Before Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting, members were treated to a ride on Middletown's newest hybrid bus, the second in the District's bus fleet. Upgraded with regenerative braking, this new bus doesn't need to be plugged in. Click here for Middletown Press coverage and here for the District update submitted to the Courant. For a complete explanation of how regenerative braking works, click here.
In District Highlights, Principal Joe Cassela shared some of the many exciting components of Woodrow Wilson Middle School. Calling WWMS "Middletown's best kept secret," Cassela told the board that he has high expectations for himself and the students, and that these expectations are increasing behavioral and academic performance. The Drill Team performed for the BOE, students spoke of a commitment to community service and academics, and staff members explained anti-bullying efforts (the Pride Patrol) and other programs. Board members were treated to oatmeal raisin cookies baked by Mrs. Harris in Family and Consumer Science and served by Mr. Harris (Tech Ed, spouse to Mrs. Harris).
In other district news, Middletown will be receiving a $25K grant to run a program at Bielefield Elementary School, aimed at giving hispanic children after school academic support. The goal of the additional support is to help close the achievement gap when these students take their CMTs. Enza Macri, Assistant Superintendent, told the Board that "we are very proud of this program. We really listened to what parents wanted, and now 90 children are getting academic support four days a week. Parents who don't speak English well enough to help their children with their homework are able to have their children get help after school."
Elementary School to MHS Director of Fine Arts and District Operations, Marco Gaylord, has been named Person of the Year by The Middletown Press. Read the full article here.
Superintendent Pat Charles reported the results of 199 personal interviews she had with a wide range of Middletown parents, teachers, politicians, and students as she gathered information about the nature of the community and organization of Middletown. Charles conducted the interviews to establish a presence in Middletown and to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Middletown school system. Charles heard repeatedly that the Arts program, improved focus on academics, caring and dedicated staff, and broad course offerings were strengths while Middletown parents and leaders were concerned about the achievement gap, curriculum rigor, library quality, and Special Education. Dr. Charles will use these findings as the BOE reviews and revises its goals, creates budgets, and plans strategically for the future.
In budget news, the BOE is hoping to get funding from FEMA to cover the costs associated with opening the cafeteria as a shelter during last year's hurricane and snowstorm. Budget Chairman Ted Raczka worried out loud about the "Washington D.C. kick the can down the road" approach to budgeting, noting that "sooner or later we are going to have to balance the books, and we will have to bear the burden." Raczka was talking about the fact that the district now has a deficit of more than $1 million dollars for this year, in addition to the 10% budget increase the Superintendent is asking for. "Instead of approaching this as a winners and losers situations, let's consider that all boats rise or all boats sink - cuts should come out of every one's pockets, " Raczka commented. In other words, rather than cutting programs in their entirety, Raczka is advocating cutting some from every part of the budget to spread the pain.
The next BOE meeting is Tuesday, January 22 at 7pm. The board is scheduled to adopt the 2013-2014 School Budget. The meeting will be held in the City Hall Common Council Chambers.