The Board of Education met Tuesday night, February 9, completing its regular agenda in an hour and then moving into executive session (that's why there was nothing broadcast after 8pm).
In District Highlights, Grants Coordinator Elizabeth Nocera reviewed the Middle School 21st Century Afterschool Program. Thanks to a new funding source from the Liberty Bank Foundation, students will be able to visit Middlesex College, Wesleyan University and the CT Science Center.
Superintendent Michael Frechette gave board members copies of the weather forecast, noting that school would probably be canceled the following day (Wednesday, Feb. 10). Frechette also commented that without a snow day, the last day of school is supposed to be June 18th. However, a snow day would move the last day to Monday, June 21st. For Keigwin, because of the four days missed due to swine flu, the last day of school would be June 24. Frechette then told the board that any more snow days would put Keigwin in danger of not having any more days in June to make up lost school (remember the budget cycle, and thus the school year, runs from July 1 - June 30).
The State is coming to Middletown on March 15, 16 and 18 to review the District's Food Service and associated policies. The Board voted to approve Policy 6142.101 (Student Nutrition and Physical Wellness Policy), bringing written regulations into alignment with actual district policies. Board member Jay Keiser spoke of parental concerns he's heard about the amount of exercise in elementary schools and the quality of the lunch choices, suggesting that "we should do a better job of communicating the nutritional value of our lunch menu." BOE member Sally Boske replied that the Food Service Program does have to meet State guidelines, so there is a fairly strict measure of control already in place.
The Ad Hoc Feasibility Committee (headed by Sally Boske) reported that its three subcommittees have been meeting weekly and that the full committee hopes to have a report to the BOE by March 1st. Boske commented that she believes the board "will be pleasantly pleased" with the committee's recommendations. (In case you forgot, the Feasibility committee is looking at the recommendations from the JCJ Architecture report concerning a number of changes that Middletown is considering. These potential changes could include redistricting and consolidating the preschool programs, but they also have to address the fact that Macdonough Elementary School is out of compliance with Sheff v. O'Neil.)
Superintendent Michael Frechette told the Board that he spoke with the State Commissioner of Education earlier in the day, and that Middletown will be getting conditional approval for the plan it submitted to the State Board of Ed (outlining how it will resolve Macdonough's racial imbalance issues). Essentially, the plan lacks specifics, but Frechette commented "that we already knew that," since the Ad Hoc Feasibility committee is still working and the Board won't make a final decision on anything until the committee work is done.
Finally, the BOE voted to establish an Ad Hoc committee to consider creation of a plaque honoring retired teachers.
I thought tonight's meeting was notable for what WASN'T talked about...yes, there is a committee with 3 subcommittees that is working on the JCJ recommendations, but there has been no general discussion between all the members of the board of education in a public setting that indicates what the board's priorities are. All the State cares about is how we resolve Macdonough's racial imbalance, but solving that piece of the puzzle exacerbates the problems at Moody and elsewhere. Still, if one piece of the puzzle affects everything else, we do have to start someplace, and the board ought to have clearly recognizable, prioritized goals that the community can understand and embrace. Tangible suggestions from the Ad Hoc committee are necessary, especially given the number of community players involved. However, the board won't be able to evaluate those suggestions if it doesn't know where it's trying to go, and it won't be able to explain its decision to concerned parents and taxpayers if it can't articulate what principles guided the decision-making process in the first place.
So, while a short BOE meeting was nice on a cold winter's eve, and this EYE reporter had an opportunity to visit and catch up with another EYE reporter, both of us commented to each other that we would have preferred a meeting with depth and substance and a genuine hashing out of the issues. Middletown is out of time with the State, and the 2010-2011 school year lurks ever closer...