At their final meeting of the year on June 15, the New Fairfield Board of Education had a tense discussion regarding Superintendent Dr. Alicia Roy’s contract, which ends in 2018. The Board spent 90 minutes in private executive session, then returned to the public meeting to vote 8-1, to approve the numeric scores on Roy’s evaluation with Board Chair Steve Burfeind voting against the motion. The evaluation is in limbo until written Board member comments are given to Roy and then she has time to respond. Once her response is in hand, the Board will discuss and vote on the contract. The evaluation will be made be available for the public.
Both Mr. Dominic Cipillone and Mr. Douglas DeRito publically stated that they do not believe Roy’s contract should be renewed. DeRito noted that Board members have received “a tremendous amount of email traffic” in the last month from residents with and without children in the system and district teachers, “100% of our email traffic was requesting that the Board not extend the contract.” Public comments at the meeting echoed these sentiments, with multiple parents urging the Board not to renew Roy’s contract and emphatically asking for transparency in what they hoped would be a thorough evaluation process.
Mr. Douglas DeRito’s Board member comments shed light on what happened in the executive session, saying that he was “sad to be having a frustrating discussion over the evaluation process versus the evaluation itself.” He went on to say that he hopes the Board makes a decision to move forward with a new superintendent, “we owe it to our kids to go on a proper national search for the direction of our district.”
The Board was excited to announce that Ms. Allison Story has been hired as Assistant Principal of Meeting House Hill School. She’s been an educator for 15 years, most recently as a K-5 math specialist in Ridgefield. She’s had extensive training in responsive classroom, which will marry beautifully with the PBIS program that’s in place at the school. MHHS Principal, James Mandracchia, noted that she rose to the top of “a field of over 90 applicants.” Ms. Story said, “I’m very excited to partner with James and continue the great work that is happening at Meeting House.”
The Board voted unanimously to approve the language of new and existing policies: 3542.43 (uncollected fees for food service); 4112.5 and 4212.5 (both involving security and finger prints); 5141.251 (accommodating students with disabilities with special dietary needs); 6142.101 (national–not CT– healthy food certification); 6146 (graduation requirements); 6172 (alternative education programs); and 6172.4 (parent notification when Title 1 monies are spent). They also voted to approve 9th grade Earth Science textbooks.
The Board accepted Perkins Grant monies in the amount of $18,989. The funds are used to purchase supplies to support the career and tech ed classrooms. They also approved a booster donation toward the replacement cover for the pole vault pit cover.
Mr. Ed Sbordone reported on the Business/Operations Subcommittee meeting. The meeting was focused on the current year’s budget, which is in line with forecasts. There will be a surplus, but the amount is yet to be determined.
Ms. Samantha Mannion gave highlights of the 6/14 Special Education Ad Hoc Subcommittee meeting. Four out of the five newly-certified Level 1 Wilson-trained teachers attended the meeting. They talked about their training experience and answered questioned from parents. The group’s discussion topics also included the summer ESY program, requests for parent workshops, and proposed new legislation regarding dyslexia. In addition, the attendees also discussed the possibility of creating a Special Education Parent Teacher Association (SEPTA).
In public comments, parent Dawn Lipke explained that two years ago there was interest in creating a SEPTA that went as far as a completed state application, but the PPS Director at the time would not support their venture. Though the group could have pursued with the SEPTA, she explained that they felt that the body would not have been as effective without school support. She feels fortunate that current PPS Director, Ms. Andrea Einhorn, fully supports the program. Lipke went on to express confusion and dismay regarding Dr. Roy’s statement at the subcommittee meeting that she had applied for SEPTA last year. Lipke checked with State of CT PTA on 6/15 and they were unable to find Roy’s application.
Mr. Steve Burfeind said that the Park and Rec Commission is moving forward with the creation of a second basketball court near the town playground. In his Chair Report, he thanked all of the district employees and volunteers who have helped make this a successful year. He also congratulated all of the children who are stepping up, especially high school graduates.
Ms. Alison Herold, Director of Technology, and Dr. Jason McKinnon, Chief Academic Officer, gave a presentation on the Data Dashboard that administration and faculty members are using to record and interpret student growth and achievement. Herold has created the Dashboard in Tableau, a sophisticated software that is highly customizable and makes analytics easier to understand with various visuals and ways to filter information. McKinnon believes that the data will continue to aid in gauging student progress and allow faculty to target-teach to every student’s level. The district will roll out more frequent assessments, in addition to the customary larger standardized testing, in the fall. His team is developing an assessment calendar over the summer. Mr. Cipillone questioned, given the ever-evolving nature of the Dashboard, whether the teachers have had sufficient training on the program. McKinnon responded that they do need more professional development. He thinks the aforementioned assessment calendar will also help. He noted that the teachers like to populate assessments in Google Sheets which is easy for Herold to flow into the Dashboard. Cipillone also hopes that re-teaching will be included in reaction to the data assessments and planning.
Dr. Roy highlighted many end-of-year activities, events, and academic achievements. She also congratulated the girl’s lacrosse team who won their state championship. Roy encouraged interested parents to complete a survey on before and after school care that’s available on the district’s website.
High School students Jared Pryzborowski, Nicole Cennamo, and Marcus Mocarski presented on the House of Rebelsentatives and Student Senate. The group is fully established and ended the year with some significant achievements. In addition to worthwhile discussions about the efficacy of Capstone and an update to the student mission, the group successfully lobbied for high school students to receive their class schedules in mid-August. They’ve also created a club calendar, which will be a one-stop solution on the high school website for students to access their club schedules. Mr. Cipillone applauded their group and said “Any way this Board member can support you, call on me, because this is what we need. We need students to take ownership of their learning and to demand more from schools.” Dr. Voss agreed and commended Ms. Cennamo for all of her work in developing the group.
The first Board of Education meeting of the school year will be held on 8/17, 7:00 p.m.