From how students attend schools to construction projects, the Education Council has discussed a range of topics in 2021.

If a year could make a big entrance, 2021 has made it for Newtown Public Schools: In January, all Newtown Public School buildings opened for full student learning. A new schedule was implemented later in the month to make this happen for Newtown High School and Newtown Middle School, and the younger classes returned on January 4.

That same month, the school board began inspecting the proposed budget for the 2021-2022 school district. The lingering topic at the time was 2020. The budget proposed by the Superintendent was shared by the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue, in a virtual meeting on January 19.

A public hearing was held later and the school board unanimously approved its version of the budget in a virtual meeting in February. The budget was then submitted to the Finance Council and the Legislative Council before being put to a referendum in the spring for approval by the voters.

Also in January, the school board hired a new chief technology officer, Dennis Colclough, who took office in February.

On March 2, Dr Rodrigue shared with the Board of Education that there was reason to be excited, as the Newtown teachers’ vaccination was due to start on March 6. Dr Rodrigue planned to work with Newtown Public School Nursing Supervisor Anne Dalton to write an update for district staff that week regarding vaccinations, according to meeting discussions.

“We are currently very excited to be able to reach so many staff members [as possible]”Said Dr Rodrigue.” This Saturday alone, we will vaccinate more than 550 employees. “

At the same meeting, Dr. Rodrigue shared her thoughts on her 2020-21 goals, which had previously been presented to the school board, and how the school year would unfold. These goals included adhering to COVID-19 practices and protocols, efforts to communicate the district operational plan with the community, and developing “a systems approach to expectations and outcomes regarding diversity and equity.”

COVID-19 remained a topic for the Education Council throughout the year. In May, Dr Rodrigue proposed ways the state was preparing districts for the 2021-22 school year. The state would no longer require districts to provide distance learning, the superintendent shared, for the new school year.

At that same meeting, the board learned from Director of Business and Finance Tanja Vadas that the district’s contract for propane fuel for school buses for the 2021-22 school year had been released in early March for that companies can bid through a request for proposal (tendering process).

“It also included a one-year contract extension,” Vadas said.

Offers were received on April 23. After discussion by the board of directors, the members present at the virtual meeting on May 4 voted to accept Hocon Gas as the supplier of the contract.

Professionalism profiles

At its next meeting, the school board met in person at the Newtown High School auditorium. District Professionalism Profile recipients were celebrated at the May 18 meeting. NHS Sports Director Matt Memoli gave a presentation on the district athletics program, and Newtown Facilities Manager Bob Gerbert Jr presented information to the BOE to award the contract for the lighting project and the Reed Middle School Boiler at Greenleaf Energy.

With the school still in attendance for the 2020-21 school year, speakers at the June 1 Education Council meeting urged district leaders to consider allowing students not to wear masks at school. fall, especially in the lower levels.

The Education Council also celebrated retired educators at its June 1 meeting. Dr Rodrigue said that in total the retired educators spent 439 years in Newtown and 653 years in teaching, including in other districts.

The Board of Education unanimously hired Jenna Connors, head teacher at Hawley Elementary School, at its June 15 meeting to be the new vice-principal of Reed Intermediate School. The position was left vacant by the retirement of Reed’s assistant manager, Jill Beaudry.

While planning for the Hawley Elementary School heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) project is underway, the Board of Education learned on July 6 of two potential options to complete the work during the school year 2022-2023.

The Education Council then voted at a special July 20 meeting to support a student relocation option for the 2022-2023 school year upon the completion of a heating, ventilation and ventilation project. Hawley Elementary School air conditioning (HVAC).

“It is certainly the best [option] for children, ”said Dan Delia, then vice president of the Education Council, after deciding to approve the option rather than one that would have kept some students in school while the project was in progress. Classes. “It’s the safest, healthiest and most conducive to learning. I fully support this motion.

On August 11, a quorum of four members of the Education Council unanimously authorized Dr Rodrigue to make changes to his 2021-2022 back-to-school plan following a governor’s decree.

Business and Finance Director Tanja Vadas shared summaries of the school district’s 2020-21 year-end budget report and the first fiscal report for fiscal year 2021-22 at the Board meeting. education on August 25. for the 2020-21 fiscal year, according to Vadas.

“The balance change from May to June represented an additional $ 13,281, bringing our year-end balance to $ 27,238,” said Vadas. “This unspent amount is well below 2% of the budget and can be deposited into the permanent account.”

The Board of Education approved its 10-year Capital Improvement Plan (PAC) at its September 8 meeting. His CIP was then submitted to the Finance Council for review. The CIP lists the proposed construction projects in order of priority and the planned expenditures.

At the same meeting, the BOE approved a pilot project for a new district-wide i-Ready student assessment.

The Board of Education celebrated Newtown’s Teacher of the Year and Para-Educator of the Year at its September 21 meeting.

“Tonight we are celebrating two exceptional staff,” said Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue, at the meeting.

Best of the year

Prior to the end of the 2020-2021 school year, Jill Gonski was named Newtown Teacher of the Year and Dorothy Kelly was announced as Newtown Para-Educator of the Year, both for the 2021-2022 school year. Kelly works at Hawley Elementary School and Gonski is a special needs teacher at Newtown High School.

There was another reason to celebrate at the September 21 meeting: after years, the accreditation process for the Newtown High School Association of New England Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Inc, was complete. , and it’s almost time to start over. As NHS Director Dr Kimberly Longobucco explained in an update on the high school’s NEASC accreditation process during the Education Council meeting on September 21, NEASC’s initial visit had taken held in October 2015.

Diversity, equity and inclusion were a main topic for the Education Council at its October 5 meeting. Ahead of a report on last year’s diversity and inclusion efforts, Dr Rodrigue introduced recently hired school district diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator Wesley Johnson to the meeting.

According to Rodrigue, Johnson was strongly supported by two maintenance committees.

“We are delighted to welcome you to Newtown Public Schools,” said Rodrigue.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity to step into this space,” Johnson said at the meeting. Later, he said he was “ready to go” while acknowledging that there are “strong positions” regarding the role of coordinator.

Another topic the Board of Education oversaw between September and October was the shortage of bus drivers, which Dr Rodrigue said all districts were facing. The superintendent explained “for very good reasons” that people had called for unemployment and that the shortage of bus drivers meant there were not enough replacement drivers. The district had tried to alternate “parked” bus lines and Rodrigue said pickup and subsequent early drop-offs were available to parents.

“By discussing with [All-Star Transportation], we have pilots testing in early November, which is the earliest date DMV has been able to adjust given the backlog across the state, ”she said. “Meanwhile, All-Star is doing its best to monitor the absences of bus drivers and seek support from other bus depots in the city. “

Student results and test data were discussed in mid-October, including the results of the i-Ready pilot.

Also in November, the Board of Education rejected a grievance filed by the Newtown Paraeducators Association which questioned the application of the salary increases. Shipman & Goodwin attorney Richard Mills spoke on behalf of the district, while Neubert, Pepe & Monteith attorney Lucas Rocklin represented the Para-educators union at the meeting. The main disagreement discussion revolved around the years in which an employee would reach the next salary step.

At its last Education Council meeting before the newly elected people took their seats, three retiring members were celebrated by Dr Rodrigue.

“Tonight’s celebration of excellence is bittersweet as we say goodbye to three very dedicated members of the Board of Education,” said Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue.

Dr Rodrigue said she was speaking on behalf of the entire school district in acknowledging the three members of the Education Council who were stepping down – President Michelle Embree Ku, Vice President Dan Delia and Member Debbie Leidlein. Ku was elected to the Legislative Council and began serving on that council in December.

On December 7, the school board approved that December 14 be a distance learning day for Newtown public schools.

At the same meeting, the school board elected a new director. It was also the first meeting of newly elected members Don Ramsey, Janet Kuzma and Jennifer Larkin. Education board member Dan Cruson, Jr, was also elected to return to the school board. As voted on at the meeting, Deborra Zukowski was elected president, John Vouros was elected vice president and Ramsey was elected secretary.

As the year draws to a close, the school board learned that the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue, will be retiring at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, as described in the related story of the school. print edition of this week.

Educational journalist Eliza Hallabeck can be contacted at [email protected]

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue, left, with retired district educators in attendance for the June 1 Board of Education meeting. — Bee file photos

Jenna Connors, right, has been hired to be the assistant principal of Reed Intermediate School, alongside Reed principal Dr Matt Correia, left, at the June 18 Education Council meeting.