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Minutes of Redding Board of Education, 09/06/2016

AGENDA: Redding Board of Education

RECEIVED 09/13/2016 3:59pm
Michele R. Grande – Redding Town Clerk

Regular Meeting
September 6, 2016

Board of Education:  G. Denny, A. Florkowski, J. Gaspar, M. Hoffman, M. Irwin, S. Sobel
Absent:  E. Miller
Administration:  T. McMorran, S. Pierson Ugol, P. Sullivan, T. Edward, C. Freeston, D. Martin, D. Wallin, C. Wessman Huber, C. Basta

S. Sobel called the September 6, 2016 meeting to order at 7:31 p.m.

Motion:  Move that the minutes of the June 7, 2016 Regular Joint Meeting of the Easton and Redding Boards of Education be approved.  A. Florkowski, G. Denny.  Approved.  Unanimous.

C. Parkin, Indian Hill Rd., Redding – Has heard from a number of parents that are concerned their child’s class size is too large. Advised that as of now, there are over 20 students in each class which is above the district goal of 16 – 20.

Motion:  Move to add agenda item 5G – Discuss new boiler at Redding Elementary School
G. Denny, M. Irwin. Approved. Unanimous.

Motion:  Move to add 2 items to Agenda under Staffing and Curriculum
Staffing re:  ILA at JRMS – Item 5H
Curriculum re:  World Language at JRMS – Item 5I
M. Irwin, M. Hoffman. Approved. Unanimous.

S. Sobel commented on how awesome the school looks and personally thanked Maria and also publically acknowledged the rest of the custodial staff for their work. In addition, Sara thanked M. D’Agostino, who was practically on site every day during the summer. M. D’Agostino commented/updated all on the project.  Interior of building is complete.  The roof top unit is being replaced.  School is not air conditioned at this point but the duct work and roof work is being handled and on-schedule.  It may be another 2-3 weeks before they are up and running.  He acknowledged Diane, Darlene and staff for their support as well as the Custodians that were on-site, particularly Maria, Luis, Enrique and Anna, who worked throughout the summer.  Every suspended ceiling came down to work on the duct work as well as new wiring.  They worked 10 hr. shifts in 2 weeks to complete this work.

A.  Acceptance of Gift from Redding Education Foundation
S. Sobel received a donation from the Redding Education Foundation (REF) President, A. Smith. She read the letter to the Board and commented that a check also accompanied the letter which represents the balance of what was left in the account.

 Motion:  Move to accept donation.  G. Denny, A. Florkowski.  Approved.  Unanimous.

J. Gaspar spoke briefly, recalling the REF when Nick Simeonidis was the Board of Education Chairman, at the time REF was leading a lot of educational initiatives in the community. It was imitated by ELF, Easton Learning Foundation. ELF has continued on while REF is no more.  He would like to see this ‘friendly competition’ reinvigorate Redding’s participation again.  Chairman Sobel also commented that the introduction of Smart Boards was a huge initiative of the REF.

T. McMorran explained that teacher evaluation takes the entire school year where teachers develop student learning objectives. They are evaluated using the CLASS system in which all administrators are trained to evaluate observations of teacher practice. This is the evaluation plan that was submitted to and approved by the State.  In the previous school year, there were 4 summative levels as follows:
1.  Leader
2.  Effective
3.  Developing
4.  Below Standard
-Other:  Not Ranked or In-Process

For the 2016 school year, the rankings were as follows:
-23 teachers identified as Leaders
-71 teachers in the Effective range
-3 teachers in the Developing range
-1 teacher was Not Ranked (due to being on extended medical leave)
-Several still In-Process, with minor paperwork issues being resolved

T. McMorran advised that going into the school year, there are a couple of teachers on a Structured Support Plan. This is designed to help them and support them so that they can become Effective. S. Sobel questioned the reason for some of the In-Process rankings.  T. McMorran advised that this is due to the program used to maintain this data, the ProTraxx system.  There are some sign-offs on the documents that have to be finalized which is something that will be done within a week.  It was explained that teachers focusing on the learning objective have personal growth goals which have areas they can improve on.  In addition, teachers can voluntarily seek out the plan or the administration can seek out teachers and suggest the Structural Support Plan.  There is no 1-1 correlation between the compensation package and the teacher ratings.  The program is designed to help teachers improve skills.

J. Gaspar questioned if there are any other creative solutions that other districts or the state is supporting to show appreciation for teachers who are “Leaders” rather than “Effective”? S. Pierson Ugol commented that the Collegial Inquiry Option, in part, is a way to recognize those teachers who are currently operating at an Effective or Leader level. It provides an option that doesn’t include a formal observation.  A board member asked how many classroom observations there are.  T. McMorran advised of the following:
-Non-tenured teacher would be observed three times formally in first two years with one informal observation and one review of practice;
-Tenured teacher – would receive one formal observation and either an informal observation or, a review of practice that is designed to provide feedback to the teacher. Teachers are notified in advance of formal observations.  McMorran stated that by mandate, all teaching evaluation plans have to have been approved by the state and they have to have a measured component of performance in the classroom, including ours.
S. Pierson Ugol commented that a Formal Observation Cycle is required by the state with a pre-observation before the formal observation followed by a post observation. All formal observations within a state approved evaluation plan, need to include a research based observation tool. There were several models to choose from and ER9 uses CLASS as our observation tool.  S. Sobel questioned if any districts do observations that are not announced in advance and S. Pierson Ugol advised that informal observations are also conducted in other districts.

Certified Special Education or Guidance Department Staff have the option of being observed in a PPT, a team meeting, or other group meeting if their job assignment is not consistent with a formal observation.

J. Gaspar questioned if we had a sense of comparison between our district and other school districts that are DRGA. S. Sobel made a note to address this at a later time. M. Hoffman questioned how much data is available on teacher evaluation ratings, for example, teacher’s names.  T. McMorran advised that names are not released as teacher’s rights are protected.  He proceeded to mention that there is a real variance in the identification at the different levels.  There are some school systems (not DRGA) where in excess of 80% of the teachers are being found to be level 4 Leader teachers.  Others distribute more normally while yet others are more biased.

T. McMorran began by informing the Board that the State of Connecticut signed on to the Common Core Standards which is a set of expectations of what students would learn in terms of knowledge or skills distributed over the 12 years of public education. The Smarter Balance Assessment is the state mandated test of English, Language Arts and Mathematics that are given to students in grades 3-8. The high- school has a state mandated assessment which is a Connecticut version of the SAT scores.  The state does not provide a curriculum.  They provide a framework of expectations for the different curricula.  Our curriculum work is to align our instructional practice with that broad arc.  The idea is that the student moving through the system will acquire knowledge and skills as they advance to help them retain knowledge over time.  The Smarter Balance Assessment is now in its 2nd year of being one measure of how the students are doing in English, Language Arts and Math.

The RES Power point presentation was viewed and explained by C. Wessman Huber.
Reviewed results from last year.  Explained the Data Analysis or Data Points that are used as the starting point.  Data Team Cycles meet to collect further information to review.  RES is sustaining a solid performance with a slight dip in 4th grade performance.  CMTs have reflected that Levels 3 and 4 are meeting their goals.  The big change in Math included an intervention block last year which is a 30-minute period during the day where they are either enriching or intervening with students.  A comparison within districts (DRGA schools), revealed RES is number three in the state (combined 3rd and 4th grades).  Grade three alone is number one.  ELA is still a solid, consistent score with 100% of grade 4 students in flexibly grouped mathematics were at a grade 4 level in mathematics (highest level).  Also noted that 95% of grade three students are also in the flexibly grouped mathematics.  All grade four level intervention students maintained or went up a grade level.  T. McMorran stressed that they want to be able to view these numbers to help those that are not making the numbers.  In addition, the numbers shown reflect the percentage of students reaching goal.

The JRMS Power point presentation was viewed and explained by D. Martin
At JRMS, they have 5th and 8th graders taking the CMTs which are also analyzed.  Have the ability to look at the scores and see where the impact was made and where the level of growth took place as well as where they clearly have work to do.  The overall scores are for current 6th graders (5th grade last year).

After viewing the Elementary School scores, you will sometimes notice that the Middle School scores are slightly lower however, grades four and five are within 3% or better.  Next level of work is the analysis, which would allow us to see what happened, what worked, etc.  The Math scores for grades 6-7 and 7-8 revealed something is working well in these areas.  CMT scores revealed last year 77% at goal; this year 91% are at goal.  Science – 5th Graders 91% are at or above goal (#1 in state)
J. Gaspar noted that it appears other districts are also struggling; 60% is just not good enough.

S. Pierson Ugol presented a walk-through of middle school math – what led up to where we are now in our school performance, including concerns about the math performance; include an inconsistency between the standardized and district test scores. The 2015 Smarter Balance performance was disappointing. Both teachers and parents have voiced concerns over topic coverage and student performance.  S. Pierson Ugol reviewed math performance in grades 3-8 as well as across DRGA.  General decline through the years is most likely the result of many different variables.  Colleagues in other DRGA districts are struggling with this as well.  In 2010, Connecticut adopted the Common Core State Standards which prompted a number of things, including an academic jump that may have been difficult for many of our students.  In addition, this also required teachers to learn new content as well as a new way of doing things.  In 2012, math specialists worked enormously hard to create a home grown curriculum due to the fact that the resources being used were not aligned to the Common Core.  A text book committee was formed and text books were reviewed and new resources purchased that support the curriculum (Math in Focus for the elementary school and CMP3 for the middle school).

S. Sobel heard that both students and parents were struggling with this instructional model, questioning if we need to look more closely at what we need to do about this. S. Pierson Ugol then explained that the traditional model (students are at desk, teacher explains problem and has students try a few) vs. a constructivist learning environment (teacher gives the students a problem, students engage in discussion and problem solving and come back with a strategy).

The goal is for students to be doing the thinking to build understanding.  Some students, initially, may not feel comfortable with this.  She provided the following statistics:
-K-1 heterogeneously grouped with enrichment provided
-Grade 2 mostly heterogeneously grouped classes
-Grades 3-4 grouped classes
-Grade 5 heterogeneously grouped classes with enrichment provided
-Grade 6 heterogeneously grouped classes and 1 advanced class
-Grade 7 heterogeneously grouped classes and 1 advanced class
-Grade 8 basically same model as grade 7

Intent of this year’s math model at the middle school is to implement a more flexible, more responsive approach using student performance data to inform grouping at the middle school level and to provide direct instruction, based on class and student need.  Depending on size, classes may be split in two so students would receive more direct attention from the teacher.  Decisions will be made on a unit by unit basis.  The arrangement can be changed throughout year as needs are prioritized as students’ progress.  Additional support staff will provide small group instruction under the direction of certified math instructors.  By doing this, the student’s schedule doesn’t change.  We are the ones to adapt.

J. Gaspar questioned where the additional support staff comes from and S. Pierson Ugol responded that in our 2015-2016 budget season, $25,000 was directed to address this math concern. Our plan is to acquire two part-time math support personnel (outside the usual paraprofessional union) who will be able to work around our needs. Not signing on for long term and they will be made aware of this.  Our math teachers, specialists and support team will all be involved.  The data team will include the above, along with the administrators, who will be doing a constant review of data to see how things are progressing, what needs to be changed, etc.  This model would allow us to address and correct the concerns of our Math program.

PowerSchool will be used a little differently this year, allowing us to create quick assessments that will then be uploaded into a data collection and later analyzed.
S. Pierson Ugol advised that this would be a paraprofessional position. The candidate should have solid understanding of math concepts as well as knowledge of good instruction. The posting needs to be appropriate with the position.  The district has been very successful in the past with the hiring paraprofessionals.  The goal is to implement a model that is responsive to student needs.  Approach will be to monitor progress as we benchmark progress.  Grouping models and support can be adjusted as needed.
J. Gaspar questioned the thinking behind the amount of math homework and the value in it. He doesn’t feel there is much math homework these days. S. Pierson Ugol responded this is a topic worth discussion, given the hour perhaps for a future meeting.  T. McMorran commented that there is a certain amount of homework up to which you are enforcing and strengthening what you are teaching in the classroom.  Then there is too much as well as not enough, which can fail them.  Repetition has value in the right content.  T. McMorran is on neither extreme and believes there is certainly merit in mathematics homework.

D. Martin reviewed logistic components of the proposal. JRMS would utilize a student led conference format for our conferences, beginning this year. In order to accomplish this, she proposed changing the four early dismissal dates in November to two early dismissal days in December.  Replace the teacher led conferences with more extended 20-30 student led conferences.  It basically takes the teacher/parent conversation and extends it and builds on the home/school connection.  In creating this plan, staff looked at what parents, teachers and students did to prepare for a conference.  Results revealed the students were getting the least out of this.  It is the belief that their participation would increase this.  They want students to advocate and have their own voice, think rationally and critically, and be able to react appropriately.  This would also allow them to be more responsible for the way they are learning and their actions.

—   Played video   —

Motion:  Move to change the four November half-days at JRMS to full days and to make December 13 and 14 early dismissal days, with a snow day on the 15th.  M. D’Agostino.  G. Denny.  Approved.  Unanimous.

P. Sullivan passed out a hand-out regarding the new legislation that was passed in June, 2016. The act concerns student data privacy and goes into effect Oct. 1, 2016. It includes requirements from both Board of Education as well as Contractors.  It sets new standards for contracts.  Under the law, we must get a statement from the contractors stating that they will not use this data.  The legislation outlines how quickly they need to notify us.  Within five days of signing a contract with a vendor that uses student data, we need to notify the parents, providing a link to the contractor’s website.  We’ve started compliance with this by creating an inventory of all the software, applications and websites currently in use that include student data.  The district is putting together a page on our website explaining legislation with all the links listed.

G. Denny expressed concern that the Board was not made aware of the boiler replacement at RES over the summer. She was surprised to hear of this from a member of the public, especially after she did a walk through with the Finance board in February, 2016 and was not made aware of any boiler problems at that time nor was it mentioned in the Joint Easton Redding Boards of Education meeting in June.

P. Sullivan explained that problems with the boiler began in late winter when the weather was 15 degrees. They began replacing parts which did not fix the problem.  Was advised by the Contractor that it needed to be replaced.  While the work has started, it is not finished.  They ran into a problem with permits.  The custodian thought the contractor had applied for the permit but the Contractor did not as he assumed the custodian had already done so.  When it came time to be inspected, there was a request that additional information be submitted resulting in a cease and desist order.  The old boiler has been removed.  Some new parts have been delivered.  The cost of the project is about $70,000 which will be taken out of the maintenance budget from last year.

S. Sobel would like it noted that she would like to be able to rely on our head custodian to make sure everything is in order with the town before he allows people to work in the buildings. She feels that since he is not new, this is a significant error on his part. P. Sullivan advised that the custodian’s only error was in assuming the contractor had obtained the permit (which is often the case) and was included in the contractor’s proposal.  G. Denny commented that in the future, the next time something like this happens, the public should be notified in advance of the problem.  C. Basta advised that while the original leak happened in the winter, in 15-degree weather and was repaired, other boiler problems occurred afterwards, resulting in the replacement of the boiler.

Changes that occurred with ILA from spring time to the summer were reviewed to explain the circumstances behind the hiring of two new teachers D. Martin.
-In Spring, 2016 reduced the Writing Specialist which bumped a FT ILA teacher who took a job in another district; the Writing Specialist then moved into that position
-Another teacher retired creating another .8 opening in that position which was then filled in Spring
-In early July, the FT ILA teacher resigned which moved that .8 person to a 1.0
-Posted and filled the .8 position
-Librarian Media Specialist resigned in late August. This is not a position we are going to fill this year in order to teach a class that at that point in the year, schedules could not be redesigned for the students.  A class previously assigned to the Librarian Media Specialist will be taught by an ILA teacher.

D. Martin reported her satisfaction with two new teachers that are going to be great with the students. When questioned if there was ever an opportunity to rehire a person that was released, T. McMorran advised that there is a recall procedure in force (up to 1 year), provided the teacher wishes to return.

Last year discussed moving the kindergarten World Language to 5th grade.  Kindergartens will not have Spanish instruction.  Fifth graders rotated, taking French, Latin and Spanish for about 30 days.  This year, they’re scheduled to take Spanish every other day all year allowing substantially more time for the language.  Therefore, they will be able to go substantially more in-depth.  Later in the year, they will have a brief exposure to Latin and French which will allow them to make a more educated choice of language studies in high school.  S. Sobel expressed her concern for the Latin and French languages.  She believes this approach would be doing a dis-service to the Latin and French languages.  Brief discussions followed.

Motion:  Moved to move up the Public Comment area before the Executive Session due to the time.  G. Denny, A. Florkowsi.  Approved.  Unanimous.

D. Martin echoed M. D’Agostino’s commendations for all the hard work the custodians did over the summer. She then proceeded to advise of the decision made by D. Wallin and herself to handle the first day of school a little differently this year. They gathered the students and asked them what their expectations for the year were as opposed to having the students sit behind a desk and telling them what was expected of them as students.  Both D. Martin and D. Wallen felt that this was one of the best first days of school they’ve ever had.

C. Wessman Huber – some classes are larger than normal. Expecting five more students to start. Many are new to Connecticut and new to the area and really don’t know anyone so they just learning to feel comfortable.  There are 5 kindergarten paras this year.  Other schools in DRGA also have paras in kindergarten, some part-time and some shared.  Advised of a new sign at RES and gave a quick presentation of the work that went into this.  She worked with Lori Skadel, a graphic designer who was new to Redding last year.  They will begin using the new sign/logo in different publications in celebrating RES.

T. Edwards welcomed two new Pre-K teachers to RES this year; including Stacey McGee (Easton) Sue Roman (SpEd para), Jennifer Fischer (PT School Psychologist) working one day at RES and one day at JRMS. Professional development (3 different sessions) took place at the beginning of the school year – all went well. Along with D. Martin, had a chance to meet with middle school Co-teachers, General-Ed and SpEd teachers to set some norms for the year and also allow them to collaborate and plan together.  The State of Connecticut has released a Transition Bill of Rights – a document that will function similarly to our current procedural safe guards for students in grades 6-12.  When parents come to a PPT, they will also be asked if they received the Transition Bill of Rights.  This document helps to prepare students for life experiences outside of and beyond school.

S. Pierson Ugol stated it was a very productive summer. Teachers engaged in great curriculum discussion and worked well together. Science is a priority this year.  ER9 teachers will participate in a regional curriculum writing consortium, which will accelerate our curriculum writing greatly.  Math teams, including Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Advanced Algebra teachers worked together to collapse some of these units and condense where possible.  Arranged meetings throughout the year with teachers to check on progress, results.

P. Sullivan – 2015-2016 Health Insurance claims were the lowest they’ve been in the past six years and when compared to budget they’re about $200,000 less than budget. July’s claims were over $300,000 for the month, a bit high. There were one or two instances which may have contributed to the higher than normal rate.  Some operating budget accounts were not fully expensed for the year (heating oil, electricity, transportation, etc.) while others were slightly over budget.  T. Edwards stated a review process of her Easton and Redding Special Education teams to see where processes differ and tried to make them the same.  In Redding, she discovered the Special Education secretary, when preparing excess costs reimbursement reports, had been calculating the cost per student differently than her Easton had been doing and was including some costs that Easton was not including.  A call was made to the State to clarify the correct way to prepare.  It turns out that Easton was processing correctly and Redding was not as they were including costs that should not have been included.  The formula she was following was one that had been followed for years and was put in place by a former employee.  Since this was done before the state reports were filed, it was corrected, and the Audit report will show the corrected amount.

Estimated over statement of cost is about $150,000 and at 70% reimbursement, it is approximately $115,000 that we were overpaid by the State for 2015-2016 year.  We anticipate that the State will reduce the amount of money the 2015-2016 revenue number and set it up as payable for the Town.  P. Sullivan also wanted to mention to the Board that she will be attending the Town of Redding Long Range Planning Committee meeting on September 22 at Town Hall at 5:00 p.m.   She invited anyone available and interested to attend.

T. McMorran acknowledged the Principals and teachers with the great work on Smarter Balance grades.

Mentioned that the BOE and BOF teams have met in two meetings already to talk about processes and share information.  S. Sobel welcomed anyone to attend.  The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 28 at 8:00 a.m. in Central Office.

Chris Nolan, 235 Old Town Road, Redding, CT – for the 7th year, for the most part the summer project has come in on time and for the most part, on budget.  Thanked M. D’Agostino for all his hard, dedicated work.  Also thanked the JRMS PTA who paid for a complete overhaul of the courtyard.  It was much needed and feels we are obligated to do this for the children.  Next year will be the elementary school and hopes it goes as smoothly.

Dana Gray, 17 Lamp Post Drive, Redding, CT – Does not believe the custodian should not get any backlash for the boiler incident, especially when the office and the Central Office knew starting in Feb. that there was a problem.  Nobody informed the BOE and then hired a contractor to fix it without advising them as they have a say in where and how this money is spent.  A little disappointed on how it was handled and hopes it does not happen again.  Second comment:  Glad we are working on the math program.  Her son is a sophomore now and she feels there was a very big gap in the program which is due to a poor foundation at the middle school.  Maybe need to concentrate on grades 8, 9 and 10.

Chris Parkin, Indian Hill Rd., Redding, CT – stated he was concerned about the Central Office errors related to the RES boiler and Special Education costs.

Mike D’Agostino stated his concerns about World Language.

Julia Pemberton asked about the use of the RES playground equipment by preschool students during school hours.

RES Security and General Access to the School Building


Motion:  Move to adjourn the meeting M. Hoffman, M. Irwin.  Approved.  Unanimous

The meeting adjourned at 10:55 p.m.

Submitted by Allyson Florkowski,
Redding Board of Education Secretary
Reported by Sharon Luciano

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