Mister Moderator, Members of the RTM, fellow elected officials and community members of the Town of Darien. On behalf of my colleagues on the Darien Board of Education (BoE), I welcome the opportunity to update our community on the accomplishments that have been taking place in the past year in the Darien Public Schools.
We are now into the second year of our new Administration; under the guidance of Superintendent Dr. Brenner, the District has transitioned from ensuring compliance to focusing on how to build and improve the educational service delivery in the Darien Public Schools.
It is easy to cite awards and championships, whether test results, college admissions percentages, music competitions, arts fairs, or athletic team successes. The real work is taking place in the classroom and our Administration including Ms. Marjorie Cion, Director of Human Resources, Dr. Susie Da Silva, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Ms. Shirley Klein, Assistant Superintendent of Special Education and Student Services, and Michael Feeney, Director of Finance, have been busy making sure the District is providing our students with the educational services they deserve. Let me highlight some of changes taking place in our schools:
At the elementary schools, SRBI (Scientific Research-Based Interventions) is in full roll out
Hindley is home to the new DLC 3 (Developmental Learning Centers) program for students with autism spectrum disorders
At the Middle School, we now have the first year of our full year 6th grade world language
DHS has implemented the team taught and lab classes
The District finalized concurrent contract negotiations with the Darien Teachers Associations and the Darien Administrators Association
And a copy center has been installed at Central Office, with Tokeneke as the first school to implement. This year, three of our seven buildings welcomed new Principals, beginning with Principal Shelley Somers, who replaced long-time Principal Dr. Debbie Boccanfusa at Middlesex Middle School. Principal DJ Collela replaced another long-time principal, Ms. Rita Ferri, at Hindley Elementary. Royle Elementary welcomed their new principal, Principal Dean Ketchum, who relieved Mr. John Grasso, interim principal for the past two years.
Last year, the Board laid out several goals for the new Administration including Community Relationships, Special Education, General Education, Common Core, Technology and Facilities. The Administration has worked diligently on these goals, and as I attempted to highlight, made significant progress there. However, for our discussion tonight, I would like to focus on the last two items, Technology and Facilities, as these will be relevant to the 2017-2018 Budget discussions moving forward. Our students already use technology in the classroom and when they take their annual Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Last year, the Administration proposed an initiative to integrate Technology into the curriculum and teaching that takes place in the classrooms.
The Vision was for Darien to become a 1:1 school district, grades 5-12 over the next 3 years. Starting this week, our Sixth Graders are receiving their Chromebooks to use in the classroom and at home. Next week, Seventh Graders will receive their devices and most of our Fifth Graders should have them before Christmas Break.
Much work has been done to arrive at this point, including Professional Development for our teachers, pilot programs, student digital citizenship training and updated digital use policy. The District is now at the point of transition to a technology program developing 21st century skills in our students. ______________
The rest of Darienite.com’s coverage of the State of the Town Addresses:
The State of Darien as Seen in Four State of the Town Addresses Monday Night Before the RTM
State of the Town Addresses for 2016: Part 1, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson’s
State of the Town Addresses for 2016: Part 2, Finance Board Chairman Jon Zagrodzky’s
State of the Town Addresses for 2016: Part 3, Board of Education Chairperson Michael Harman’s
State of the Town Addresses for 2016, Part 4: Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman John Sini’s
This roll-out is part of a 3-year long budget initiative to bring Technology to all the classrooms, comparable to the introduction of Smart Boards in the classrooms. Next year, the 1:1 roll-out will continue with the introduction of a tablet device at Darien High School while continuing the Chromebook deployment to the current Fourth Graders when they transition to fifth grade. The Superintendent’s Proposed Budget will reflect the continued investment in our students’ technology initiative.
Facilities will be another major consideration moving forward. For the past several years, the Board has focused on Facilities and in particular the need to address projected enrollment and classroom capacity. However, it has become apparent that this needs to be a broader focus, and I would like to speak tonight about Infrastructure, as there are in reality two separate issues.
The continued stress of creating and converting classroom space in our buildings, led the Administration to seek to develop a Masterplan for the District’s facilities. This study was conducted by KD&G over the summer, and included both a Building Conditions Study (BCS) as well as a Facility Utilization Plan (Masterplan). The challenge has always been how to plan in the face of uncertainty regarding enrollment projections.
The proposed large-scale redevelopment projects that have been identified in town have the potential to significantly impact the student population, so it becomes even more important to plan how the District can address those potential impacts. However, the KD&G study also identified a range of maintenance requirements in the BCS study, which the Administration with Mike Lynch, Director of Facilities, is incorporating into a planning schedule for the Board of Education’s Capital Plan.
The Board of Education has not finalized the current project list, we hope to have that discussion tomorrow at our regular Board Meeting, but KD&G has identified significant maintenance that the District will need to plan for over the next few years.
The official October 1, 2016 enrollment, excluding the ELP Pre-Kindergarten program, was 4,722 students K-12, which represents a decrease of 45 students over last year’s projection of 4,767 students. The current projection for 2017-2018 has a slight decrease of six students over current enrollment.
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