School board disbands ‘doomed-to-fail’ ad hoc committee
Updated 2:48 pm, Thursday, November 30, 2017
FAIRFIELD — Citing structural weakness, the Board of Education voted Tuesday to disband the recently-formed Ad-Hoc Operational Effectiveness Committee that met only twice.
The school board, meeting for the first time since the November election and now with four new members, unanimously voted to disband the committee, formed in September, whose stated purpose was to evaluate issues related to staffing, financing, utilization and program services at all Board of Education facilities.
“I think the committee, the way it’s currently set up, is doomed to fail and be ineffective,” said Frank Sahagian, a social studies teacher at Fairfield Woods Middle School and a member of the committee, in the public comment section of the Tuesday night meeting.
In particular, Sahagian, who is a member of the Fairfield Education Association (FEA), said he was confused about his role on the committee — which was to include representatives from the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, and the Representative Town Meeting, as well as students, teachers and town residents — and whether or not he was expected to speak on behalf of the teachers’ union.
“I’m a teacher, a resident, and yes, a member of the FEA — And I bring that combined perspective. But it would be unrealistic to put forth ideas that would speak for the FEA,” Sahagian said, before requesting the committee be disbanded.
At the final, Oct. 24 meeting of the Ad-Hoc Operational Effectiveness Committee, many present expressed concerns about the excessively-broad focus of the group, whether its at-large members were representing themselves or the organizations of which they are a part, and whether the committee could get off the ground in time to meet its originally-set January deadline. One committee member from the Board of Finance, Christopher DeWitt, resigned from the ad hoc committee as a result.
“I understand the intention of it. I just think it failed from the start,” said Board of Education member Nick Aysseh, who was the lone dissenting vote when the ad hoc committee was formed.
Board of Education newcomer Jennifer Leeper suggested replacing the ad hoc committee with a permanent subcommittee of the board. Trisha Pytko echoed Leeper’s sentiment, suggested a three-member finance subcommittee, with input from the public and school personnel sought afterwards.
While the vote to disband was unanimous, board member Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly, who had offered to serve on the ad hoc committee and said she believed in its work, was hesitant to disband the committee without set plans to replace it.
“There is the promise of something with not one detail,” Maxon-Kennelly said.
Board of Education Chairman Philip Dwyer said the board would begin to develop at its Dec. 12 meeting a new plan to tackle the issues that may have fallen within the Ad-Hoc Operational Effectiveness Committee’s purview.