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Friday, February 8, 2008

1/28/08 Greenwich Board Of Education News; Work Session


DATE: January 18, 2007, 7:00 p.m.

PLACE: Greenwich High School

Board: Mrs. Colleen Giambo, Chairman
Mrs. Leslie Moriarty, Vice Chairman
Mrs. Nancy Weissler, Secretary
Mr. Steven B. Anderson
Mr. Michael C. Bodson
Ms. Virginia L. Gwynn
Mr. William G. Kelly

Absent: Dr. Susan S. Ellis

Dr. Betty J. Sternberg, Superintendent of Schools
Mrs. Kathleen Greider, Deputy Superintendent
Mr. John Curtin, Asst. Superintendent
Dr. Susan Wallerstein, Asst. Supt., Business Operations
Ms. Mary P. Forde, Director, Pupil Personnel Services
Ms. Kim Eves, Director, Communications
Dr. Ellen Flanagan, Director, Human Resources

Other: Mrs. Janice Richards, Mrs. Sue Rogers, Mrs. Kristin Kratky, PTA Council; Mrs. Paula Bleakley, Principal, Mr. Medard Thomas, Assistant Principal, Mrs. Stephanie Ohl, Mrs. Kim Gould, Mrs. Mary Ann Grabel, Mrs. Terri Ruta, Mrs. Ruth Anapol, Mrs. Claudia Hirsch, Mrs. Diane Pignataro, Mrs. Susan White, Mrs. Kim Augustine, Parkway School; Mr. Gene Nyitray, Principal, Mrs. Katie Hohl-DeCarlo, Mrs. Andrea Vaz, Mr. Alex Popp, Mr. Matt Popp, Mrs. Sue Carriero, Mrs. Alicia Comesana-Vila, Mr. Carl Marinacchio, New Lebanon School; Mr. Ed Linehan, Consultant; Mrs. Alia Fernandez, Mrs. Aliciz Budkins, Mr. Ken Borsuk, Greenwich Post; and a representative from Greenwich Time.

An attendance list is on file in the Superintendent’s Office.

The meeting was called to order by Mrs. Giambo, Chairman at 7:00 p.m.

1. Discussion of Parameters and Formation of the Committee for Addressing:
a. Declining Enrollment
b. Facility utilization
c. Racial Imbalance

Dr. Sternberg: Dr. Sternberg provided an overview of the proposed process for developing a comprehensive plan for Greenwich to address the issues of declining enrollment, facility utilization, and racial imbalance. She indicated that the major objective of the task force would be to recommend at least two options to the Board that would address these issues in a manner that resulted in enriched educational opportunities for all students. She advised that the task force committee will include a representative from every school (two from those schools potentially affected by the plan) as well as community members.

Mr. Edward Linehan: Mr. Linehan has been hired by the District to serve as a consultant on technical issues for the task force. Mr. Linehan, currently Supervisor of Public Schools of Choice for the New Haven Public Schools, has over 30 years of experience in developing magnet schools in both New Haven and Hartford. Mr. Linehan’s presentation focused on the background and current status of magnet schools in Connecticut:

- Background: Mr. Linehan began by discussing demographic trends, indicating that the proportion of minority students is expected to continue to increase in both Greenwich and the rest of the state. He also explained that the definitions and regulations pertaining to racial balance in schools are enacted by the State Legislature.

Although magnet programs have had the benefit of improving racial diversity in communities that have implemented them, they were originally designed to provide choice options for parents and students. In New Haven, which has 14 magnet schools, the development of magnet schools begins with community input. New Haven’s public schools currently have about 2,000 out-of-district students. In response to a question about the most successful magnet themes, Mr. Linehan commented that the following have been most effective: arts enrichment; science and math; and Montessori. While New Haven magnet schools offer more in-depth programs in their magnet themes, they still teach the Board-approved curriculum.

- Financial Model: Mr. Linehan summarized the financial model for New Haven’s interdistrict magnets. To qualify for state funding, such magnets can allocate no more than 80% of their seats to their own students. In return, the state provides a supplemental payment for the New Haven magnet students plus payments, which cover part of the per student costs, for those suburban students attending the magnet. New Haven has used the supplemental payments for New Haven students to make up the deficit in the payments for the suburban students and has, as a result, waived tuition for them. - Academic Performance: In response to a question about the affect of the magnet schools on academic performance, Mr. Linehan cited a 2003 evaluation by the State Board of Education that concluded that there had been no material improvement in the standardized test scores of magnet students. Nevertheless, magnet students in New Haven have had better attendance, have taken more rigorous courses, and have had higher graduation and college admission rates than their urban peers.

Board Discussion: The Board discussed the proposed Task Force charge and made the following recommendations for incorporation in the next draft of the proposal:

- Options: The Board agreed that the task force should consider and propose multiple options that satisfy the objectives in a fiscally responsive manner and that are supported by reliable data and research. These options must also stipulate the delivery of the Greenwich curriculum. Some discussion ensued as to whether the option of out-of-district tuition students should be considered. Several Board members were reluctant to consider this because of concerns that this would result in continued overcrowding at Greenwich High and because it could be difficult to recoup the all-in cost of educating a student. Nevertheless, it was decided that the task force should at least consider this option. The Board also agreed it would be helpful for the task force to identify those options that had been considered, but were not being recommended.
- Communication and Timing: The Board emphasized the importance of the task force making regular reports to the Board to keep it apprised of its progress and thinking. Equally important the task force will need to ensure that the broader community is informed of the task force’s work and time table. The Board also agreed that it was critical that the task force report back to the Board by mid-September so that any recommendations could be incorporated in the ’08-’09 budget. After some discussion, it was agreed that it would be desirable for Dr. Sternberg and a professional facilitator to co-chair the task force.

Upon motion duly made by Mr. Kelly and seconded by Mr. Anderson, the meeting adjourned at 9:02 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Mrs. Nancy Weissler

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