Robin Welton, 2018 District Teacher of the Year and Matt Opdahl, 2018 District Staff Member of the Year.       
Contributed photo
Staff and Retirees Honored at New Fairfield Celebration of Excellence
June 14, 2018
photo by Kate Mattiace
New Fairfield Board of Selectmen Discuss FEMA Assistance at Special Meeting
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NF-BOE

NEW FAIRFIELD – The New Fairfield Board of Education was introduced to the 2018 Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) winners at their June 7 regular meeting. The four students, two for high school – Ryan Grimaldi and Hannah Rigoglioso and two for middle school – Patrick Gibbons and Giuliana Carretta, won the awards for their academic and extracurricular accomplishments. Consideration to determine the winners is also given based on behavior and attitude.

Dr. Richard Sanzo, High School Principal, spoke with praise about junior, Ryan Grimaldi, noting that his “hard work and tenacity has put him in the top of his class” despite a heavy load of difficult courses. He went on to say of Ryan, “When asked to volunteer his time, he graciously and eagerly agrees to help,” highlighting that Ryan is often busy tutoring, performing on the swim team, serving as a lifeguard for the girls’ swim team, and more. “I am thrilled that he is a junior and I have one more year with him,” Dr. Sanzo quipped.

The second CABE winner is junior, and BOE student representative, Hannah Rigoglioso. Of Hannah, Dr. Sanzo said she is “a true leader in our building and throughout the New Fairfield community.” He went on to point out that she “shows tremendous work ethic and drive” and she has made a commitment to the school’s music program, chamber ensemble, and has over 500 hours of community service. He was happy to say that, “Hannah is truly a reflection of a student, athlete, and member of our community.”

New Fairfield Middle School 8th grade teacher, Ms. Susan McNamara, explained that there are traditionally two 8th grade students who win CABE awards each year. One student wins for the purple team, and the other for the orange team.

Patrick Gibbons, who won for 8th grade’s purple team, was described by Ms. McNamara as a “conscientious, hardworking student.” She also said that he has a “welcoming personality that draws his peers to him.” She went on to say that he is a leader in sports and excels as a tutor for younger students.

Mr. Emre Akter, band teacher, described Giuliana Carretta, 8th grade’s orange team winner, as “one of our top peer leaders.” He went on to note that, “she’s a great group leader” and “she speaks her mind.” She is very involved in the community and school, including athletics. He said that the “Orange team is pleased to be able to offer her our highest recommendation.”

Costa Rica Spring Break Class Trip

Ms. Kimberly Salta, science teacher at the high school, introduced a presentation on the student spring break trip she led to Costa Rica. She and a colleague spent eight days with 11 students on a packed tour of the Costa Rican countryside. Eight of the students who went on the trip stood up at the podium to walk the board through an informative and enjoyable highlight slide show of their trip. They described excursions to a coffee plantation, a chocolate factory, a pineapple farm, a dance class, a cooking demonstration, and more.

The students also described the exotic wildlife they encountered daily, the rainforest hikes they took, the adventure programs they experienced–ziplining, white water rafting, snorkeling, and kayaking among them. Every student who spoke expressed immense gratitude to the board for reversing its policy on international travel. One student summed it up with “it was kind of the best experience of my life.”

The Board voted to approve travel to Costa Rica for next year. Dr. Sanzo explained that there will be a slightly different itinerary and that students may miss one day of school (the Friday before spring break). The new itinerary will allow them to do more activities in centralized locations, with less bus travel. The school plans to open the trip up for enrollment earlier and to more students earlier, but will cap the total registration at 18 students.

Social Studies Textbooks Approved

The board voted to approve the new social studies textbooks, Discover Kids (K-2) and My World Interactive (3-5). Dr. Jason McKinnon, Chief Academic Officer, reminded the board that these books will allow the faculty to better align the topic from kindergarten to 12th grade.

The board had a first review of four new textbooks and agreed to waive a three-reading/meeting rule, as they’re hoping to make a decision on the books at the June 21 BOE meeting, the last meeting of the school year. Dr. Roy has the books in her office and invited board members to come and review them.

Pendergast Field Fee

Ms. Kimberly LaTourette read the new policy agreement for the John Pendergast field. She explained that a new field fee charge is going into effect that will allow the field to be maintained and self-sustained. It was noted that the town is in charge of the fund, not the school.

There was a first reading of several policies. The board will also waive the three-reading/meeting rule for those policies and vote on them at the final meeting on June 21.

Board Comments on Superintendent Evaluation, Costa Rica, Sandy Hook Promise, Waiver, Storm Recovery

In board member comments, Mr. Rick Regan, said “thanks to Dr. Roy and everyone for getting the school up and running in relatively short time” after the storm. He also asked about whether the board should be completing Dr. Roy’s evaluation. Ms. Peggy Katkocin said, “we’re in kind of a different position right now, because Dr. Roy is leaving.” Ms. Samantha Mannion said, “there is no loop hole for us to not do it,” reminding everyone that the evaluation needs to be completed and submitted to the state by June 30. When pressed, Ms. Mannion said, “I think being in compliance with state law is important.” Mr. Regan suggested that CABE or the school’s attorneys can advise the board on whether or not to complete the evaluation. Ms. Katkocin said of completing the evaluation, “I think some of the damage has already been done to Dr. Roy…I don’t see how she gains or how we gain.”

Mr. Greg Flanagan noted that when he attended a CABE conference in the fall they suggested that board member evaluations should be completed, too. The issue didn’t get much further, but Mr. Douglas DeRito said of board evaluations, “I get enough evaluations at work” and “the voters give me my evaluation.”

Mr. DeRito also said of the Costa Rica presentation, “It was really nice to see them come up and talk about their experience…they’ll never forget that trip.” Mr. Dominic Cipollone was happy about the many “celebration[s] of student achievement.” He went on to say, it’s a “good time of the year for our kids.” Ms. LaTourette echoed Mr. Cipollone’s sentiments that it’s a great time to celebrate our staff and students. She said, “I feel like we’re a team” and that teachers and staff are supporting “the whole child.”

Ms. Mannion commented that she “had a wonderfully positive phone call” with Sandy Hook Promise about the Say Something hotline. She called many schools who have the system and there were only positive reviews. They’ve helped kids who are being bullied, who bully and want to stop, who have eating disorders, are thinking about hurting themselves, and more. She has a 27-page slideshow for board members to view about getting the program up and running.

In his board member comments, Mr. Flanagan thanked Pat Del Monaco and Khris Hall for their work during storm. He also thanked Ms. Katkocin and Dr. Roy for going to the state BOE regarding waiving the 180-day rule for the year, despite it not being approved.

In her Chairman’s report, Ms. Katkocin said of the 180-day waiver final try that the State of Connecticut Board of Education “summarily refused our request by refusing to even put it on the agenda.” Katkocin was not impressed with the way that the state BOE handled the matter, stating that they completely skirted the issue and talked about unrelated items when they were supposed to discuss the matter of the storm repercussions. Ms. Katkocin also pointed out that, “Pat Del Monaco missed her son’s college graduation because of the storm.” She wanted to remind people about the commitment that town employees made to the recovery effort. She also pointed out that Dr. Roy rode the school bus to every stop in New Fairfield to be sure that it was safe before opening the schools again.

Superintendent’s Report

In the Superintendent’s report, Dr. Roy said that there is a lot going on in the schools with field days, senior prom, Singamajig, math awards, teacher end-of-the-year celebration, boy’s and girl’s lacrosse state championships, scholar’s night (at which $80K in scholarships were given out), and shining star awards.

Public Comments

In public comments, John McCartney came to the podium to thank the board and a number of people for their work on the storm and the shelter. He said he was so impressed by the Civil Air Patrol cadets and that he believed the staff went above and beyond including the Aramark and custodial crews. “We had hundreds of people going through the high school.” Khris Hall also stood up to thank Dr. Roy and Dr. Sanzo for their help with the shelter. She said “It was a calm place in the midst of the storm” and “It was a place where people could come and play, could come and sit.”

The next regular Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 21, 7:00pm.

By Sarah Opdahl