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Superintendent's Blog

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I heard that the district is conducting a risk assessment for Hurlbutt Elementary School. Is this work directly attributable to the presence of the Senior Center?

Every district is being asked to complete a security analysis/risk assessment of every school based upon the new school safety and security standards that have been published in draft form and are anticipated to be adopted in final form this coming summer.  (Note:  A copy of the latest update on these standards is attached.)  With the proposal to expand the Senior Center at Hurlbutt Elementary School on the table, it was a natural decision to begin with the review at Hurlbutt Elementary School.  However, each of our schools will undergo a risk assessment in a similar manner over the next few months.  Even if the Hurlbutt facility did not house the Senior Center, it would still be required to undergo a risk assessment under these new standards.

Posted by jennifermarkov in District, Elementary School, Security on Wednesday March 26 at 01:58PM
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How is Weston Managing Staffing Transitions in the Arts?

Weston Public Schools has had a rich history of supporting the performing arts through its curricular and co-curricular programs.  We are fortunate to have many gifted educators on our faculty cultivating the interests, passion, and abilities of our students in music and theatre.   Many of our students move on to pursue careers in the performing arts and their experiences in our schools provide a foundation for their future success.  Performing and visual arts are valued as part of our educational program, and the district is steadfast in its commitment to the continuity of a high quality arts program as we move forward in 2014-15.

During this time of transition, as several outstanding educators have opted to move on from their current roles, it is natural to wonder who will replace these individuals and will these “new” educators be able to fill the big shoes that are being left behind.  With much advance notice of these key hires, we have been planning diligently for an effective transition, including a new high school band director and a director/advisor to Company, the high school theatre organization.

With respect to the high school band director, this position has been posted for some time now, and we have a pool of experienced candidates.  Additionally, there will be an advertisement in the New York Times in the next few days and an outreach to established music associations.  The district has also been in touch with colleges and universities noted for exemplary music programs regarding outstanding alumni they might wish to recommend to us as well.  The interview process will begin shortly and will continue until the right person has been hired.  We will not settle.  Just as we are not bound to hire at the first step of the teacher contract for any teaching position, the salary level of the most qualified candidate will not hinder the appropriate hire.

In terms of the advisor and director for Company, these roles are independent.  While it could be that one person emerges to assume both roles, another scenario is that the district may find one individual for the advisor role and one or more individuals who seek to direct individual performances.  We have also been working on recruitment efforts for these positions, but have deliberately kept them less formal until after we can all enjoy the upcoming outstanding performances of Carousel, as not to create a distraction to our current actors and director.

Although change is sometimes difficult, it brings with it the opportunity to review and enhance our current programs with input from the community.  The district is examining its performing arts curricular offerings.  We have had recent discussions at Board of Education Curriculum Committee meetings to discuss the needs of the program as we continue our commitment to excellence in the arts.  The district has also made a commitment to review its formal oversight of the performing arts program and to devote additional dedicated resources for this oversight in the 2014-15 budget request.  At the recent meeting with Board of Finance (BoF) in which the BoF reviewed the education budget for next year, it was communicated that an exact budgetary request for this oversight need would be provided in the next week or so, as it was not included in the budget work that began last fall. 

Additionally, we will be exploring the establishment of a K-12 Advisory Council of the Arts for the district, seeking to invite members of our Weston community who have direct experience in the arts to serve as critical friends to the work of the district as we continue to work to enhance the quality of all our arts programs.  Those who work in the field or possess unique experience in the arts have so much to offer our students and educators.

I am also pleased to report that the district is planning to expand its performing arts opportunities for the fall.  In next year’s budget proposal, the Board of Education has approved a concept to begin our orchestra program a year earlier, in grade four, to align Weston with other districts in the area.  Additionally, we have started a summer performing arts camp for students in grades 5-8, in coordination with Weston Youth Services.  It includes opportunities for students to take part in a summer theatre production or take instrumental lessons.  These two new features of our district further educational opportunities in the performing arts for many of our students.

I am confident that we will continue to maintain Weston’s proud tradition of excellence in performing arts.  We are committed to ensuring that our students have access to outstanding programs and educators during their K-12 career.

Posted by jennifermarkov in District, The Arts on Thursday March 20 at 03:50PM
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We have been reading more about the negative benefits of processed foods at home. Can the schools reinforce this message by removing all food from classroom celebrations?

There are some K-5 classrooms that still have food celebrations.  When they have food, the requirement is to have a healthy alternative available for all children, which is usually fruit.  The schools offer choice, and they strive to educate children about the choices and many do select the healthy alternative.  As a follow-up to this question the district will ask for additional input from its medical advisor on the current practice of food at school celebrations.  A further response will be posted here as soon as it is available.

Posted by jennifermarkov in Elementary School, Intermediate School on Wednesday March 12 at 01:12PM
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Why is the district reducing its funding to arts education at this time?

There is no proposed reduction to visual or performing arts education within the district.  There has been a focus on a transition plan for the drama program districtwide with the departure of several key personnel who are either retiring or opting not to continue in the drama program at this time.

The Curriculum Committee of the Board of Education met this morning (3-12-14) to review transition plans and is working to coordinate the shift to new staff for these key positions.  There is also a commitment to provide formal oversight of the district drama program for 2014-15.  This role has been filled informally in the past.

There is every expectation that the outstanding work in the arts will continue to flourish in the future and will continue to be a priority of the district.

Posted by jennifermarkov in Budget, Curriculum on Wednesday March 12 at 01:02PM
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What did the Board of Education (BOE) propose to the Board of Finance (BOF) as the education budget?

The BOE proposed a budget that was a .39% increase over the current 2012-13 education budget.

Posted by jennifermarkov in District, Budget on Friday April 26, 2013 at 11:18AM
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What 2013-14 education budget did the BOF approve?

The BOF reduced the BOE request for a .39% increase over last year to a -.03% decrease from last year, translating to a reduction of $190k from what the BOE requested.

Posted by jennifermarkov in District, Budget on Friday April 26, 2013 at 11:17AM
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Can the education budget be reduced further at the ATBM?

Yes, per the charter, if at least 2% of the electorate is in attendance at the ATBM, a vote approved by a majority of those present may be taken to reduce the education budget.

Posted by jennifermarkov in District, Budget on Friday April 26, 2013 at 11:16AM
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How much can the education budget be reduced at the ATBM?

It can be reduced to the limit permitted by the minimum budget requirements of state law or in this case a reduction of approximately $180k in addition to the already established reduction of $190k.

Posted by jennifermarkov in District, Budget on Friday April 26, 2013 at 11:15AM
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Can the education budget be increased at the ATBM?

No, per the charter, it cannot be increased.

Posted by jennifermarkov in District, Budget on Friday April 26, 2013 at 11:14AM
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What will be voted on in the referendum?

The budgets approved at the ATBM – Education Budget, Selectmen’s Budget, and Capital Improvement Budget.

Posted by jennifermarkov in District, Budget on Friday April 26, 2013 at 11:13AM
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24 School Road     Weston, Connecticut 06883
Phone: 203-291-1400     Fax: 203-291-1415
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