Celebrations, Important Announcements at the Last Monthly BoE Meeting of the Year

Sherman, Conn. (Citizen News) – The late June monthly Board of Education (BoE) Meeting was the final one of the fiscal year. There were several celebrations and important announcements. In order to wrap up the 2014 / 2015 year, there was also an involved list of new and pending items and discussion points for the BoE to get through and to decide on.

CELEBRATIONS / ANNOUNCEMENTS

The meeting began with the BoE members formally recognizing Ashleigh Blake, SPTO President, and Gette Baccari, SPTO Treasurer, for serving their terms. Rowland Hanley, Chairman, presented the volunteers with gifts from the BoE and honored them for their dedication and many contributions to the Sherman School.

For the 2015 / 2016 school year, Jeannine Johnson is President, Angela LeClerc is Vice President, Joanna Ribisl is Treasurer, and Robin Devine is Secretary.

Dr. Michael Pascento, Principal, announced how the teachers voted on the Teacher of the Year and the winner is Mr. Steven Trinchillo, Music Teacher. “He was very honored and has a list of different speeches he needs to give over the course of next year…” said Dr. Pascento. He also shared with the BoE how spirits were high at the 8th Grade Graduation and Awards Night recently.

Mr. Fiftal, Superintendent, shared with the BoE the Aggregate Evaluations Ratings Report, which is now a State of Connecticut requirement that ranks teachers. Out of the 44 Sherman School educators, 19 professionals are Exemplary and 25 are Proficient. Both Mr. Fiftal and Ms. Themis Enright, Board Member, stressed how Proficient is a really good rating and it’s a very credible bar to reach.

SPECIAL PUBLIC MEETING

Common Core and SBAC Assessment: Mr. Fiftal made an announcement that the informational Special Board of Education Public Meeting will take place on September 24th at 7 p.m. in the Sherman School’s multipurpose room.

A legal expert and representatives from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the Connecticut State Department of Education, and the Education Connection are determined. Mr. Fiftal will be the group moderator, Mr. Hanley will moderate public comment, and Dr. Pascento will be a panelist. Mr. Fiftal would also like for a Sherman School teacher to be a panelist.

Mr. Fiftal said the intent of this special public meeting is to be educational and there will be an opportunity to ask questions from state and local experts about Common Core and SBAC Testing. Draft questions for the panel are also a work in progress.

NEW BUSINESS HIGHLIGHTS

Emergency Response Team: Mr. Andrew Schoefer, Administrative Dean and Math Teacher, discussed how the first group meeting with town officials took place on June 23rd. “The purpose of this meeting was to coordinate between school and town officials if there ever was a tragedy [or emergency] at our school,” he said. The team discussed streamlining communications between each of the Town’s services. They also talked about staging areas for parents and the evacuation strategy for students. At the next meeting, the team will discuss more scenarios along with what the protocol should be if the media shows up.

Food Allergy Policy and Guidelines: Mr. Fiftal shared with the BoE how he is modifying Appendix B of the Food Allergy Policy and Guidelines from being a reverse opt-out form to being a form required for all parents to fill out regarding food sharing permission. There is also a slight revision and there is now a section for comments and special instructions.

Maintenance: There are six new EpiPen dispensers installed in strategic places throughout the School, there is a parking lot curbing issue that needs repair before winter, and there may be a change in custodian hours.

Certified Staff Away from Class Report: The BoE decided this report is insightful and would like to see it updated for another year.

STAFF DECISIONS

Compensation: The BoE approved two out of three recommendations Mr. Fiftal gave. Mr. Schoefer, who just finished his first year as Administrative Dean, will receive the administrative portion of his salary for the 2015 / 2016 school year. As for his part-time math teacher salary, this is already set with the teacher contract. Regarding the 2.95% salary increase for Lynn Fichtel, Director of Special Education, Mr. Fiftal said “this is the same increase as the teachers negotiated.”

As for the Facilities Manager position, the Town was paying half of the fulltime salary for this shared position with the School. Then, the Town decided not to renew their portion in the new 2015 / 2016 fiscal year because they were not using the position to its full capacity. After much deliberation, the BoE decided not to increase the now .5 position to a 1.0 (fulltime) position because they cannot yet justify it in the long-term. Plus, they did not budget for it or have the money.

Mr. Hanley motioned for the BoE to approve paying the portion of the healthcare cost for what the Town was contributing in the short-term. The BoE approved this and they will at least cover it until they meet again to decide what they will do with the facilities manager position at a later date.

Staff Leaves: Dr. Pascento said that MaryAnn Meehan, Special Education, will not return in the new school year. Anne Krieg, Library Media Specialist, retired. Erika Carlson, also a Library Media Specialist, relocated. The two para-professionals not returning are Maureen Winkler and Brenda Peragine.

Non-Resident Student Requests: The BoE gave Mr. Fiftal the go-ahead to sign an annual contract with a non-resident teacher to pay half tuition for a Grade 1 child to continue to attend the Sherman School. The BoE also gave him the go-ahead to approve, after July 15th, another child of a non-resident staff member to attend the 3-year-old preschool group at full tuition, but only if there is space available. As for the 4-year-old preschool group, it was determined there is no space available for a non-resident staff member’s child.

MORE HIGHLIGHTS

Curriculum: Ms. Enright initiated the discussion about the importance of finding a better Kindergarten through Grade 5 math program that offers teachers a resource that’s more consistent between the grade levels and teaches critical thinking and problem solving skills. Currently, Investigations is what the School has been using for several years, which is worksheet heavy. She said that she supports Mary Boylan, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, with her program selection to go with Bridges. This was originally a Kindergarten through Grade 2 possibility, and now it makes sense to use it in Grades 3 through 5 as well. Ms. Enright also stressed how Bridges is a tool and a great resource they are recommending, and it is not a curriculum.

The estimated cost is $22,700. The BoE unanimously approved to buy this teacher’s resource in two installments; up to $15,000 for Kindergarten through Grade 2 using more of the surplus money from the 2014 / 2015 fiscal year, and for Grades 3 through 5, they can buy it in the 2015 / 2016 school year.

SPTO: Ashleigh Blake said they recently approved the following requests at their June meeting: Up to $450 for Social Services school supply packs for students in various grades; $700 for speaker John Driscoll’s internet safety presentation for parents at the middle school open house night; and $1,500 for John Farrell’s assembly for all grade levels that promotes kindness and a positive school climate through song and storytelling.

Mrs. Blake also passed out an impressive list of everything the SPTO funded this year, which totaled over $18,000.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Proposed Additional Purchases List: The BoE approved more additional purchases that carried over from the last meeting. They have surplus money mainly because Mr. Fiftal initiated switching healthcare providers a few years ago. The approved purchases: Video Cameras – up to $3,000 for two exterior security cameras to fill blind spots (the original request was $11,200 for six cameras); Gym Audio Upgrade (for safety purposes) – $4,536; Juno Tower Receiver (Special Education equipment) – $3,220; and the Bridges Math Resource – up to $15,000 for the first installment.

These previously approved items are now off this list: Preliminary Bathroom Installations for pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten – $45,000 and the Kitchen Electrical Safety Upgrade – $5,830.

These are the items on this list that are up for review in the new fiscal year: a full upgrade of audio / video in the multipurpose room, additional video cameras for security, and wall-mounted classroom projectors.

Kindergarten Bathrooms: The main reason why this project is no longer on this list is because only one bid came in and it was for $100,000, and $45,000 was budgeted, so they need more quotes. This project, the installation of two new bathrooms, was in response to the displaced Kindergarten Wing children this year and for the displaced children next year. Mr. Fiftal, Dr. Pascento and Mr. Schoefer discussed possible alternatives to consider such as hiring a paraprofessional, or an assistant, to escort the young children to distant bathrooms. Some more ideas discussed… Only build one bathroom, move the teachers’ lounge to a new location and use the existing space for a bathroom, and / or use an adult bathroom and make minor adjustments to accommodate children.

A year in review… Looking back on a year in which the new Board experienced an unusual amount of challenges, BoE members thanked Mr. Hanley for taking on the new leadership role.

The Monthly BoE Meeting will resume on Wednesday, September 2nd at 7 p.m. in the Sherman School’s Library Media Center. This is a public meeting and all are welcome.

Written by Alicia Sakal for the Citizen News, 7/8/2015.

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