Superintendent's Newsletter

February 2018

School Safety Update

As we move through this week and the remainder of the school year together supporting our students, I wanted to provide you with the most up-to-date information we have at this time regarding specific information from the situation that was shared with you from Coginchaug Regional High School on February 23rd, general safety and security updates, and resources you may find helpful as you support your children during individual or widespread safety and security incidents.

As a follow-up to Friday’s communication regarding the social media message post and subsequent investigation, the high school administration and I determined there was no intent of harm or threat to safety for students at CRHS. Our local police were contacted immediately when the situation was brought to the attention of the administration. The police agreed that our in-school investigation did not warrant further action as a potential threat. On Monday an arrest was made on the grounds of breach of peace. We are aware that the post that included the message, “Don’t come to school on the 5th,” has caused concern about the safety of CRHS students attending school on Monday, March 5th. Our investigation confirmed that this post was not an indication of an intended general threat or a threat on a specified day, specifically March 5, 2018. We have worked closely with law enforcement officials since Friday and have been assured of increased presence in the foreseeable future.

Our daily commitment to maintaining a culture of safety and security in our schools is unwavering. Our unique school culture is committed to our core ethical values of respect, responsibility, kindness, honesty and courage as foundational beliefs. In the week since the Parkland tragedy, our core ethical values have been seen and heard consistently throughout our district and community. Support for students is available through every adult in our schools with dedicated and individualized support through our Pupil Personnel services. Building-based safety and security measures are described, practiced and consistently reviewed and enhanced. We know and understand that drills and practice help prepare staff and students to respond quickly in the event of unexpected and potentially dangerous situations. These drills and practices are conducted on a scheduled timeline within set guidelines. We regularly communicate with our emergency management and local health and wellness personnel as a means of providing necessary support to our students. Staff and student safety is our primary concern. We know that students must feel safe and supported in order to maximize their educational experience throughout the District. Our practices demonstrate a daily commitment to safety and security best practice. These practices include the use of a security system to check and record all people entering our buildings, a sign-in procedure and badge system, and scheduled, practiced and reviewed drills.

Your partnership makes a difference. Our basic requests for you and all families continue to be:

  • Follow set school building procedures
  • “Pay attention” to people and the environment
  • Report anything of concern to your school administrator or Central Office staff

Our school district is unique in the evident commitment to community whether it is at the classroom, school, district, or town level. People feel that they belong and are here to support others and reach out for support when needed. I know that this connection begins at home and is consistently supported through school and community connections. Your partnership with us at school is strengthened by your willingness to ask your child specific and general questions about their school experience and to share with us any information that you believe is important for us to know. I appreciate that our roles together provide a systemic relationship and together we do all that we can to keep children safe within and outside of our schools.

Resources for Parents and Educators

The National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at the University of Southern California developed a guide for parents on how to talk with children about the mass shooting in Orlando.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) provides resources for a variety of audiences, including school personnel.

The National Center for Trauma-Informed Care is operated by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The website provides information on trauma-informed care, links to models that could be adapted for implementation by schools, and information on training and technical assistance support.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ “Talking with Children” provides resources to help parents talk to children about violence and disasters.

Mental Health America’s “Helping Children Cope with Tragedy Related Anxiety” provides helpful suggestions on how to discuss anxiety caused by a traumatic event based on the child’s maturity.

Utilization Update

The last Utilization Committee meeting was held on February 22nd in the CRHS library at 6:00 p.m. The committee continued its discussion of the building and grade “re-stacking” options that appear to be the best options for the District. Those options include:

  • District-wide Pre-K-2nd grade (Brewster School), 3rd-5th grade (Memorial School), 6th-8th grade (Strong School) and 9th-12th grade (CRHS)
  • Pre-K-4th grade (Brewster), K-4th grade (Memorial), 5th-7th (Strong) and 8th-12th (CRHS)

The committee also discussed a decision-making timeline, a parent and community information session and a one-page flyer with current information. The Board of Education will review the flyer at their meeting on February 28th.

The Strategic Visioning Team meeting was held on February 27th from 3:15-4:15 in the CRHS library. The team meets twice a month to “think big” and plan for a dynamic future for our district first by identifying what is unique about our district, what works well, and what dreams do adults and students alike have the future of RSD 13. The meetings in March will be on the 15th and the 27th with the 27th being a meeting that is open to the public. The meetings will be held in the CRHS Library. At this time the team is working on identifying the various themes that are emerging as priorities. Some of those themes include our use of space including outside, our schedule, student experiences including working with a variety of age levels, having self-directed and authentic learning opportunities to name a few. After our March meetings we will share an update summary of our work to-date and the implication for the Utilization Committee

Budget Update

The Superintendent’s proposed budget was presented on February 14th at the Board of Education meeting. The proposed budget represents a 0% increase from this year’s operating budget. A complete copy of the budget and other resource materials, as well as space for parents and community members to submit questions, can be found on the district website.

I am confident that we can continue to move forward with the goals and priorities of the district with the proposed budget. It is critically important that our resource allocation is aligned with our stated priorities. A full 75% of our budget is directed to salaries and benefits. Our renewal rate with BCBS for next year stands at 5% which is very favorable and had a positive impact on our budget reducing the amount of cuts we would have had to make elsewhere had the renewal rate been higher. Our budget supports our continued efforts in strengthening the work that has already begun in curriculum, instruction and assessment in all areas across the district. Additionally, our capital improvement budget sustains and improves our buildings, grounds and infrastructure responsibilities.

Declining enrollment continues with a nearly 450 student decrease over the past 10 years with a projection of 200 fewer students in the next 5 years. Additional positions or increases are recommended in the following areas:

  • Strong: 1.0 Reading Interventionist, 1.0 Math Interventionist and 1.0 Literacy Coach
  • CRHS: .4 to the Career Counselor position (as presented last year to make this position full-time)

Reductions have been proposed in the following areas:

  • CRHS: .5 PE, .5 FACS, .5 Art, .5 Library, .5 Social Sciences, .4 English
  • Strong: 3.0 English, .4 Math
  • District-wide: .5 Music, 1.0 support staff position in Special Education and 2.0 ABA therapists

The formal budget process is underway as of last week’s presentation and will be discussed in greater detail at upcoming budget meetings on February 28th, March 7th and 14th, and April 4th and 11th. Please attend or reach out to me or your building administrator with any questions you may have. Some of you have already written, or spoken at the Board of Education meeting, to share your concerns that the .5 reduction in the music department will diminish the programming, opportunities and experiences for students across the district. I want to sincerely thank you for reaching out in support of the arts in Regional School District 13 and the music program in particular. We support music education and the impact it has on our students and have made this proposal with confidence that programming for students will remain strong and uninterrupted throughout our district. Each reduction that has been suggested was done with the confidence that student learning experiences can continue with projected programming and staffing. The additional staffing that has been suggested at Strong supports a continuation of program design to support students and teachers. Interventionists support students who need academic support while Literacy Coaches support teachers in delivering general classroom instruction with new standards and instructional delivery models.

Thank you for your continued support.

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