Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Board of Ed Meeting Begins With Moment of Silence

Last night's regular Board of Education meeting began with a moment of silence for MHS Class of '06 alum Nora Miller. BOE Chairman Ted Raczka praised Miller's contributions as a student during her years at MHS and offered his deepest condolences to the family during this tragic time.

Once the public session opened, however, the meeting's somber tone turned to one of parental anger and frustration over the taser incident at MHS. Rebecca Johnson, Middletown resident and mother of two, stated that she was very new to the school system and "profoundly disappointed" with the incidents over the last ten days: "it's not OK to subject children to electrocution...may God strike me down dead the day I decide that the appropriate discipline for an electric device." She went on to point out that the student in question is a child in the eyes of the law and that the school district has "sunk to an all time low in condoning this police conduct."

Another parent, Donna Gagnon-Smith, urged the board to learn from this incident, to review its policies and to be accountable to the public for its [the board's] decisions. She also encouraged Middletown parents to vocalize their concerns to the BOE: "we will not tolerate this...we give you our kids during the day and you are supposed to take care of them."

Quentin Phipps (D), Chair of Middletown's Planning and Zoning Commission, commented that schools are supposed to be "institutions of education, not correctional facilities." Professing his shock and anger over the incident (while also admitting he wasn't condoning the student's behavior), Phipps pointed out that this could have been a teaching moment for the child: "We could have taught this child about patience and compassion, but instead, what have we learned as a community? That you shouldn't do anything wrong because you might get tasered?" Phipps went on to say that the Student Resource Model is a great one for Middletown Schools, but that it wasn't used as it was intended: "I want to adamantly express that the use of a taser in a school is wrong, and I look forward to considering clear rules and regulations for the future."

The only other public comments to the board came from Macdonough parent Ed McKeon and Middletown Schools Association President Stephanie Alderman. Mckeon asked the BOE to provide a public report on redistricting, especially as it relates to possible overcrowding and racial imbalance at Macdonough. Alderman informed the board that the Middletown Schools Association (MSA) was reconstituted by the eleven Middletown PTAs, and she invited board members to attend MSA meetings as well as their local PTA meetings. [author's note: more information on MSA's purpose and goals will be available in a future posting. For now, MSA details are available here.]

After the public session, the board attended to a few business items and then went into Executive Session. Five extended MHS Field trips were approved: FFA to its National Convention, BlueTube Television Club to FL, Blue Prints Conference to NY, a Drama Club Festival and the World Language group to Spain. Several board members expressed concern initially for what happens to the students who DON'T go on the trip (i.e. if the teacher is gone, what is the quality of the education for those students left behind?), but they were reassured that field trips aren't even approved internally at MHS unless the faculty member can articulate how the trip aligns with his or her curriculum and how student learning is impacted.

Superintendent Michael Frechette reported that opening day went well, and that a commission from the State Department of Education visited last week. It met with several principals and teachers, and Frechette told the board that the recommendations taken back to the State BOE after its time in Middletown could change the future of education in CT.

There were no committee reports because most committees start meeting this week or next. The action items concerning the Personnel and Feasibility committees were tabled until the October meeting so the BOE has time to discuss relevant issues pertaining to these committees at its upcoming workshop on September 28th.

Before going into Executive Session, Board Chairman Ted Raczka justified the session as follows: "The taser incident is of great concern to the board. We're going to think it through long and hard...violence in our schools is not to be taken lightly and we deplore it." Raczka also stated his specific reasons: "first, we're going to be discussing a student's name and we have to protect his right to privacy, and second, there is a clear chance of litigation in this matter."

The next regular Board of Education meeting is Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 7pm in the Council Chambers, Middletown Municipal Building, 245 deKoven Drive.


Linda said...

What is the educational purpose of a Televison club, and why do they need to go on a trip?

Anonymous said...

Often those clubs are about TV production- media and communications and students learn to produce video for this career area. I cannot speak to this particular club, but one could envision a student conference where clubs present the production projects worked on by the club.

Anonymous said...

Well Mr. Phipps has certainly the eye for spotlight. Was your statement from the heart or ego? Way to bandwagon, someone us know you are just doing this because you seek attention via the political arena and to climb the ladder politically

Anonymous said...

Phipps pointed out that this could have been a teaching moment for the child: "We could have taught this child about patience and compassion, but instead, what have we learned as a community? That you shouldn't do anything wrong because you might get tasered?"

Yes Mr. Phipps- if you assault a member of law enforcement you will be tased. Although obvious, it is a lesson hard learned.

Anonymous said...

The comments by the mother still prove the public doesn't get it; people still think the student was tased for stealing NOT for harming a police officer and resisting arrest. It is clear Middletown reads at a 3rd grade level. Such quotes of misinterpretation should not be published without correction.

Anonymous said...

Tv club could mean they make youtube videos and fool around, and go to FL. You never know.

Anonymous said...

Did I read that right---Video Club to Florida? Wouldn't a trip to WFSB, ESPN or NBC Studios in Stamford or NYC be more valuable to a careers class and less expensive for all involved where all can participate?

Jen Alexander said...

Dear Anon at 10:04:

I'm not sure why you would criticize Mr. Phipps for speaking at a public meeting. I've been at several Board of Ed meetings over the years where he has spoken on youth issues - it is apparently one of the aspects of city life that he follows. If he is planning to run for other political positions (other than Planning and Zoning where he now serves), wouldn't it be a good thing that he takes an interest in the city's operation?

You don't have to like people or agree with them to respect their right to participate in the system. Why not be civil? Democracy allows for multiple viewpoints and requires compromise.

Whoever you are, you apparently put some effort into following local issues. Why don't you try to focus on how you can be a positive force for getting things done that are important to you - instead of taking a swing at others?

-Jen Alexander

Man of the town said...

My issue with Mr. Phipps is he doesn't know the what happened but is passing judgment on what happened. I see nothing positive coming from his statement. If anything it could cause division among students and the resource officer.

As an elected official he should know better

Madam Nirvana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Growing up in Middletown is an experience. I was taught by my parents a simple word. That word was respect. I learned early to respect people around me such as adults, teachers, police officers, firefighters, and those who seem to know the difference between right and wrong. With this incident, it started because the student STOLE something. When the Officer was called over by staff who could not handle it, the student began to fight. That fighting was with a police officer. Punches were thrown at the Officer striking him. The students younger brother joins in the action. Now we have two who attack a police officer.

So we see a chaotic scene, where a student chooses to fight an officer who carries a weapon. So let's say the student gets this weapon. What next folks? Do we continue to make excuses for the student? Maybe he was hungry, but what gives him the right to fight an officer? He was embarrassed in front of his friends? Don't you think he should be, he STOLE something. He stole from us, the taxpayer who provides this young man with food. If he didnt have money, then maybe he should have approached the administration and said I have no money. Honestly I've watched teachers at the high school provide for our students that very thing.

To get up at the BOE meeting and slam the Police only sends a message to the people of this community who choose to fight authority. Go ahead, we have your back, be foolish and fight everyone. Not something our elected leaders should be doing. The teaching moment for this student ended long ago. It ended when he chose to punch the officer instead of quietly going with him to face justice for what he did. We live in a society which laws govern our conduct. He stole something, and for that there are penalties. He assaulted a police officer, and for that there are penalties.

I want those Officers in this school. If you remove them you send a dangerous message to the criminal element there. They will be allowed to do what they please. If you don't think there are, just read what the younger brother was caught with. Since marijuanna is illegal, that makes him a criminal element. Im sure people argue that its only a little weed. Last time I checked, weed was an illegal mind altering drug.

Anonymous said...

Well apparently, mark the record, Phipps wants no more tasings, and words to be used despite whether or not a student fights a cop, so now he got his wish- no more police in schools! What say you now??

Anonymous said...

This comment is posted without the first sentence, which had a derogatory term -

if that same kid stole from a shop on main got caught and resisted arrest he would have been tasered just the same!!! what difference does it make that he committed the crime and dealt with the consequences while in school...????? i fail to see the relevance. further more one isolated incident that may, or may not be questionable is no reason to jump the gun and abandon the whole idea, thats just ridiculous. SHAME on the BOE, in this day and age police should have a presence in our schools it serves only the greater good. i have a child in the middletown school system and think that this decision should be petitioned and parents should be outraged, i know i am!!

JAM said...

I'm checking on the video club questions - I'll get back to you with the answers just as soon as I get them.

To Anon at 10:09pm: My job was to report on what parents told the Board of Ed in the 3 minutes they had to speak. It certainly wouldn't have been appropriate for me, as the reporter, to "correct" the parent on what she thought and what she was trying to communicate to her elected officials. Frankly, I applaud her willingness to try, even if she didn't have all the facts. Unless the BOE specifically hears from parents, it assumes all is well and it proceeds in any direction it wants. I believe that "misinterpretation" events are actually more valuable to the BOE since it should force a process evaluation to make sure information is flowing properly. If, at the end of the day, we want effective and efficient administration of our tax funds, there has to be a place for angry, motivated parents to bark up the "wrong" tree.

Had you heard her entire set of comments, (and I'm assuming you didn't, forgive me if I'm wrong and you were actually watching on TV), you might have concluded, as I did privately, that her larger point was "why where we even in this position to begin with?" IF this student did steal something, and IF there were witnesses who could have substantiated the charge, who chose to address the issue at that exact moment? Couldn't he have been called to the Principal's office at a later time and the whole issue handled privately? Why even invite the bull in the china shop in the first place? If SROs are in place to teach valuable community programs and they'e NOT supposed to be security guards, why even go there?

My point: we have a great opportunity to tackle some very important issues, and it's going to take BOE leadership to get going on the right track. Let's have some district-wide parent/administration discussions on discipline and policy enforcement. Let's send a clear message to our kids and students about what kind of behavior we expect in class. Notice I said expect...that means we can define it and teach it and demand student compliance. And if we do this early enough, and if consequences are applied effectively enough, it will be habit and high school teachers will actually have time to teach their classes and we might even find our test scores go way up as well. Huh. Wouldn't that be something?

Nils Toledo said...

For those attacking the television club. I was president of the club for the last two years. We film local community events, including the board meetings. We film sports events, music concerts and even talent shows. Whether it's a mhs production or not. In the club and class I learned so much that's crucial to what I want to do in my future. Which is broadcast production. It's what I'm studying now in college. And I know a lot of the stuff I'm being taught now, due to my video classes and the club at mhs. The trip to Florida is not to fool around. It's a convention held by the student television network. Where kids from all around the country go and compete and take classes to Improve their skills. There's industry professionals there who hold these classes. Last year the convention was held in in California. It was one of the greatest things I've eve attended. I learned so much on that trip. From editing using different software to even anchoring tips, which I forgot to mention, the class and club also put on a morning news show for the school. On the trip it was required we participated in classes and took notes and provided them back to the teacher. At the convention you don't just learn from the professionals there. There were thousands of students there and we were able to learn from them and improve our program and skills. It's such a valuable class and program and the trip was an amazing, educational experience. The business class goes to conventions too. I don't see people complaining about them. The television class and club are crucial classes that help prepare the students for future careers in broadcast or communications or film. Especially with the recents increase in Connecticut film jobs. So please before attacking the class and club please try ask about it first.


Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

I wonder if it was the baseball team going to Florida for a tournament if there'd be such a fuss.

I say send the TV geeks to Florida. I was one myself.