary arts project, recently met to tour the construction site and to agree to raise Phil Ross’ ability to sign higher invoices than he previously could.
The board met in private executive session to discuss the school safety audit results, but the community members at the meeting were given a broad sweep of what the audit contains: many low-cost, low-hanging fruit suggestions in addition to some higher cost, more advanced safety solutions. Committee and board member, Samantha Mannion,
asked that concerned parties attend the upcoming Safety Committee meetings, at which they will discuss safety solutions. She pointed out that given that this was a hot button issue for many community members earlier in the year, attendance has considerably cooled at the meetings.
In a follow up to the last regular Board of Education meeting of the year on June 21, board member Rick Regan noted that he’s delved further into the SAT results from last year and found that our success was valid, though less singular, “The majority of the districts in our DRG improved and we were among them.” He encouraged interested parties to view the overall results online.
The next regular Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 16, 7:00pm.
By Sarah Opdahl