Alexander Named New Board Of Education Chair, NHS Administrative Vacancy Also Filled

The Board of Education unanimously voted to hire David Roach of Southbury to fill a vacant assistant principal position at Newtown High School during its meeting on Tuesday, July 15. Later in the meeting the school board also voted to name Keith Alexander as its new chair.

“Welcome,” school board Vice Chair Laura Roche said after the vote to hire Mr Roach.

According to his resume, Mr Roach has been working as a social studies teacher for Regional School District 15 at Pomperaug High School since 2001, and he served as the school’s head football coach since 2011. He has also worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport since 2009.

“Thank you for trusting me with the position,” Mr Roach said, speaking before the school board at the meeting. He also noted that his family, his parents, wife Jessica, and his infant son, were present at the meeting to support him. “Thank you very much for making me a part of Newtown High School and also the community.”

Later in meeting, Ms Roche accepted nominations for the school board’s new chair. During its last meeting on June 30 Debbie Leidlein had announced she was stepping down as chair after discussing the decision with her family.

“I’ve had some experiences in my personal life recently that have made it difficult for me to focus 100 percent of my attention to the Board of Education and to being the chair of the Board of Education,” Ms Leidlein said during the June 30 meeting. “And so, after tonight’s meeting, I will be stepping down as chair at the Board of Education.”

Mr Alexander and board Secretary Kathy Hamilton were both nominated for the position of chair.

“[Mr Alexander] has been a member for just over three and a half years, and he has demonstrated his commitment to bettering education in Newtown,” Ms Leidlein said. “He’s served on the technology and communication committees and has been a benefit to those committees. In the most difficult times [Mr Alexander] was willing to do what was needed.”

Ms Leidlein also highlighted Mr Alexander’s ability to work well with others, gain support, and respect others’ opinions.

Speaking about his motion to nominate Ms Hamilton for the position of chair, David Freedman said, “[Ms Hamilton] is clearly an exemplary person to be the chair. Her organizational skills are incredible.”

Mr Freedman also said he has worked with Ms Hamilton on school board committees.

“She really is a true leader who can work with, not only just the board, but also with multiple constituencies in our community,” Mr Freedman said.

Before he was selected to lead the board, Mr Alexander said, “I’m looking forward to the idea of being chair, I think that I would like to make sure that we keep moving the district forward with as many opinions and diverse conversations as we can have, so that we can ensure that we keep doing the right thing for the kids.”

Following the meeting Mr Alexander said he appreciates the opportunity and is “looking forward to making a positive impact.”

The school board voted 4 to 3 to name Mr Alexander as chair, with Mr Alexander, Ms Leidlein, Michelle Ku, and John Vouros voting in favor.


A Pilot Program For GATES

The school board also heard presentations on a planned GATES (Gifted and Talented Education Students) pilot program, a school-based health clinic for Newtown Middle School, and how Reed Intermediate School helped to fund building a school in Liberia. Discussion on a school-based health clinic at NMS was tabled until a future meeting.

Reed Principal Anne Uberti also presented the school board with a new schedule for her school that will be implemented for the 2014-15 school year.

“I feel pretty confident that the framework of the schedule will hopefully not change for a long time,” said Ms Uberti, adding there will always be modifications to make. “But we can preserve the basic layout.”

By approving the GATES pilot program, Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, said, the school board would allow administrators to hire educators to fill positions to work with the GATES program. The positions are already accounted for in the 2014-15 school budget, according to Dr Erardi.

Director of Pupil Services Julie Haggard said a 0.8 and 2.4 positions will be filled to serve Reed Intermediate School and Newtown Middle School in the pilot program.

She outlined a timeline for how the pilot program will be introduced in the school district. In August, Ms Haggard said, a curriculum committee will be formed, which would be run by the GATES teachers. By October, elementary students who were identified and assigned in September, will start to meet in school groups weekly with other identified elementary school students at Reed, according to Ms Haggard.

The topic of transporting the elementary GATES students to Reed is still being worked out with All-Star Transportation, Inc, according to Ms Haggard.

By January Ms Haggard said the school board will be updated on how the process is working to review the program.

“At that point we’ll seek your seal of approval to move forward and finalize our program as a whole as we work through our pilot year,” Ms Haggard said.

After discussion the school board unanimously approved the GATES pilot program. 

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