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Minutes of Redding Board of Education Special Meeting, 05/17/2018

AGENDA: Redding Board of Education Special Meeting

RECEIVED 05/31/2018 3:51pm
Michele R. Grande – Redding Town Clerk

Special Meeting
John Read Middle School Community Room
May 17, 2018 – 6:45 p.m.

Board of Education: Irwin, Hoffman, Parkin, Whaley, Pilato, Hoeing, Reilly
Administration: McMorran, Martin, Hammond, Reiss, Pierson Ugol, Torre
Members of the Public: Approximately 25 members of the public, staff, and press

Dr. Irwin called the meeting to order at 6:47 p.m.

Mary Urban, Picketts Ridge Road, Redding – Teacher in Redding and a Redding resident for twenty years. Feels that the public does not understand that Special Education mandates cannot be reduced. Ms. Urban supports the budget and providing students with the best education possible. She strongly advises the public to keep in mind that without our teachers, the quality of education changes.

Sarah O’Dell, Black Rock Turnpike – Spoke of her experience at RES. Her son had a first year teacher this year and while skeptical at first, she feels this teacher is energetic, dedicated, and sensitive to the children. This teacher drives innovation in the classroom and has taken the time to find challenges for all her students. Ms. O’Dell made a plea to everyone involved in the budget, to think about the values from the staff at RES and the teachers who are changing the lives of our children.

Mr. Parkin stated that this is a difficult evening with discussions of cuts. He is disappointed that the budget failed but he is more disappointed in the misinformation in the community. Addressed some suggestions and concerns that have been brought to his attention in the past few weeks and noted that there is no current year surplus with anticipated spending exceeding budget by 200k. He felt it is also worth noting that it has also been suggested that state aid has been reduced in a drastic level when in fact, this past week, the Governor has just signed legislation that ensures that $313,000 of education cost sharing money will come to the town of Redding next year. Disappointed that the Board of Finance decided not to wait for BOE deliberation to meet and potentially set its own budget number. This denies the public the opportunity to fully view the process while sending a message to him that what they are doing tonight is purely an academic exercise because the Board of Finance will set their own number, regardless of what the Board says, thinks or does at this special meeting.

Mrs. Pilato wanted to briefly mention the recent passing of Charlie Couch who made a difference in many of the students’ lives. Mrs. Pilato also shared her 7-year old daughter’s spelling list as an example of how purposely her daughter’s teacher is pushing her and her class. One of the reasons why as a board, they are concerned about class size. Personalized learning becomes a very big undertaking. Mrs. Pilato stressed that she believes this budget supports the level of education our children are experiencing. Feels the cuts will impact the general student population of all Redding students.

Mrs. Whaley echoed Mrs. Pilato’s comments and apologized for the budget becoming a partisan issue, which it was never meant to be. Stressed that contractual mandated costs cannot be changed or reduced. Made a plea for someone to start the Redding Education Fund as it would be provided by the parents, who are willing to support the schools.

Mrs. Hoeing disagreed with the use of the word partisan and noted that budget opposition was not all of one party.

Mr. Hoffman agreed with Mrs. Hoeing that the budget is not a partisan issue. Believes the people that spoke to him feel it is more about taxes and what is going on at the state level. He did not think there was misinformation but that the revaluation and elimination of the SALT deduction motivated opposition. He made a plea to the Redding Board to take what happened in the referendum seriously to avoid being in this situation again.

Dr. Irwin shared an article that was listed in the Redding Pilot from U.S. News and World Report where Joel Barlow High School is ranked 16th best high school in the state of Connecticut. This should be kept in mind as Dr. McMorran goes through his presentation.

Dr. McMorran recognized many members of the community present and thanked them for coming to the meeting before sharing three separate presentations. He does not see partisan differences rather, he sees children who are eager to learn. Dr. McMorran noted that he never wants Joel Barlow to be in the top 300 schools in the country because then it becomes a numbers game. Barlow does not allow freshman and sophomores to take the AP courses therefore, the numbers are never going to add up properly. Dr. McMorran stressed that while we don’t have a ranking in a device that is meant to sell magazines, we do have a quality school.

It was also noted by Dr. McMorran that while we work for the public, it is the town who determines the resources that we have available to take us through the year.

Dr. McMorran presented a list of potential reductions to the budgets of RES and JRMS totaling $431,052.

Discussion followed with considerable focus on the potential elimination of world language at RES. Additional discussion included the merits of reductions in the health insurance line, loss of the RES counselor, class sizes, and reductions in extracurriculars.

Motion: move to approve an operating budget for 2018-19 of $21,231,623. (Parkin, Reilly). [Superintendent’s potential reductions except world language/Latin].

Discussion followed. Mr. Parkin withdrew the motion.

Motion: move to approve an operating budget for 2018-19 of $21,231,623. (Whaley, Hoffman). [Superintendent’s potential reductions except world language/Latin plus reduction in health reserve].

Discussion followed. Mrs. Whaley withdrew the motion.

Motion: move to approve an operating budget for 2018-19 of $21,121,571. (Hoffman, no second). [Superintendent’s potential reductions as written]

Additional discussion followed.

Motion: move to approve an operating budget for 2018-19 of $21,231,623. (Parkin, Reilly).
[Superintendent’s potential reductions except world language/Latin].

Additional discussion followed. Motion carried 4-3. (Pilato, Whaley, Hoffman opposed).

Motion: move to table further discussion of the operating budget pending outcome of concurrent Board of Finance meeting. (Parkin, Reilly). Unanimous.

Kathy Weiss – Mrs. Weiss noted that society has changed and the curriculum is so intense that we need to be sure we’re meeting the mental health needs of students. She strongly advocated for the RES counselor position and noted that it is very much needed. Mrs. Weiss also expressed concern about the future of music education in light of the elimination of a position at JRMS.

Susan Winters, Seventy Acre Road – Mrs. Winters rhetorically asked why we are “stressing kids out” with hard work. She noted that her son loved Latin but thinks it would be ok to cut.

Mary Urban, Picketts Ridge Rd. – Mrs. Urban hopes the word gets out to support the budget; she expressed concern that false and misleading information will return and influence the vote; she is concerned about the reduction in music at JRMS and believes world language is important.

Joanne Gray, Lonetown Rd. – Mrs. Gray said she moved to Redding for the schools; she appreciates the work of the Board and is grateful for the continuation of Latin in the curriculum.

Susan Winters, Seventy Acre Rd – Mrs. Winters takes offense to the use of the word “misinformation” in discussion of the budget. She noted that her publication welcomes submissions from all sides.

Motion: move to recess the meeting and reconvene in Town Hall at the conclusion of the Board of Finance meeting. (Parkin, Hoffman). Unanimous.

The meeting stood in recess at 10:04 pm.

Dr. Irwin reconvened the meeting at Town Hall at 10:30 pm.

Motion: move to adjourn the Redding Board of Education Special Meeting. (Hoffman, Whaley). Motion carried 5-0. (Reilly, Hoeing absent).

The meeting adjourned at 10:31 p.m.

Submitted by
Chris Parkin, Redding Board of Education Secretary

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