New Board Member and Student Awards Announced; Sodium Levels in School Water and Special Action Item Discussed at the BoE Meeting

Sherman, Conn. (Citizen News) – At the monthly Board of Education (BoE) Meeting on May 6th, the three-hour session had an agenda that was jam-packed with several announcements, approvals, discussions, updates, and decisions.

Highlights included a new board member announcement and the formal recognition of three outstanding students. New topics for discussion: Sodium levels found in the drinking water, the “Proposed Additional Purchases” list, the proposed building security protocol, and the proposed school wellness policy.

Plus, the Closed Kindergarten Wing, Curriculum, and the New Kindergarten Bathrooms Project received attention as well.

A NEW APPOINTMENT                                 

The Chairman of the Board of Education, Rowland Hanley, announced that Chris Jellen is a new member of the BoE. He is filling a board vacancy and his “prior Selectman experience” and “volunteerism” will be assets to the Board.

AWARDS PRESENTED

Superintendent Donald Fiftal and the Board of Education (BoE) formally recognized “two well-deserving” eighth grade students, Amelia B. and Jack F., with the prestigious Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Student Leadership Award (CABE).

Administrative Dean, Andrew Schoefer, then presented the Student of the Year Award to eighth grade students Jack F., his second award, and also to Sophie D. Mr. Schoefer said the honorees demonstrated the following criteria: “Willingness to take on challenges, capability to make difficult decisions, concern for others, ability to work with others, willingness to commit to a project, diplomacy, ability to understand issues clearly, and the ability to honor commitment.”

NEW BUSINESS

Sodium Levels in Water: Frank Spaziani, Facilities Manager, began the discussion about how the Department of Public Health and the DEP / DEEP recently did “a walkthrough around the center of town checking surface water disposal and storm water disposal.” The State also tested well water in and near the center of town. Based on the findings collected, “they will get back to us with a course of action and advice,” he stated. In summation, the results around town are erratic. The School’s sodium level is above average but the State does not consider it to be high risk. However, some in-town residents, the town hall, and a local daycare center have received high sodium level test results. Then, there is the local IGA example, and this business had perfect test results.

Mr. Fiftal stated, “the level is somewhat elevated [at the School], but it doesn’t pose a danger.” He also said reassuringly that the use of watercoolers in the school are only a precautionary measure and the slightly high sodium level in the drinking water does not pose a health risk to the average person, only for those who are on a low-sodium diet.

Proposed Additional Purchases: The BoE spent much time at the meeting going through and asking preliminary questions about this New Special Action Item on the agenda: The “Proposed Additional Purchases” list with 22 line items totals $183,698.73 in requests. The BoE was trying to determine what projects and purchases should have first priority, especially before the fiscal year ends on June 30th. The BoE listened to the following representatives explain in detail what some of the key line items were…

Mr. Steven Trinchillo, Music Teacher, and Jim Luchsinger, Director of Technology, discussed why the mikes and receivers for the audio / video in this room need a full upgrade, for both performances and announcements.

Mr. Trinchillo also shared details about why new instruments like electronic keyboards, xylophones, and guitars, will be valuable to the children and his music program. Mr. Luchsinger also discussed why the school needs some iPads, Chromebooks, and wall-mounted projectors.

Lynn Fichtel, Special Education Director, answered BoE questions about some of the Special Education’s five line items of supplies that her department needs.

Proposed New Protocol for Security: The BoE unanimously voted in favor of the new “Proposed New Protocol for Security” regarding the use of the building by outside groups. The draft proposal came about because there are continued security / access issues with some organizations that use the building after-hours.

Proposed School Wellness Policy: The “Student Nutrition and Physical Activities (School Wellness Policy),” 6142.101(a) through 6142.101(d), was unanimously approved by the BoE.

One section in the wellness policy of particular importance was the “Foods Brought Into School / Food Sharing” clause, which states that “the District Food Allergy Management Plan shall provide the guidelines governing food brought into the school.” An Allergy Committee Representative said there are no current allergy restrictions and they are not in the position to ban any foods. This committee has no opinion, and if there should be an allergy issue in the future, then a doctor’s note is required.

Related to this, in a recent allergy survey, there was some confusion between the Wellness Committee guidelines and the Allergy Committee guidelines. Mr. Fiftal said the BoE will go over the survey results in more detail at the next meeting.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Closed Kindergarten Wing: The latest high-level BoE update, Mr. Hanley said the relocated children will not be moving back into the Kindergarten Wing (K-Wing) this year or next year. A copy of a file detailing the history of the K-Wing will soon be available to the public for review at the Mallory Town Hall. The BoE will work on an online version as well with omitted personnel names, due to privacy concerns.

Related to this, a concerned parent, addressed the BoE regarding her struggles with the closed K-Wing. She wanted to know what she should tell her pediatrician about what the levels of exposure were, and to what, for the duration of time her children studied in this area of the school building over the past three years.

This concern, and others, prompted a more in-depth BoE discussion about the closed K-Wing. In response, Mr. Keneally said that part of the testing was for lead and there was no direct exposure. As for the “old exterior siding, the vinyl, of the building, it was left in 2000, the time of the major renovation, and [the lead and two different kinds of mold] are encapsulated with no infiltration of the living space…” He continued to say that the possibility of air infiltration is harder to determine. As for the mold, he said there is mold everywhere and some people, more so than others, are more sensitive to the different levels of concentration.

Mr. Hanley encouraged parents to contact Sherman’s Health Director, Tim Simpkins, to discuss their concerns one-on-one with him in more detail, and Kasey Diotte, Board Member, agreed.

Curriculum: Mary Boylan, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, provided the BoE with her latest briefing regarding presenting the BoE with a list of “Projected Updates”. In summation, Mrs. Boylan and the BoE agreed that she should start with Core Academics first. Mr. Hanley said that English Language Arts and Math are the first two priorities, then Science should be the third priority. Dorinda Lenihan, Board Member, reiterated how the intent is to provide the BoE with a list of projected updates so they can budget for what is needed better.

Curriculum Overview: The BoE unanimously decided to leave the “Instruction – Curriculum Guides”, 6143, policy “as is” without any changes / revisions. Susan Seeger, Board Member, stated that it will be discussed at the policy meetings and “will be voted on later” when they meet at the end of the month, “piggybacking the curriculum.”

PROJECT UPDATES

Kindergarten Bathrooms: As for installing the two Kindergarten bathrooms, Mr. Hanley said the Board of Selectmen (BoS) approved it at a Special Meeting. Mr. Keneally said that BL Companies, the engineering / architectural services company, provided a tentative proposal and they are the same company that is doing the engineering-only phase for the boiler replacement project. They will also look at the exterior of the building at the same time. Regarding the RFP, this will be created by month-end and the bid process will open before June 4th. The construction phase will need to start the first week school is out.

Boiler Replacement Project: Mr. Keneally said the design phase is complete, the RFP is out, and the mandatory pre-bid meeting is on May 13th. The bids are due by May 28th in the Selectmen’s Office and June 4th is when the Special Meeting is scheduled. The tentative Town Meeting will be on July 3rd to approve the funding.

Related to this, both Mr. Keneally and Mr. Spaziani discussed how there will be limited use of the school building over the summer due to all of the special projects that will be happening alongside what is routinely done in the building during this time. The gym will be the staging area, so they will look at the summer activities schedule to see how this impacts some of the programs that use the gym. Mr. Keneally also added “this will reflect in the resources needed for extra labor and materials.”

ORAL UPDATE HIGHLIGHTS

Education Connection: Themis Enright, Board Member, shared how a guest speaker recently spent time with specialists teaching them about the coaching process that concentrates on team building, how to coach, and protocol tips. She said the intent of her visit was to just teach the whole coaching process and it was not about teacher evaluations or comparing Sherman School with other schools and districts.

Tools for Schools: Mr. Schoefer and Mr. Keneally went to the (Environmental Protection Agency) EPA training session on April 29th, and Mr. Shoefer couldn’t say enough good things about the experience. He said the training was excellent and he is looking at the building in a different light, from both an environmental and energy efficiency perspective. He added that the training on “how to keep formal records” was especially useful.

SPTO: Ashleigh Blake, SPTO President, said that as of the April 8th the SPTO had a beginning balance of $11,022.40. At this same meeting, the SPTO approved a total of $5,250 in requests: Odyssey of the Mind t-shirts for the national competition, Autism Walk and the Joe Moravsky Assembly, Art with a Heart supplies, Grade 3 trip to the Trash Museum in Hartford, Grade 2 Cinco De Mayo Celebration, Grade 5 trip to Sturbridge Village, chorus trip to Festival in the Parks at Lake Compounce for a singing competition, and a Grade 1 trip to the Pratt Center.

TEACHER / SPECIALIST NEEDED

Mr. Fiftal announced that the Sherman School will need a new School Library Media Specialist who is a Certified Teacher. If interested, the application is available on the Sherman School website. Mail resume, letter of interest, three letters of reference, and a copy of certification to Dr. Michael Pascento.

POST MEETING FOLLOW-UP

Post meeting, Mr. Hanley provided Citizen News with a list of “Proposed Additional Purchases” requests that were officially approved for immediate funding:

Algebra Textbooks – $2,068; Lexia Reading, Primary – $2,880; Lexia Reading, Special Education – $960; Gray Diagnostic Reading Tests – $329; WISC TOWRE – Special Education – $1,055; ADOS – Special Education – $2,305; Occupational Therapy Tests – Special Education – $440; Supplemental Summer Curriculum in June – $12,000; Student Academic Data Tracking – $2,500; iPads for Grades 3, 4, 5 Classrooms – $8,340; Chromebooks for Grade 5 – $3,905; Multipurpose Room Improvements – $28,696; New Kindergarten Bathrooms (reduced to $45,000); and Kitchen Electrical Safety Upgrade – $5,830.

Line 23 Added: Architectural / Engineering Services for K-Wing Remediation – $7,500.

Mr. Hanley stated “the remaining items, what the Board considered good investment areas into our instructional program, will be considered at the next Monthly BoE Meeting on June 3rd.” The deadline to purchase them will be before June 30th.

Written by Alicia Sakal for the Citizen News, 5/13/2015.

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