Fairfield Board of Education considers goals, agenda items for next year

FAIRFIELD — Although school may have just let out for the summer, the Board of Education is already looking towards the fall. As they go on hiatus until August, many members are spending time formulating plans for next year.

At the end of their final meeting of the school year on June 25, chair Christine Vitale opened up the floor for discussion of future agenda items and goals for the 2020 school year.

Vitale explained that she put this on the agenda so that board members could have a chance to voice initial ideas for next year. “[I’m] just giving you an opportunity to share your thoughts,” she said.

Some board members shared specific agenda items that they’d like to address in the fall. Jennifer Jacobsen noted that she’d like to look at middle school scheduling options and the board’s legislative procedures. She also suggested solidifying whether or not the board will move forward with the elementary school math academy, suggested by former superintendent Toni Jones as an alternative to a magnet school for fixing racial imbalance at McKinley School.

Board vice chair Nicholas Aysseh suggested that the board focus seriously in the coming year on putting together a long-range facilities plan. Reached for comment later on, Aysseh elaborated on this proposal, explaining that although the board has not voted on anything yet, his hope is to form either a subcommittee or ad-hoc committee consisting of three board members. These committee members, he said, would work with central administration to develop a 10-year facilities plan, incorporating all the building updates from 2009 to 2019 and assessing what needs to be done from 2020 to 2030.

“We need to study where, what and if any additions are necessary at our schools,” Aysseh said. “We need to incorporate a plan to air condition our buildings, study location(s) for the Early Childhood Center and Walter Fitzgerald, evaluate special education program space [and] specialized curriculum space, as well as incorporate general maintenance projects such as roof replacement, bathroom upgrades, playground equipment replacement, window projects, et cetera.”

Aysseh said he anticipates forming this committee once a new permanent superintendent is in place so that the process can be integrated with assessing how the schools’ physical space is being used for curriculum.

Board member Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly, meanwhile, presented the board with a document that she’d put together outlining what she referred to as a “board mood.” Rather than a formal voting item, this proposal was intended to get the board thinking broadly about their practices. Maxon-Kennelly suggested that the board do so during this time of major transition for the school district, with both a new superintendent and new principal of Warde starting this summer.

“In recognition of the changing nature of public education and the district’s responsibility to use time and resources efficiently and effectively,” Maxon-Kennelly’s document read, “I would like to see the board work in collaboration with Dr. Tracy and district leadership team to evaluate all existing programs/initiatives.”

The document suggested categorizing programs based on both their performance and likelihood of providing a sound benefit to the district if resourced properly. Maxon-Kennelly explained that she hopes to “establish evaluative criteria” that take stock of initiatives in order to ensure that the district is allocating their resources as efficiently as possible.

As to specific agenda items, Maxon-Kennally suggested that the board look at the efficacy of the new high school cumulative grading system rolled out this year. By August, she said, the board should analyze the data from this year’s final exams.

Board member Philip Dwyer, however, expressed concern with suggesting too many new goals before addressing their existing ones. He listed the Early Childhood Center, the Walter Fitzgerald alternative high school, facility utilization and racial imbalance as examples of agenda items that have yet to be finalized.

“Those remain our goals because we have to get data, we have to get information and we have to make decisions to implement those goals,” Dwyer argued. “So I’d be cautious about adding too many other initiatives.”

With all of these ideas in mind, Board of Education members now have the chance to spend the summer thinking through goals and expectations before they meet next on Aug. 27.