BOE Approves K-5 Math Curriculum, Receives Athletics Program Update
The Newtown Board of Education (BOE) met in person at the Newtown High School auditorium on May 18, at 6:30 pm, with a livestream option through YouTube.
After the Profiles in Professionalism ceremony and intermission at the start of the meeting (see article in next week’s paper for details), Michelle Embree Ku led the chair Report.
Ku explained that she would like to have BOE member representation at each moving up and graduation ceremony in June.
As for next BOE meeting, it will also begin at 6:30 pm.
Ku noted that BOE representatives will be present at the upcoming Charter Revision Commission meeting and that she will be attending the National School Boards Association Advocacy Institute in June that the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) is sponsoring.
She concluded by reminding members about the diversity equity and inclusion survey from CABE; and with summer approaching and budget season done, the BOE will need to start thinking about the board self-evaluation and superintendent evaluation.
In the superintendent’s report, Dr Lorrie Rodrigue informed the board that the Snow Day Committee met for the first time last week and will begin outlining their plan for next year.
She spoke about Anne Uberti, Frank Purcaro, and consultants from Re-Center meeting to discuss the hiring process for the new Equity and Inclusion Coordinator.
Her report also touched upon the excitement that students have for the end-of-year activities coming up, a sentiment that was echoed in the BOE’s student representative’s reports.
Student representative Jillian Clure shared that Junior Prom is this Friday, May 21, and reminded everyone to send in their photos to The Newtown Bee. Those who wish to submit photos to be considered for publishing can e-mail Education Reporter Eliza Hallabeck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student representative Rushil Jerfy told the BOE that there are a lot of activities going on, including Spirit Week this week. Next week is the senior trip to Six Flags New England and the final week of AP tests.
The April financial report was presented by Director of Business and Finance Tanja Vadas.
She explained that the BOE spent approximately $6 million for the month of April, with $4.2 million going to salaries and $1.8 million for other projects.
With that in mind, 99.98% of the full year budget has been spent. Her slideshow stated, “$60.8 million in YTD expenditures, $16.1 million in active encumbrances, [and] $1.7 million in anticipated obligations.”
The March financial balance was negative $13,000, but thanks to April savings of $29,603, it now has a projected year-end balance of positive $16,475. She detailed that the major objectives that attributed to the change were professional services, supplies, and property.
For the food service update, Vadas told the BOE that the high school sustained a loss of $3,825 and that K-8 had a loss of $17,748, totaling $21,572 for the month of April.
She added that this summer they will be working with Newtown Parks and Recreation to provide free meals to students who attend day camps and the summer Splash program that takes place in conjunction with Continuing Education summer school.
Vadas ended her presentation by saying that this month the NoVo Foundation grant was approved, totaling $750,000,; the ESSER II grant was approved, totaling $625,532; and that COVID-related expenses remain at just over $2.7 million.
Athletics Program Update
Newtown High School Athletic Director Matt Memoli started off his presentation of the Athletics Program the by thanking the student athletes, coaches, parents, athletic trainer, athletic department, school nurses, administration, superintendent, and BOE.
“Thanks to you all for your support throughout this season,” he said.
He noted how proud he was of the number of student athletes that participated this year. His slideshow specified that more than 170 student-athletes participated in intramural and interscholastic athletics at the Newtown Middle School and about 1,086 student-athletes participated in interscholastic athletics at the Newtown High School.
Memoli reviewed the fall season sports, which included unified soccer, swim and dive, cross country, volleyball, soccer, 7v7 football, field hockey, cheer, and dance. Nearly all the sports were livestreamed for people who could not attend the events.
For the winter season, they had unified basketball, basketball, hockey, track, gymnastics, swim, cheer, and dance.
He explained that all the students who were competing had to wear masks and that two fans per student were allowed to attend the winter events in person.
“Now, in the spring, we are at the point now where we are allowing anyone to come to cheer,” Memoli said of the season’s sporting events.
Currently, sports being offered are unified track, lacrosse, track and field, softball, baseball, tennis, golf, and volleyball. The athletics program has a full schedule with upcoming conferences and state playoffs.
When discussing community involvement, he said that between the year they had and what they were able to accomplish, it was “something special.”
His presentation highlighted many non-competition accomplishments, including gift card drives in November and December that raised more than $2,000 for the local food pantry; the athletics department and the hockey team raising $5,500 for Special Olympics Connecticut; the cheer program sponsoring a family in need during the holiday season; and the girls’ soccer team writing letters to senior citizens at the local senior centers.
Memoli then informed the BOE about various upcoming facilities projects: the stadium turf and track will be replaced after graduation and a video board with a live video feed will replace the old scoreboard.
He explained that the video board will be an asset to have and “the sky’s really the limit for what we can do.”
The video board also did not use any taxpayer money and was instead funded by local groups and businesses.
After Memoli’s presentation, Ku said, “Thank you for all you’ve done this year,” to which he replied that it was a team effort of the athletic department.
New K-5 Math Program
Newtown Public School Director of Teaching and Learning Frank Purcaro gave a presentation informing the BOE how the K-5 math pilot program for 2020-21 went, and the selection that was made as a result.
“This is a culmination of over a year’s worth of work,” he prefaced before diving into the process.
His slideshow notes indicated that the goal of the math pilot was to: adopt a resource that supports rigorous math instruction and is fully aligned to current curriculum standards; adopt a resource that may be used by students uniformly through the grade spans to support more consistent instructional practices; and commit to a resource for multiple years to build internal capacity and understanding for staff as well as long-term familiarity for students and families.
After narrowing down the curriculum prospects, two were chosen to pilot: Bridges in Mathematics and EnVision Math.
Back in May 2020, an informational meeting was held with K-5 teachers interested in piloting the program, and the next month they were assigned specific resources. Some were given Bridges in Mathematics to teach and others were given EnVision Math, which they implemented throughout the 2020-21 school year.
When choosing which curriculum to select, there were four major considerations: data from fall and spring resource evaluation rubrics; classroom observations throughout the year; written and verbal feedback from math specialists and piloting teachers; and NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) performance data.
The results of the resource evaluation rubrics showed EnVision Math prevailed in organization, technical supports, and 27% of total rubric; while Bridges in Mathematics prevailed in content, rigor, standards alignment, assessment, and 73% of total rubric.
As for verbal/written feedback and classroom observations, Purcaro said that both programs received positive notes.
Some of the specific comments he shared from the Bridges in Mathematics feedback included, “This program is introducing so much to my kindergarteners and I can’t believe how much they are absorbing,” and, “This is also the first year that I have had parents consistently e-mail me, letting me know how much their children enjoy math!”
Specific comments shared for the EnVision Math included, “Students loved the extra activities that went with each unit to show how math is used in the real world,” and, “There are many wonderful aspects of this program. The technology piece is helpful and engaging.”
Ultimately, there were remarks made that EnVision Math lacked “hands-on learning” and “play opportunities.”
For the NWEA performance data, the projected growth met for the EnVision pilot classrooms was 76.67% and 96.41% for Bridges pilot classrooms.
Purcaro pointed out there was a “significant difference” in the data, but that it was one of four considerations to be made in selecting a curriculum.
With everything considered, the Bridges in Mathematics program was selected for the new K-5 math curriculum.
With Purcaro, giving their stamp of approval for the pilot process and the decision to choose Bridges in Mathematics, were math specialists Jill Bracksiek, Kris Feda, and Jessica Fonovic and first grade teacher Leanne Connors.
The BOE made a motion to approve Bridges in Mathematics for the new K-5 math curriculum and it passed unanimously.
When going into the agenda’s old business items, a motion was made for the approval of the Continuation of School Activities Fund Accounts. With no changes to make, it passed unanimously.
Then during the second read on Policy 5145.31 titled Gaming, BOE member Deborra Zukowski requested the title be changed to “Gambling.”
She shared that the definition of gambling would be better suited, with which the rest of the board agreed and the motion unanimously passed with the title amended.
During the COVID-19 update, Dr Rodrigue said the reduction of COVID cases is “good news” and that the positivity rate continues to drop.
She stated that while new state guidance for mask wearing changes on May 19 — stating individuals do not have to wear masks outdoors and do not have to wear mask indoors if they are vaccinated — the policy will not shift at Newtown’s public schools.
“Nothing will change in terms of mitigation strategies in our schools… we want to finish strong this year,” Dr Rodrigue said.
Reed Lighting And Boiler Project
Bob Gerbert, Newtown’s director of facilities, presented information to the BOE to award the contract for the Reed Intermediate School lighting and boiler project to Greenleaf Energy.
After BOE member Dan Delia made the motion to approve it, he said, “They did the Head O’ Meadow project and did a great job,” adding that this bid is below the CIP budget for it.
Delia also thanked Gerbert for his work saving the town hundreds of thousands of dollars on this project and others.
The motion was approved unanimously.
Alissa Silber can be reached at email@example.com.