REDDING BOARD OF EDUCATION
Special Meeting Minutes
John Read Middle School Community Room
October 1, 2019
Board members: Irwin, Hoffman, Parkin, Hoeing, Pilato, Reilly, Whaley.
Administration: McMorran, Pierson Ugol, Hammond, Amori, Reiss, Del Conte.
Others: 11 members of the staff and public, note taker.
CALL TO ORDER
Dr. Irwin called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education approve the minutes of September 3, 2019, Regular Meeting as submitted. Reilly, Hoeing. Approved. Unanimous.
L. Hoeing stated that she wanted a clarification in the minutes of September 3, 2019. L. Hoeing said that she said on September 3, 2019: “Let’s discuss why we can’t have students wait until 8th grade to be able to use a cell phone in school,” and not how the minutes currently read with her saying “Let’s discuss why we can’t have students wait until the last half of 8th grade to be able to use a cell phone in school.” She also asked that “tech devices” be replaced with “smart phones.” Both revisions are to page 3.
Stan Rhodes, Archers Lane, Redding. Mr. Rhodes said he unofficially represents a group of Redding residents who all have the common good of Redding in mind. He would like to see a consolidated maintenance of town properties in the form of common bidding for work that needs to be done in town. He also made the same request at a recent Redding Board of Finance meeting.
Christie Tulloch, Newtown Turnpike, Redding. Ms. Tulloch said that she does not support a full ban of student cell phone use in the middle school. She said cell phones can be beneficial when parents need to get in touch with their children, but the cell phones should be banned in the classroom. She said parents should decide when their children can use a cell phone, but that the middle school has the responsibility to inform parents about options.
Christopher Tsei, Gallows Hill Road, Redding. Mr. Tsei said that there is a budgeting problem in Redding with departments and boards operating independently of one another. He supports mutual priorities for all town departments and he supports the facilitated conversation between the Redding Board of Education and the Redding Board of Finance.
Jim Lang, Blackrock Turnpike, Redding. Mr. Lang said he’s embarrassed by the state of many buildings and facilities in Redding. He said there should be a more aggressive stance of working together between town departments and that this will get more done town-wide.
Nancy Pelz-Paget, Stephens Road, Redding. Ms. Pelz-Paget said she’d like to see more working together between the Redding Boards of Education, Finance and Selectmen.
Amy Arnold, Werf Drive, Redding. Ms. Arnold said the people who just spoke are very concerned about the budgets in town. She added that we won’t vote the budget down, but isn’t there a way to involve all these knowledgeable people. She asked if there was a BOE vision for going forward. Ms. Arnold also stated that she would like a conversation in the future about changing the start time at Joel Barlow High School.
BOARD MEMBER COMMENT
L. Hoeing said that parents and students need to be better informed and educated about cell phone usage, both positive and negative usage. She said she had some great articles about vaping and would forward them to the other Redding BOE members.
H. Whaley said that she thinks the best way to go about changing the start time for high school is to lobby the legislators in Hartford. She said she thinks there should be a mandated high school start time across the whole state of Connecticut.
C. Parkin said he thought it was a positive step that the state legislature raised the buying age for tobacco products, including vaping products.
C. Pilato said that she printed out a Redding School District Mission Statement for everyone and that the Redding BOE and school administrators should keep going back to this statement when deciding upon school goals.
Dr. Irwin thanked C. Parkin, M. Hoffman, J. Reilly and S. Reiss for all their work on the recent contract negotiations.
M. Hoffman stated that he has concerns about the identification of students qualifying for Special Education services and the cost of it. He said he understands firsthand the importance of these services, but the fact that the identification rate has gone from 12% to 18% is concerning. M. Hoffman said that possibly another level of oversight is needed; perhaps a sub-committee of the Redding BOE.
Motion: move to change Agenda Item VII. C. to IV. A. Hoffman, Whaley. Approved. Unanimous.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION (New Agenda Item IV.A.) FACILITATED CONVERSATION: BOE, BOS and BOF
Dr. Irwin said the Greenwich Leadership Partners has proposed, at the suggestion of Susan Clark, to become a consultant for the Redding BOE, BOS and BOF to offer an unbiased assessment of issues in the Town of Redding. Ms. Clark said that the Redding BOE, BOS and BOF all have the same priorities for Redding and all have a passion for the education system that exists in Redding. She said the Greenwich Leadership Partners work would be at no cost to the BOE and that the BOF has voted to find the funds for the proposal. Ms. Clark said that the consultation will help the town boards develop budgets that match what the town wants; that there will be discussions of visions for education, open space, facilities, etc. She said that instead of the three boards coming up with their own budgets and then trying to get them to mesh, the three boards will work in collaboration with one another. H. Whaley said that the Redding BOE already has a vision for education, and that she thinks the Redding BOE should first meet separately with the consultants to explain the BOE vision. C. Parkin said that when he asked for joint meetings in 2018 during the multiple referendum process there was no interest and that the Tri-Board meeting last December felt like a show or presentation and was a missed opportunity for discussion. He said he’s not sure if we are ready for a consultant if we haven’t even tried to meet meaningfully. Moreover, C. Parkin said he’d like to see the proposal be geared towards improving the working relationship between the boards rather than defining the vision of the schools. He noted that the Planning Commission, BOE, and other boards have differing responsibilities. M. Hoffman stated that he is for the consultant proposal. He said he’s not sure how a meeting with the BOF and BOS could hurt and that he’d love to move forward with it. L. Hoeing asked how many meetings would be involved. Ms. Clark said that there would need to be two public meetings; and that the Region 9 Board would be kept informed, but not involved in the process. Dr. McMorran said that the three town boards should have this conversation sooner than later. He also said that there’s no harm in civil discourse and that it would not inhibit any other work of the administration or the proposal regarding a search consultant for the new JRMS principal.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education agrees to participate with the Redding Board of Finance and the Redding Board of Selectmen to develop a vision for the Town of Redding, including its schools, through a series of facilitated meetings and conversations. Whaley, Reilly. Approved. Unanimous.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction: Dr. Pierson Ugol presented her report on the 2019-2020 ER9 Priorities of 1) Enhancing Our Ability to Make Data-Informed Decisions, and 2) Empower Student Ownership of Their Learning. She provided details on how enduring understanding leads to deep understanding, and is an example of authentic intellectual work. C. Parkin said that it was helpful to see it in this application; that is can be understood and visualized, especially in the areas of science and STEM. C. Pilato asked where do we go with this? Dr. Pierson Ugol explained that with the students having ownership of their learning, they can then make further and deeper connections with it. Dr. Irwin thanked Dr. Pierson Ugol for the report and said that it gives the BOE a better understanding.
BUILDING ADMINISTRATIVE REPORTS
Redding Elementary School Principal: N. Hammond reported that the new Maker Space in the library is fully operational. She said that RES is working on their priorities of 1) Student Ownership of Learning -this takes place through the Teacher’s College model in reading and writing, where students set their own goals after receiving initial teacher feedback on their work; and, 2) the Growth Mindset or Fixed Mindset, which has been introduced to the staff and students. N. Hammond also invited the BOE to come visit RES at any time. C. Parkin commented on how repairing the viewing platforms in the marsh across the street from RES is an example of a potential joint venture between the Redding BOE and town.
Interim John Read Middle School Principal: Dr. Amori spoke about the unannounced visits she has been making to the various classes and how she has observed the authentic intellectual work model taking place throughout the school. She said shifting the responsibility of learning to the student and the shift in presentation can be uncomfortable, but that that is where they want everyone to be. Dr. Amori also said that the staff is finalizing their building goals for 2019-2020.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION: VOTE ON ASSOCIATION OF REDDING ADMINISTRATORS CONTRACT
C. Parkin said that there was nothing to vote on yet and promised an update immediately following the meeting as status of negotiations is confidential and not subject to FOI.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION: PRINCIPAL SEARCH: STATUS FOR JRMS
Dr. McMorran reported that he had spoken with three employment search firms that specialize in administration school searches; he received bids from two of the firms to conduct the search for the middle school principal. Dr. McMorran suggested conducting a community focused event to get feedback on what they are hoping for in a leader for the middle school. He also estimated that the entire search process would take at least 75 hours. C. Parkin asked about the arc of time in starting the search and whether there would be overlap in the scope of work of the Greenwich Leadership Partners work or the work of a general strategic planning consultant. Dr. McMorran replied that the search should start in the fall. J. Reilly suggested that with the authorization of funds for the search, that it should start within the next 10 days.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education give authorization for the allocation of funds for the search for the new middle school principal, in an amount not to exceed $20,000. Whaley, Pilato. Approved. Unanimous.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION: SMARTER BALANCED PERFORMANCE 2019
Dr. McMorran reported on the results of the 2019 Smarter Balanced Performance test for the district, saying that scores are going up, but that the unpacking of the results continues. He said that he is not happy about the number of students scoring a 1 or 2, but that this is summative data and not as strong as the Fontas & Pinnell reading assessment, the Dibels assessment and the PSATs. He said that there is good stuff going on in the classrooms and that meetings with the teacher teams need to happen in order to get this data into their hands and ask: “What is the narrative there?” He also said that this is why the district uses multiple measures in looking at the whole child. Dr. Irwin asked if the students who showed no growth were being addressed in some way. N. Hammond replied that addressing these students was currently going on in RES.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION: CELL PHONE USE BY STUDENTS AT JRMS
Dr. Amori reported on the cell phone use survey that was sent out to parents of JRMS, saying that there were 68 responses and 72% supported a ban on all cell phone use and 27% were against a ban on all cell phone use. She said she received additional parent comments such as, “I want my child to have a cell phone in the event of a school shooting,” “Students don’t need the phones with so much other technology devises in the school,” and, “If there were a ban, I wouldn’t be opposed but I’m not for it either.” Dr. Irwin asked if there was even a need for a change in policy based on these comments. L. Hoeing said that what is frustrating is that every teacher handles the use of cell phones differently; that uniformity would be helpful. Dr. Amori said that since there are no locks on the lockers there is a concern about where cell phones would be stored during the day. She also stated that the staff cell phone survey results were: 63% in support of the cell phone ban and 36% against the cell phone ban; 23 staff members responded. H. Whaley asked if the JRMS students should be asked about cell phone usage. Dr. McMorran said that an ethos should be created where you just don’t take out your phone all the time; that no phones should be allowed in the cafeteria and during down-times. He said that these two times should be used for social interaction. Dr. McMorran stated that he’d like to see the students take on this issue and should do so within the next six weeks. M. Hoffman said that they will carry this item on the BOE agenda for the next two months. Dr. Amori said JRMS will have some student responses within six weeks.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION: Policies- 2nd Readings
C. Parkin asked the administration to confirm its comfort level with the policy regarding restorative justice. Dr. McMorran confirmed its comfort.
Motion: Move that the Redding Board of Education approve Policies 3323; 4135; 4135.3; 5118.1; 5144.12; 6141.322; 6141.3221; 6172.12 for a second reading. Parkin, Whaley. Approved. Unanimous.
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATIVE REPORTS
Director of Special Services: J. Del Conte reported that it is a busy time of the year for her department and they are fielding numerous calls from parents about the identification process for Special Services. As of now, there are no new student entrants into Special Services. She said that they are having conversations with teachers about modifications vs. accommodations; they would like to see accommodations rather than modifications. C. Parkin asked if there was any tracking of aggregate progress towards IEP goals and objectives for the students receiving Special Services. J. Del Conte said that students in Special Services are assessed four times per year and that they can certainly track them. M. Hoffman brought up the idea of a Special Education sub committee on the BOE, saying that the BOE does what it needs to do to support Special Services, but doesn’t want to get blindsided about funding. J. Del Conte said they are always looking at trends within the Special Services student population, and right now the trends are dyslexia and autism.
Director of Finance & Operations: Scott Reiss reported that the Phoenix financial software system needs to be replaced and that he had a list of three possible vendors for the new system. He reported the results of the RFP and requested funding be allocated.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education authorize the Director of Finance & Operations to pursue a replacement to the Phoenix System software, at a cost not to exceed $35,000. Parkin, Whaley. Approved. Unanimous.
S. Reiss gave a budget summary that included noting that the substitute line went over budget and that there was still one invoice outstanding; he said that the current year budget is on target so far.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education give authorization to the Director of Finance & Operations to make the necessary transfer requests from 2018-2019 to zero out lines 123 and 124. Parkin, Reilly. Approved. Unanimous.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education authorize the Director of Finance & Operations to transfer $37,740 from line 111 Certified Salary to line 330 Outside Services in the 2019-2020 district budget. Parkin, Reilly. Approved. Unanimous.
Dr. Irwin thanked S. Reiss for his work and thorough report.
BOARD OF EDUCATION COMMITTEE REPORTS
BOARD MEMBER COMMENT
H. Whaley asked anyone who wanted to, to join the Food Service sub committee; they will be looking to sustainable methods and procedures for food service within the district.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education meeting be adjourned. Parkin, Hoffman. Approved. Unanimous.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:12 p.m.
Recorded by Sarah Ota
Submitted by Chris Parkin
Redding Board of Education Secretary