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On Thursday, January 18, the Board of Education met after a special budget presentation to discuss a number of issues, including an update on the superintendent search.

Ms. Samantha Mannion explained that the Superintendent Search Committee is doing a line-by-line evaluation of the position’s existing contract. The committee wants to have a document available for superintendent candidates. The search firm, Cooperative Educational Services (CES), has received five applications and they are expecting another three to come in before 1/25. The committee is developing interview questions for the entire board when they sit down to meet with candidates. Board members beyond the search committee may want to join the initial screening on 1/29. Mr. Rick Regan has been revising the evaluation form. He noted that it will be far more detailed and will address the perceived shortcomings of the previous performance evaluation form. Mr. Greg Flanagan and Ms. Mannion applauded Mr. Regan’s work.

In discussing the meeting’s agenda, Mr. Regan asked what the BOE was doing with the surplus funds that are coming back from the BOF. Dr. Roy pointed out that the top priority is to complete the consumer science wing at the High School; the board voted to approve that expenditure. There will be a Budget Workshop, Tuesday, January 30, 6:00, to discuss the budget in detail. Mr. Ed Sbordone noted that the final budget needs to be ready for the BOF by 2/15.

The Board unanimously voted to approve international student travel to Costa Rica and Montreal. Dr. Richard Sanzo, High School Principal, explained that the Costa Rica trip will fall over spring break vacation and will be led by teachers and chaperones, Mr. Fabrizio-Garcia and Ms. Salta. This is a combined study trip for upper-level language students, AP science students, and more. When reaching out to the families there was definitely interest in joining the trip. The trip to Montreal is an opportunity for French students to be immersed in the language. There is no cost to the district for the trips; all costs fall to the families. When asked about insurance the board found out that the mandatory travel insurance would cover any medical expenses. Mr. Hunt, a high school French teacher, is interested in taking the Montreal trip the week after school gets out. There has been a lot of interest in this trip as well.

In reaction to some frustration among parents and students, Athletic Director, Mary Stolle, spoke about the issue of mandatory sports games and practices during the spring break vacation. Ms. Stolle explained that the policy of mandatory spring break participation, and subsequent penalty for missing practices and games, has been in place since 2001. If they miss practices and games during spring break, they are benched. She noted that with a short season for spring sports and the unpredictability of spring weather affecting fields, it’s too difficult to fit the number of necessary games in before the end of the season without spring break. She also said it can be harmful to students to take a week off when they are conditioned and ready to participate in their sport. Plus, she stressed that students sign off on this when they agree to be on the teams.

Mr. Sbordone gave highlights from the Business Resource/Business Operations subcommittee meeting. He relayed they discussed budget transfers, plus they reviewed the current year’s budget and found that everything is in line with previous years, with the exception of special education expenditures.

The board accepted the donation of $2500 worth of books for the schools from Aunt Mary’s Bookshelf.

In board member comments, Mr. Flanagan said thank you to the administration for the board tour through all of the schools. Ms. Baker said that she thought the BOS and BOF should also have tours to get a different perspective on school needs. Ms. Peggy Katkocin pointed out that, while on the tour, Phil Ross told her that Dr. Roy is the first superintendent in all his years who took a great interest in maintaining the buildings.

In the Chairman’s Report, Peggy Katkocin gave a plug for the High School’s senior SEE projects. She noted that English Teacher, Ms. Karon McGovern, is overseeing the students in creating great opportunities. She asked that any community members who would be willing to mentor a student step forward. All jobs are open for the students to explore–they’ve studied under lawyers, nurses, teachers, and more. On another note, she mentioned that in recent conferences with other district boards, many schools are experiencing the same issues New Fairfield is with containing costs and providing student services.

In her Superintendent’s Report, Dr. Roy gave a shout out to the Buildings and Grounds crews who are working very hard with all of the snow and cold. Student representative, Hannah Rigoglioso, mentioned that it is Project Purple week at the High School during the week of 1/25. The week’s activities are intended to discourage substance abuse. There were no public comments at the BOE meeting.

The next regular Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Thursday, 2/1, 7:00 p.m.

By Sarah Opdahl