Tuesday, December 07, 2021

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Education

BOE Won’t Likely Cut Staff, Despite Budget Cut

By Jarret Liotta

The Board of Education (BOE) made it generally clear tonight that it would not cut staff in response to the 1% school budget cut the Board of Finance (BOF) made on Wednesday.

The BOF took $1,327,000 out of the school’s proposed $123.3 million operating budget for 2020-21, citing a need to be frugal and keep reserves intact in a time of uncertainty.

Superintendent of Schools David Abbey and his staff, in turn, came back to the BOE with a suggestion that undetermined staff cuts could shoulder a portion of that figure.

“I would like to avoid cutting any personnel,” said BOE member Karen Kleine, who had agreement from most other members on that point.

CMS Timetable Remains a Question Mark

By Jarret Liotta

Though things have been moving smoothly with the Coleytown Middle School (CMS) refurbishment, how COVID-19 could impact the construction schedule remains unknown.

“The message that I wanted to put out was that, as of today, the schedule is still showing that we’re going to open as of September 1st, for the fall semester if you will, at Coleytown Middle School,” Don O’Day, chair of the CMS Building Committee, told the Board of Education (BOE) tonight.

“With the challenges we face form the coronavirus … we need to look at where we are on a very regular basis,” he said, noting he would give a report at every BOE meeting going forward.

“Right now what I’m telling you is we’re still good to go,” he said.

New Schools Superintendent Named

By Jarret Liotta

UPDATE  Thomas Scarice, leader of the Madison Public Schools for the past eight years, was named Westport’s new permanent superintendent of schools tonight.

WestportNow.com Image
Thomas Scarice “incredibly humbling.” Contributed photo

During its second online meeting since the COVID-19 crisis took it virtual, the Board of Education (BOE) unanimously approved Scarice, who officially begins in July.

“This is incredibly humbling to have this opportunity to come to Westport,” Scarice said. “This is such an incredible experience for me. I am very excited about it.”

Prior to being name superintendent in Madison in 2012, Scarice served as assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in Weston under Westport’s last Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer, where he received praise from her and the town’s BOE members.

Finance Board Cuts $1.327 Million from School Budget

Westport’s Board of Finance Wednesday night cut $1,327,000 from the Board of Education’s proposed $123,263,487 operating budget for next year.

According to Brian Stern, chair, the cut represents a 1% reduction when the schools’ debt service, aid to private and parochial schools and other programs are added to the operating budget, totaling $132,700,000.

Even with the cut, the school board’s proposed budget is a 3.24% jump over the current year due to the reopening of Coleytown Middle School (CMS), a 10% bump in school health benefits and funds for facilities upgrades.

“I got very good cooperation from the Board of Ed, my fellow board members and the administration,” Stern said. “We’re all on the same page, and we’re all dedicated to being frugal and to maintain our reserves.”

School Lunch Program Location Changed

The current program providing lunch and breakfast items for students receiving free and reduced cost lunches will shift from Coleytown Elementary School to Staples High School on Thursday, Chief Financial Officer Elio Longo said today.

“This shift will provide a more central access location for families and also better position Chartwell’s, our food service provider, to assist the Town of Westport, if needed, with providing essential food and nutrition needs for other members of the community,” he said in an email to parents.

Lunches, with an included breakfast item, will continue to be available to all Westport students receiving free and or reduced lunches between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. This service will continue operating Monday through Friday during the school closure.

Services will not be available on Friday, April 10,, Good Friday, but additional food will be provided on Thursday, April 9 to cover this brief disruption in service, he said.

Schools Update From Superintendent

The following email was sent to Westport parents tonight by Interim Superintendent David Abbey:

Dear Westport Families,

I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy, as we all deal with what increasingly looks like a long-term challenge. This Friday Update includes information on our Distance Learning Plan as well as specific information from the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE).

ZOOM - A number of parents have inquired as to why we do not use ZOOM for instructional purposes. The answer is that ZOOM is not on the state’s approved list. ZOOM has not signed on to the state requirement that distance learning providers, and all vendors for that matter, adhere to the requirements that exist under the State’s Data Privacy Law. The State, through its Commission on Technology, is trying to convince ZOOM to comply. I am hoping that they are successful - and soon. We use Google Meet, which allows us to do everything that ZOOM does - and in some cases more; however, it would be preferable to have another well-considered platform available for use.

State Testing - As per Executive Order from Governor Lamont, the SDE has waived all testing requirements for the current school year.

Grading – Given the fact that when school closed, we were deep into third quarter, which ends April 3, Bedford Middle School (BMS) and Staples will issue third quarter grades. At the elementary school progress reports have been completed and will be sent out during the next week or so. Given the dramatic changes in the educational program, as well as the stress associated with the impact of COVID-19, we are in the process of deciding whether to move to an alternative grading system for the remainder of the school year. Particularly at the high school level, if we move to an alternate grading system, we want to be careful not to disadvantage our students in any way. Toward that end, we have been in touch with comparable high schools in the area, as well as districts in the Tristate area, who are also working this issue.

Board of Ed Cancels April Vacation

Meeting for the first time electronically, the Westport Board of Education tonight voted to cancel the scheduled April vacation.

The vote was 6-0 with member Vik Muktavaram abstaining.

The scheduled vacation days April 6-9 will now be used to continue remote learning during the COVID-19 outbreak. As previously scheduled, school will be closed on Good Friday, April 10.

Interim Superintendent David Abbey, who reported not a unanimous backing but a “strong sentiment” for the move among teachers and administrators, said school will now end on June 12.

Board of Ed to Vote on New Superintendent

The Board of Education at its April 2 meeting will vote on hiring a permanent superintendent of schools.

Candice Savin, chair, and other board members disclosed in an email today that a candidate has been agreed upon and will be subject to the vote at the meeting, to be held electronically.

David Abbey has served as an interim superintendent since May 2019 following the departure of Colleen Palmer for medical reasons.

Their email to parents also laid out a calendar for the board, which will meet electronically at 7 p.m. today.

Arrangements for Students Receiving Free or Reduced Cost Lunches

The Westport public schools have made arrangements for students receiving free or reduce cost lunches.

In an email to parents, Elio Longo, chief financial officer, said: “We have developed, with the support of Chartwells, our food service provider, a comprehensive plan to meet the nutrition needs of students receiving free and or reduced cost lunches during the COVID-19 school closure.

“The plan includes a bagged lunch which also contains a breakfast item for the following morning.”

He said lunches, with the included breakfast item, will be available to all Westport students receiving free and or reduced lunches starting Wednesday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., in front of Coleytown Elementary School. This service will continue Monday through Friday while school remains closed.

Lamont Closes All Public Schools, Takes Other Actions

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

www.ctmirror.org

UPDATE Gov. Ned Lamont today ordered all public schools closed through the end of March in his latest attempt to slow the spread of the potentially fatal coronavirus.

The governor also announced he is meeting Monday with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discuss a coordinated, regional approach to closing restaurants and bars, saying he’s not prepared to close Connecticut establishments until he reaches an agreement with neighboring states.

“It doesn’t make any sense for Connecticut to do something and New York not because then people just go across the border, Lamont told reporters outside the governor’s residence in Hartford.

Connecticut now has a total of 26 confirmed cases: six more since Saturday, though that number is likely much higher since testing has been limited.