REDDING BOARD OF EDUCATION SPECIAL MEETING
Virtual Meeting via Zoom
April 30, 2020 – 7:30 p.m.
Zoom Meeting ID: 512 827 8190
Board members: Parkin, Whaley, Pilato, Hoffman, Reilly, Oulton, Hocker
Administration: McMorran, Pierson Ugol, Reiss, Del Conte
Others: 61 members of the staff and public, and the recording secretary
C. Parkin called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.
Vanessa Visners, Pine Mountain Road, Redding: said that she wanted to reiterate the need for the additional counselor at RES in the current school budget; that the students will need the assistance after this traumatic situation. She also said she was advocating for the retainment of the Enrichment Program at RES; that this program was one way to preserve the integrity of our schools and will continue to attract young families to Redding.
Stan Rhodes, Archer’s Lane, Redding: said that from everything he’s been reading, he feels, unfortunately, that we are headed toward an economic depression. He said he was making the following suggestions to maintain the quality of education for students, while also keeping the mill rate under control: stay away from increasing class size; maintenance of supplies either currently in buildings or that haven’t arrived yet; put JRMS principal search on hold and put in place a restructuring and consolidation of administrative tasks and personnel; look again at the special services department staffing; and surplus should go back to the town.
Erach Screwvala, Lamppost Drive, Redding: first expressed gratitude to the RES staff, saying that it was obvious that everyone is working very hard. He said he understands the pressure facing the town and urges the Board to find money to give back to the town, while resisting significant changes in programming. He said that drastic cuts now will end up costing more in the long run.
BOARD MEMBER COMMENT
C. Pilato said that she had been reading the letters that the BOF asked the community to submit for feedback on the town budget, and that she wakes up thinking about the pandemic and continues to think about it all day until she goes to sleep. She said the distance-learning was working in her home, but is hearing from families who are not having the same experience as she is having. She asked of the Central Office administration: “Is there a process in place to make sure there is equality in the amount of interaction between students and teachers,” and “is there a way to assess this?” C. Pilato also thanked the community and staff at schools for hanging in there with us.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION: HEALTHY FOOD CERTIFICATION AND EXEMPTION FOR FOOD AND BEVERAGE ITEMS
HEALTHY FOOD CERTIFICATION
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education, for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the Redding Board of Education will continue to certify to the Connecticut State Department of Education that all food items offered for sale to students separately from a reimbursable lunch will meet Connecticut Nutrition Standards. Such certification shall include all food offered for sale to students at all times, in all schools, and from all sources including, but not limited to, school stores, vending machines, school cafeterias, and any fundraising activities on school premises sponsored by the school or by non-school organizations and groups. (Whaley, Hocker). Approved. Unanimous.
EXEMPTION FOR FOOD AND BEVERAGE ITEMS
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education, for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the Redding Board of Education will allow the sale to students of food items that do not meet Connecticut Nutrition Standards and beverages that do not meet the requirements of state statute (Section 10-221q of the Connecticut General Statutes), provided (1) such sale is in connection with an event occurring after the end of the regular school day or on the weekend, (2) such sale is at the location of the event, and (3) such food and/or beverage is not sold from a vending machine or school store. An “event” is an occurrence that involves more than just a regularly scheduled practice, meeting or extracurricular activity. The “school day” is the period from midnight to 30 minutes after the end of the official school day. “Location” means where the event is being held and must be the same place as the food and beverage sales. (Whaley, Reilly). Approved. Unanimous.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION: 2020-2021 OPERATING BUDGET
C. Parkin began by putting the forthcoming conversation in context by saying that at the April 16, 2020, Redding Board of Finance meeting, the BOF requested that the Redding Board revisit their budget for 2020-2021 and find reductions that could be made to this budget. C. Parkin explained that there was a $100,000 increase to the budget for the Special Services department for anticipated expenditures for compensatory services for students. He then presented four scenarios of reductions to the 2020-2021 Redding Board budget: Scenario #1 = reduces budget by $118,607; Scenario #2 = reduces budget by $336,569; Scenario #3 = reduces budget by $790,799; and, Scenario #4 = reduces budget by $1,898,559. Each scenario was devised by Dr. McMorran. A thorough discussion about the four scenarios took place, including the issues of: possibility of fall/winter distance learning; continuation of quality programming and activities; class size; any current budget saving during distance-learning schedule; status of health insurance reserve; Central Office Data Analyst position; and speculation of where current events will lead. J. Reilly made a motion which was then withdrawn.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education approve 2020-2021 Budget Scenario #2, as presented by the Chairman of the Redding Board of Education, and without the $100,000 for Special Services, for an overall budget increase of 1.62%, or, $357,618. (Hoffman, Whaley). Failed. 1-6. (Parkin, Whaley, Pilato, Reilly, Oulton, Hocker dissented).
H. Whaley made a motion which was then withdrawn. C. Hocker said that the Board should focus on the matter at hand. C. Parkin said that we should make a decision on what we know now and that there was no mandate from the state or town to hit a certain number or target. M. Hoffman said that we should keep in mind that our students are not victims and fall within the top five in the state for per pupil spending.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education approve 2020-2021 Budget Scenario #1 with the additional reductions from Scenario #2 to include: half of the extracurricular activities, RES recess paraprofessional, JRMS cafeteria supervisor, and 1 FTE certified RES teacher; additionally, the increase to Special Services will be in the amount of $50,000. This new 2020-2021 Redding School Budget reflects an increase of 2.29%, or, $506,349. (Whaley, Hocker). Approved. 4-3. (Parkin, Pilato, Hoffman dissented).
Jim Lang, resident near JBHS, Redding: said he was speaking in terms of the just approved 2.29% increase to the Redding school budget and that he was disappointed to hear that number. He said that other towns have reduced their budgets considerably and that we need to be doing the same. J. Lang said that we don’t want to lose our teachers, so maybe cuts across the board is something you should consider.
Stan Rhodes, Archer’s Lane, Redding: said that he had just gotten a bulletin from the Town of Redding in which there was a notice that the next Redding BOF meeting would be on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, the same evening as the next Redding Board meeting. He said that perhaps the Redding Board should move their meeting so that there are not two meetings on the same night.
Jamie Barickman, Church Hill Lane, Redding: thanked the Redding Board for their points of view and said that he encourages the Board to think of next year and the year after that. He said that need for long-range planning is more acute now than ever before and that our plans should be fundamentally more efficient in the delivery of services.
Angela Caes, Deer Hill Road, Redding: thanked the Board for their insights and thoughts in this discussion. She said she commends the Board for keeping the class size as they are and for the continuation of services. She said that she supports J. Barickman in his urging of more long-range planning.
First Selectman Julia Pemberton, Umpawaug Road, Redding: said thank you to everyone for the conversation and the dedication to the schools; that this is the number one reason why people move to our town. Per earlier comments in the meeting, she said she wanted to follow-up with the current unemployment rate for Redding; she said it was 7.9% for new unemployment claims only from the end of March to mid-April.
Amy Arnold, Werf Drive, Redding: said that she saw on U.S. Representative Jim Himes’ website that he was seeking out funds for special services, and that she heard the governor had signed on for more special services funds too. She said that she feels that we’re putting school kids and seniors against each other. She wondered if people who lost their jobs have kids in the schools, and also, maybe there should be a discussion about who is really facing financial hardship here.
BOARD MEMBER COMMENT
C. Pilato thanked everybody for staying on the call and said that she gets emails from people at RES from 7:30 am to 10:00 pm, and that she thanks everyone there for hanging in there.
C. Hocker said that he was struck by how civil and grown-up the deliberations are, and that he is impressed. He said these conversations are tough and that he was glad that everyone on the Board gave their best.
H. Whaley thanked everybody and said that we’re all trying to do our best. She said that she trusts that everybody on the Board has the best interest of the students and staff in mind.
C. Parkin said that he echoes what H. Whaley said and that he would expand upon it by saying that what the Board has to do is not easy, and often, it’s a thankless job. He said to remember that when we talk about making reductions across the board, we’re putting a private sector gloss on a public sector entity. C. Parkin said that the Board has obligations from state government and town government, and obligations from what the people in Redding expect. He thanked his colleagues for a good conversation and deliberation.
Motion: move that the Region 9 Board of Education meeting be adjourned (Hoffman, Reilly). Approved. Unanimous.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:48 p.m.
Submitted by Colleen Pilato
Redding Board of Education Secretary
Recorded by Sarah Ota