Teacher will not be replaced Sharon Center School eyes cost reductions BY RUTH EPSTEIN REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN Reply

From this mornings Republican-American (full story at http://rep-am.com)

photocredit: Republican-American

SHARON — Sharon Center School will save on salaries next year by not replacing eighth-grade reading and writing teacher Monica Connor, who is retiring.

Next year the school will have 20 teaching positions, one in-house substitute and one counselor. The staff reduction will also help reduce the costs of benefits including health insurance and reimbursement for graduate credits.

The line for substitute teachers will increase from $32,365 to $35,100 because Region 1 is increasing the daily pay from $90 to $100. The appropriation for the board clerk will also increase from $37,091 to $41,144 when the position expands from 0.65 to 0.7 full-time equivalent and receives a 3 percent raise.

Building repairs are expected to increase from $76,004 to $88,179, or 16.02 percent. This includes routine maintenance costs as well as $15,350 to carpet the library and computer room and $43,825 to replace the phone, public address and clock systems.

Lower market costs are expected to lead to savings of $9,425 for fuel oil and $6,565 for diesel fuel.

However, the line item for noninstructional equipment will more than double, from $24,360 to $50,024, as the school plans to buy risers for the stage, speakers for the gym, library bookcases, 60 student desks and 40 student chairs.

The Board of Finance briefly discussed the school budget at a recent meeting and agreed that in general it was a good budget, although some had concerns.

I may NOT agree with the idea, but I DO agree with his right to talk about it in public comment at the Kent BOE 1

From the Republican-American today:

full story at http://rep-am.com

FASTER stands for Faculty / Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response, a program that promotes firearms training for school personnel to respond to incidents of school violence.

Tom Hennick, public education officer for the state Freedom of Information Commission, said Monday that the FOI law does not govern who decides what is placed on the meeting agendas of municipal boards and commissions, and the board is under no obligation to reveal what written communications it has received.

Parkin sent the board a packet of information on Feb. 3 and asked to discuss it with the board at the March 3 meeting, although school board Chairman Paul Cortese declined to put it on the agenda. Cortese issued a statement Feb. 5 that the Board of Education did not support the program of allowing guns at Kent Center School. He said that he was speaking as the spokesman for the board.

The board never took a vote on the topic, although several board members apparently did respond to public comments near the end of the Feb. 4 meeting. Cortese said at the March 3 meeting that he understood the views of the board members and this allowed him to give the statement.

“The Kent Center School Board of Education is not in support of bringing firearms into Kent Center School and should we, in the future, wish to consider such a proposal we will approach the issue thoughtfully, fully engaging the public, and being sure to follow both the law and best practices,” he wrote in his statement.

Hennick said that a chairman of a board may draw a consensus from a discussion and that this would probably not be in violation of FOI. Since the board does not claim to have rendered a “decision” the FOI law would not be involved. If the board members have indicated their opinion and given the chairman the ability to relay the group’s opinion without a vote, it is not covered by the FOI law.

Parkin said Monday that it was disheartening that a board would and could refuse to discuss an issue that was presented to the members. He attended the March 3 meeting but Cortese introduced the public comment section asking if “anyone had anything to say about any of the agenda items.” It was not presented as an open public comment time.

“The Board of Ed is also accountable to the public,” Parkin said.

Op-Ed Piece in today’s Republican-American Reply

School safety plan ignored
By Jeffrey R. Parkin

Absent from the March 3 agenda of the Kent Board of Education meeting was a discussion of the FASTER Saves Lives program. As a member of the Kent Board of Selectmen, I presented the program in January. At the February meeting, the board moved to request that the Board of Education “evaluate” the FASTER program. The next day, I submitted to Board of Education Chairman Paul Cortese, via U.S. mail, a package containing background information, a DVD with video descriptions of the program, and the formal request for this subject to be put on the March 3 agenda.

The published agenda for the March 3 meeting of the Board of Education listed item 3b as “written communications.” Though my written communication to Mr. Cortese (and hence to the board) clearly was received in a timely manner, Mr. Cortese did not present the FASTER evaluation as part of the written communications nor as a separate agenda item as requested. There is no public record of any action by the Board of Education indicating a refusal to place this on the agenda. To emphasize, the requested agenda item was to evaluate the program in the interest of school safety.

The FASTER program was presented strictly in the interest of school safety. The program includes a trauma-response component and a component to train staff volunteers to have armed defense available at the school. It is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Some or all of the aspects could be evaluated and adopted if desired, or a volunteer could be dispatched to assess the program at the training facility with no commitment to participate. That, to me, is the intention of the original plan to evaluate the program. There was no effort to push the program or suggest this is the only or best option to enhance school safety.

Some of the reaction to the FASTER program has been nearly hysterical, prompted in part by inflammatory headlines that emphasized guns, while barely acknowledging the trauma response and the sincere concern about school safety. Mr. Cortese has been quoted as having “condemned” the Board of Selectmen for sending the proposal to the Board of Education and has stated “our kids are completely safe.”

The decision of whether such a program is right for Kent should be based on a reasoned discussion by the board and the public, not summarily rejected without official board action. Omission of this agenda item without publicly verified action of the board indicates an unwillingness to accept any outside ideas.

According to news reports, Mr. Cortese has refused to answer how the board could have decided to omit this agenda item without board action.

The school board should review the inconsistency and arbitrariness of that position, and place this matter on the April meeting’s agenda.

Jeffrey R. Parkin of Kent is a member of the Board of Selectmen.




On Wednesday, March 2, 2016, the Connecticut State Board of Education (SBE) acted on a post-investigation recommendation from the Commissioner of Education (Commissioner) to dismiss the complaint filed in July of 2015 by members of the Canaan Board of Selectmen and the local Canaan Board of Education (Canaan).  The complaint was originally filed in May of 2015 with Region #1 Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain, who, as found by the SBE’s investigation, failed to respond to the complaint.  Having received no response by mid-July of 2015, the complaint was forwarded to the Commissioner.   

While we are disappointed by the decision of the SBE to dismiss the complaint after a lengthy investigation, we are heartened that this complaint was investigated because that investigation forced Region #1 to modify the previous new joint agreement (Agreement) that had been approved and signed by all the local boards of education except for Canaan, which at least brought the document into compliance with statutory requirements.  Absent these actions to correct the Agreement taken by Region #1 after the complaint was ignored by the Superintendent, it is highly unlikely that the SBE would have looked as favorably on the status of Region #1.

If the complaint was not filed, the Agreement currently in place would have looked much different.  It should be noted that it was only after the complaint was filed, ignored by the Superintendent and an investigation underway by the State that the Region #1 actually made substantive changes to the Superintendent’s contract and Agreement.  Earlier versions had a committee of the Region #1 Board (the ABC Committee), which has no authority or power to act or bind the local boards, serving as the sole employer of the superintendent, while the local boards of education, whose towns pay for the position of superintendent, had no say in choosing the superintendent or establishing the employment relationship with the superintendent.  Many of the numerous inconsistencies and failures to meet statutory directives that were originally part of the Agreement and contract would have remained.  The filing and processing of the complaint have also lead to a re-thinking of how the Boards of Education 7000 policy series would be structured.

Since the SBE determined that the particulars of the Agreement did not implicate the educational interests of the State, the propriety of three objections to the Agreement remain unanswered by the SBE’s decision:  1. allowing the ABC Committee, a committee of only the Region #1 Board, the power to determine one finalist in a superintendent search, instead of offering several for consideration by the various boards of education in Region #1;  2. providing equal, instead of proportional, payment for the salary and benefits of the superintendent as required by the special act and the subsequent statutory amendments that created Region #1; and  3. leaving the authority of continuing the employment and benefits of the superintendent in the hands of a committee of the Region #1, rather than in the hands of the boards for whom the superintendent works.   

Over the next number of weeks there will be discussion to determine what our next step will be in relation to our concerns regarding this matter.