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RSD #17 BOE Meeting Notes 2/27/18

By Kathy Brown.

On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, the Regional School District #17 Board of Education met in the Haddam Killingworth Middle School media center board in Killingworth. The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. by Board Chair, Joanne Nesti. Ten of the eleven board members were in attendance, and there were approximately 15 people in the audience.

During the first public comment session, Linda Butler spoke about sports participation by students who attend Magnet Schools. She would like someone to investigate it, and perhaps athletes who want to participate in spring sports could do so on a trial basis.

Board Liaison Reports were next on the agenda. Kathy Zandi gave the report for Curriculum Council. The HKMS would like to add a coding course as an elective, which would be taught by their Media Center personnel. The Core Beliefs and Values is updated every 10 years, and HKHS Principal Donna Hayward brought in new wording a little earlier than scheduled. People at Curriculum Council liked the new wording. Curriculum Subcommittee will meet soon to discuss the new coding course.

Item 5.A. on the agenda was moved up. Cristal DePietro, of Haddam Killingworth Youth and Family Services, informed the Board of “Search Survey” which is a research organization that HKYFS (and other towns in the region) utilizes. A survey is given every two years to all students in grades 7 through 12. The next survey will be given in May. It consists of 150 online questions which take 25-30 minutes for students to complete. It is completed anonymously, and questions students on developmental assets and risky behaviors. After the survey data is compiled, HKYFS will bring the information to the Board, before it is disseminated to the community. There is an opt-out option for parents, and there will be information on the website when letters go home to parents in the Spring.

For Old Business, there was no report from the Public Building Committee because their meeting was scheduled for the following day.  The Strategic Capital Planning Committee report was given by several people. Each member received enrollment trends, financials, and details of ideas being researched. In the restructuring, the Intermediate School which would be housed within HKMS would have 14 core classrooms for grades 4 and 5. That would be 1 1/2 pods at HKMS. One option would be to have 8 pods downstairs and 3 immediately above, which could be accessed by back staircases. The remainder of that upstairs pod could be World Language. Fourth grade could be housed downstairs, and fifth grade could be housed upstairs. They are still looking at other options. The structure looks like the homeroom teacher would teach multiple subjects but not all. The students would still attend specials and have access to family science and technical education classes, which they don’t have access to now at the elementary school. The option that they’re considering would also have an offset schedule, so that the 4th and 5th graders could ride the buses with the elementary school students, and their day would start later than the Middle School. The 4th and 5th graders would have an appropriate recess, and their own lunch waves. They would also have their own after school clubs, though it’s possible that some of the clubs would mesh, if appropriate.

Eileen Blewett gave the financials for the restructuring. It would save $1,000,069/year. It is still not definite, but various models showed a reduction of an average of 15.5 FT staff members. That dollar figure includes the $71,000 it will cost to maintain HES until it is sold.  They have not collapsed Specials teachers yet because they do not have the modeling complete at this time. So there could be +/- 3 FTEs.

Peter Sonski talked about the future of the HES building. They evaluated age, condition, capital upkeep, HVAC, athletic fields, and the possibility of expansion. From that, it was determined that Burr Elementary should be the school to remain. The HES property was acquired in 1941 from the Hazen Foundation. There were a series of conditions and covenants such as that a school would be built there, the area where the gazebo is should be a public space, the school that was over where the gazebo is now would be demolished, and the property would revert to the Hazen Foundation if no school was built on the property. All the covenants were abided by, and removed in the 1950’s. In 1972 when the school district was regionalized, the property was absorbed by the Regional School District “free and clear.”

There is a new infrastructure committee that has been formed in Haddam, and Peter will be a member of it. There is a commitment to revitalize Higganum Center, and the sale of the Haddam Elementary School building could be a part of that. When discussing the future of Higganum Center and the role that the HES building plays in that, Joanne Nesti said, “We don’t take it lightly.” We need to be “good neighbors” and “good stewards.” It was mentioned that while it is empty of students, and the Board is waiting for the appropriate buyer, the building could still be used by the H-K Recreation Department, or rooms could be used for meetings. “We need to remain open minded” about the school’s use. They are committed to not letting the building become a detriment to the community. They also discussed why now was the right time. They discussed that there was been talk in the community for years about closing a school so the Board was by no means “rushing into this.”

For New Business, Howard Thiery, Superintendent, discussed the formation of the School Security Committee. In Spring 2013, after the Sandy Hook shooting, they had formed a school security committee. Though they have reviewed their safety protocols each year, administration felt that it was time for another in-depth review. Mr. Thiery discussed what we already do: troopers have blueprints of all of our schools, police hold drills at our schools, we participate in a mock disaster each year, plus all of our schools hold monthly drills (either fire or lock down drills), among other things. Mr. Thiery said that there have been offers of support from the community, as well as thanks from parents. They are looking for volunteers for the new committee. Their guiding principles were/are:

  • school district needs to be warm and welcoming while also secure
  • real security (not just perceived)
  • plan needs to be sustainable
  • balance between fire safety and active shooter safety

One thing that was done after Sandy Hook, is a regional network of psychologists/social workers and administration that can step in to support our school. That way the psychologists/social workers were already vetted. It worked well two years ago when we had a tragedy in our district.

A petition of approximately 800 signatures was given to Howard Thiery which stated that many people would like the Field House named after Patsy Kamercia, former Field Hockey Coach and Athletic Director, who passed away December 2017. Kathy Zandi suggested that the Board makes a decision on it after budget. Mr. Thiery will contact Patsy’s family.

Kathy Zandi asked about the possibility of a March 14 Walkout. Mr. Thiery said they have already discussed it with his administrative team, who is going to discuss it with students. They want students to feel supported and they don’t want to marginalize anyone. The students want to find a process that everyone can “get behind.” State police have already been alerted that it might be happening and they want to partner with the students. All the superintendents in the region feel the same, that the students need a voice.

There were no comments made by the public in the second Public Comment section. However, Mr. Thiery read a letter that he received from a student, Dylan, who wants a “Custodian Appreciation Day.” Dylan is 8 years old, in grade 3 at HES. Mr. Thiery said that he would work to get a Custodian Appreciation Day this spring.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:50 p.m.

When the official minutes are released, they will be found HERE.



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