- Two teachers who taught 1/2 time this year (job-sharing) will move to full-time next year to help out with the anticipated 4 first grade classes. This means each first grade will have a 2nd teacher for 1/2 the day each day.
- In Special Education, a full time teacher will be added, bring the staff total to three teachers.
- An additional four duty aides will be added, for a total of ten.
- The cafeteria workers will pick up additional hours.
- During inclement weather, students will go to their classrooms instead of the gym or the cafeteria.
- The part-time secretary will continue to assist the full-time secretary.
- A Head Teacher (stipend position) will be added to assist the Principal with supervisory duties.
Board Member Ryan Kennedy asked Senges how she was going to pay for the staffing additions, and she deferred to Superintendent Michael Frechette: "Our budget can absorb these additions...we'll make it work...our budget is a living document and it will change from moment to moment," he said. "But we passed the budget LAST week," Kennedy replied, "and we asked you if you needed money for Moody, and you said no. Now you say you'll 'make it work' and I think we're doing things backwards here."
In other BOE news, Middletown has applied for $2 million in Federal stimulus funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The use of these funds is extremely restricted, and is intended to help build a district's capacity in a specific way. There may be additional funds available, but the state and federal governments are still deciding how to allocate such funds (competitively or by entitlement). In any case, the funds Frechette hopes to receive are tied to specific District Improvement Plans.
During the Public Session, City Councilman David Bauer (speaking as a member of the Board of Health) mentioned a field mouse issue in the kitchen at Keigwin and another rodent problem at Middletown High School: both had been identified as a result of improper food handling, and he wanted to know when the BOE was going to address/discuss those problems. Facilities Director Ken Jackson said the Keigwin issue is being addressed and that he didn't know anything about MHS (but he'd find out).
Brandon Downer, a freshman at MHS, addressed the BOE on the subject of fights and the new policy of locking the bathrooms (students have to ask to have the bathrooms unlocked to use them). "You just can't help it - there is a lot of violence in our school. But, there is a security system in place and they do a good job." Downer also commented that he understands why the bathrooms are now locked: "Just last week I personally saw 12 kids skip class and lock themselves in the bathroom...you can't do anything else about it." Later, in a personal interview with yours truly, Downer said he feels safe when he's in school, but that "kids are going to be kids, and parents, teachers, and rules aren't going to change that...my generation is rebellious and you can't change that." Downer stated that he believes there is a lot of gang violence at MHS, and while there are some very rude teachers, the kids are rude in class first, and that provokes a teacher's response. (author's note: I had to leave before the end of the meeting, so I did not have a chance to get MHS Principal Robert Fontaine's response to these comments.)
Finally, the Naming Committee presented its report to the BOE. Charged with the responsibility "to address naming issues for the new high school and middle school," the Committee recommended that "any name associated with a facility at either the old middle school or the old high school should be moved to a facility at the new middle school or high school....In particular, if a coach were a Woodrow Wilson High School coach, that person's name should continue to be associated with the high school and not the middle school even though the middle school now uses the name Woodrow Wilson." A quick summary of the recommended names is as follows:
- Gallitto-Montanile Sports Arena (over the west entrance to the athletic facilities at the HS)
- LaBella-Sullivan Gymnasium
- Baldwin-Parmelee Pool
- Miller-Fillback Sports Complex (displayed outside toward the stadium area or on it)
- Rosek-Skubel Stadium (displayed inside the stadium)
- Greco's Grill (name of the concession stand at the new HS)
- Denunzio Field (displayed on the baseball field)
- Hiller Field (displayed on the softball field)
- Virginia Gilbert Memorial Library
- A Wall of Honor/Walk of Honor is also recommended to recognize individuals who distinguish themselves at MHS and for whom a facility is not named: including but not limited to teachers, librarians, administrators, custodians, etc.
- Collins Field (displayed at the middle school football stadium and track)
- A Wall of Honor is also recommended for WWMS to honor teachers, librarians, administrators, custodians, etc., who have played a prominent role and for whom a facility is not named.
JCJ Architecture has been hired by the Superintendent to design signage to implement the naming recommendations, and the Naming Committee also recommended the city change the through-way in front of Woodrow Wilson Middle School to a city street and readdress the school 1 Wilderman's Way.
I had to leave before the meeting finished, so I did not get to see what else happened under Action Items. The Superintendent's Evaluation was scheduled for an Executive Session. I will say that I was sadly disappointed by the Superintendent's Moody update. The staffing changes are only band-aids at this point, and I fear a tourniquet is probably needed. Late last December and into January, Moody PTA President Susan Courchesne called for a cap on Moody's enrollment. The Westfield Residents Association (WRA) joined Courchesne's call in a letter to the Superintendent dated January 6, 2009. After a second letter dated February 10, 2009, Dr. Frechette had not specifically addressed the issue of capping Moody's enrollment. JCJ Architecture mentioned as late as May that perhaps Moody's enrollment issues would be self-correcting: 5th grade would leave and not as many kindergartners would register.
That remains to be seen. The Kindergarten registration numbers are not known yet, but the November 2008 Enrollment Report by Peter M. Prowda, PhD, projects a decreasing District enrollment over the next 10 years, with Middletown's K-5 enrollment essentially staying flat (.5% decrease). This projection comes despite the fact that Middletown's enrollment growth (6.5%) exceeded both that of the state (4.1%) and similarly-sized towns for the past 10 years. I have to speculate that this report is responsible for the Administration's less than enthusiastic response to Moody parents and the overcrowding issue. That JCJ Architecture had no "save the day" recommendation, and that BOE talk has now shifted to the planned redistricting for next year fortifies my suspicions further.
One parent pointed out during a recent public session that last year's projection for Moody's Kindergarten enrollment was off 117% (3 classes were planned for, there ended up being 5 classes in 2008-2009), and he wondered out loud what would happen if the projection was off again for the 2009-2010 school year. That's a great question, given the fact that the Superintendent's office seems content with adding a few staff members here and there. Given JCJ Architecture's assessment that the Middletown school system has enough seats for all the students currently in the district (just not in the right place at this exact moment), the projected decrease in total Middletown students over the next 10 years, and the planned redistricting for next year, I believe the Administration thinks the "Moody problem" will just evaporate over time.
Superintendent Receives Contract Approval, Salary Increase
By the way, during today's Eye on the Air (the Middletown Eye's radio edition, Fridays 1-2 on WESU, 88.1FM), David Bauer reported that the Board of Education voted Tuesday night to give Superintendent Frechette a three year contract, with a salary of $154,000 per year, a $2,000 supplement for his degree, and a $6,000 per year allowance for using his own car for transportation. From the June 6, 2006, BOE minutes, Frechette's last 3-year contract was : "
Vote taken to increase the Superintendent’s annual salary to $141,428, continue the TSA, $2,285, Ph.D. stipend, $2,000, retroactive Ph.D. for the 2005-2006 school year, $2,000, and continue his contract for one more year (for a total of three years) passed with a motion by Ms. Weiss and a second by Mr. Boyd – unanimous vote."
Obviously, despite the terrible economy, massive lay-offs, the need for a Federal stimulus package, a cut in the overall school budget, and the Administration's own confession that "our middle schools are struggling" and "Middletown doesn't have a challenging enough curriculum," the Superintendent is still entitled to a 3% raise for the next three years. At least we know what our priorities are.