Year In Review: Diverse Topics Populated Board Of Education News In 2018

Published: December 28, 2018 at 07:30 am


The Board of Education focused on a number of topics in 2018, including district self-studies, celebrating staff and students, and reacting to the weather.

The start of the year marked the start of “budget season.” Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue presented her proposed budget to the Board of Education at its first budget workshop meeting on January 9, originally slated for January 4 but postponed due to snow. The school board later adopted its budget on February 1, before it was sent before the Board of Finance and Legislative Council for review. The budget was later approved by voters at referendum on April 24.

The school board was yet again preparing for budget season as 2018 came to a close.

The Calendar

As of February 6, Dr Rodrigue said the district had used four snow days, and it had six snow days to use before days would be taken away from the scheduled break in April. School was canceled the following day, February 7. Through the remainder of the school year, the weather would impact the calendar in cold and warm ways.

Reflection on the 2017-18 calendar led to a change for the 2018-19 school year at the board’s June 25 meeting. Language added to the 2018-19 calendar reads, “State of Connecticut mandates 180 calendar days for students. Beyond the projected June 7 date, school cancellation days will be made up by adding days through June 28. By March 15, if there are more than nine cancellations, April 5 will be a full day of school.” If there are fewer than nine school cancellations, April 5 in the revised calendar is set to be a full-day of professional development for staff rather than a student school day.

Self-Studies/Task Force Proposals

2018 was a year of self-reflection for the school district, as the year prompted multiple self-studies and inspection of the transportation system.

District Athletic Director Matt Memoli presented a plan at the board’s February 20 meeting to conduct a self-study of Newtown High School’s athletic program. Some discussions during school board budget deliberations focused on equitability in funding for sports programs and other extracurricular activities. Mr Memoli responded by preparing a plan for the self-study for the athletic program.

He presented the self-study at the board’s November 6 meeting. The presentation included recommendations prepared by the self-study committee to improve equity. The committee also proposed the creation of a hall of fame, having a history of Newtown athletics book created, and more.

NHS Principal Dr Kimberly Longobucco shared a presentation of a self-study of non-athletic NHS activities at a December 4 meeting. Dr Longobucco’s presentation focused on groups that have student fees.

Hawley Elementary School Principal Christopher Moretti shared a presentation from the school district’s Transportation Task Force at the Board of Education’s meeting on March 20. The presentation outlined issues with how the district’s two-tier bus system was configured and proposed changes to improve those issues. After multiple meetings, a motion to support the proposals failed at the board’s April 10 meeting. The board learned of new transportation proposals at its May 1 meeting when Dr Rodrigue shared alternative 2018-19 school morning procedures.

Parents voiced concerns around practices and accommodations for special education students at the school board’s August 14 meeting. Those concerns prompted a district special education self-study, first presented by the superintendent at the board’s September 4 meeting.

“Our goal, specifically, is to identify areas that we can improve in the best interest of students and families, and I think that is integral to everything we do and why we are here this evening,” said Dr Rodrigue at the September 4 meeting.

The school board heard a report on special education practices and procedures from consultants at its meeting on December 18: The report recommended further district-level reviews of specific areas. Dr Rodrigue indicated she would work with the district’s administrative team to look into the report further and would present findings to the school board.

New Principals And Superintendent

The Board of Education voted unanimously during a special meeting on February 27 to name Dr Rodrigue as Newtown’s superintendent of schools. Dr Rodrigue had been serving as interim superintendent since the previous August, following the retirement of former Superintendent of Schools Dr Joseph V. Erardi, Jr.

“I know you have what it takes to be the leader that Newtown needs right now,” said board Vice Chair Rebekah Harriman-Stites, who oversaw the superintendent search committee.

Then, on April 10, the board unanimously hired then Sandy Hook Elementary School Assistant Principal Tim Napolitano to be the new principal of Head O’ Meadow Elementary School following the retirement of then school Principal Barbara Gasparine at the end of the 2017-18 school year. Ms Gasparine had announced her retirement in December of 2017.

The following month, the school board unanimously voted at its May 22 meeting to hire Dr Kimberly Longobucco as Newtown High School principal, starting July 1. Dr Longobucco had been serving as an assistant principal at NHS, which has three assistant principal positions.

The board voted at a special meeting on June 25 to hire Chris Siano of Milford to serve as an assistant principal at NHS, starting July 2.

2018 was full of more than the budget, self-studies, and worries about the weather. The Board of Education also held a number of celebrations at its meetings to highlight student and staff achievements. The many celebrations included highlighting NHS’s musical production of Les Miserables, honoring its 2017-18 Profiles in Professionalism awardees, applauding NHS’s Unified Theater program, and celebrating the Newtown Public Schools 2018-19 Paraeducator of the Year and its 2018-19 Teacher of the Year.

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