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Board of Ed Tackles Controversial School Start-Time Issue

In a discussion that lasted more than two hours, Westports Board of Education Monday night told the co-chairs of a committee studying the controversial school start-time issue to come up with a recommendation in time for the next school year.
Several board members suggested the panel consider a compromise 15-minute change Җ something that also had been raised earlier this year but rejected.
Two schools Coleytown Middle School and Coleytown Elementary School ֖ started classes a half-hour earlier beginning in September to save money on transportation costs.


Dan Sullivan, principal of Green’s Farms Elementary School, and Angela Wormser, principal of Bedford Middle Shool, hear thoughts from Board of Education members Monday night on the controversial school start-time issue. WestportNow.com photo

The move sparked an outcry from parents who said the decision meant their children would get less sleep and also suffer academically.
The issue was hotly debated during the November election for three board seats.
The seven board members, without taking a formal vote, appeared to reject an extended timetable request by the committee.
It suggested that it be permitted to continue its work for an additional six to nine months to further study the issue and make a recommendation for the 2005-2006 school year.
Instead, the board told the co-chairs of the committee Dan Sullivan, principal of Green֒s Farms Elementary School, and Angela Wormser, principal of Bedford Middle School to come up with at least an interim solution to be implemented next September.
֓I think a change has to be made for next year, said member Mary Parmelee, a Democrat who won re-election to her second term last month. She had made the earlier suggestion for the 15-minute compromise.
Added Lewis Brey, a Republican freshman also elected in November: ԓId be disappointed to have to wait to make a change.Ҕ He reminded the board and the co-chairs that the new times had only been initiated in September.
IӒm not talking about a long-standing practice, he said.
Nancy Harris, assistant superintendent for business, told the board that a 15-minute change in start times would be ԓbudget neutral, meaning it would not have a significant cost implication.
Brey as well as fellow Republican Linda Merk-Gould, board vice chair, said theyԒd favor adding parents or other community members to the start-time committee, which is made up only of school staff members.
Rob Sobleman, head of the Staples High School student legislative body, urged the board to add one or more student members as well and pointedly asked Schools Supt. Elliott Landon why no community members were on the panel.
Landon replied that it was his decision to make it a staff committee only that would make a recommendation to the Board of Education for action.
If itӒs a community decision, why are we asking the staff to make the decision? Sobleman responded, to a scattering of applause from audience members.

Board of Ed Approves Calendar, Rejects Additional Meetings

The Board of Education Monday night approved a school calendar for next year that is little changed from this year.
But it rejected a recommendation from the schools superintendent that it regularly schedule additional board meetings and start them earlier.
The calendar was approved by a 7-0 vote.
Before the vote, board member Mary Parmelee, a Democrat, questioned Schools Supt. Elliott Landon as to the makeup of the staff committee that drafted the calendar. Parents had been on past calendar committees.


Staples student body head Rob Sobleman addresses Board of Ed Monday night. WestportNow.com photo

We went through the process without parents,Ӕ Landon said, adding that the Board of Education would have the final say.Ӕ
Parmelee said she hoped parents would be added back to the committee next year.
The calendar calls for students to report for classes Sept. 1, 2004, the Wednesday before the Monday Labor Day holiday.
A number of parents this year as well as in the past had asked that school not start before Labor Day to better accommodate summer vacation plans.
As to having additional board meetings Landon had recommended three a month instead of the present two and that they start at 7:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. to accommodate more board business and public input ֖ no formal vote was taken.
But the idea seemed to win little favor among board members.
Democrat Mark Mathias, a freshman, said that if the board created more shelf space,Ӕ theyd only manage to fill it. Instead he suggested their meetings could be run ғa little tighter to get more work done.
Mathias also said he did not endorse another Landon suggestion that public comment be limited to only one meeting a month. ԓIm not for meeting without public input,Ҕ he said.
Also not winning much support was a suggestion by Parmelee that board meetings also be scheduled for the occasional Friday mornings so more members of the public could attend.
Rob Sobleman, head of the Staples High School student legislative body, asked that regular board meetings be scheduled to coincide with the Tuesday night meetings of his group.
Several members said special meetings could be held, but there appeared to be little support for scheduling regular board meetings with the student parliamentarians.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003



Tuesday, December 16, 2003

8:30 a.m. – Town Hall Room 201 – Human Services Commission
9:45 a.m. –  Job Site – Public Site & Building Commission Center for Senior Activities Building Committee
10 a.m. – Town Hall Room 201 – Administrative Review Committee
7:30 p.m. – Town Hall Auditorium – Zoning Board of Appeals
8 p.m. –  Staples High School Library – Board of Education work session with RTM committees

Icy Slush Covers Roads, Wind Advisory Still in Effect, Schools Delayed

Westporters awoke today to icy slush covering many roadways, making driving dangerous, and a wind advisory in effect through the afternoon. Westport schools delayed classes by two hours.
High winds downed trees and power lines Sunday, leaving more than 1,000 Connecticut Light and Power customers without power for several hours.
By 7 a.m. today, the utility reported only 15 Westport customers still out. An hour later, it reported all customers restored.


A home owner gets help from Westport firefighters in assessing the damage after a tree fell on a house Sunday night on Punch Bowl Drive. No one was injured. WestportNow.com photo

Overnight temperatures remained below freezing after a weekend storm left three to four inches of snow on the ground.
By Sunday night, the precipitation had turned to rain and sleet, leaving many roadways covered with a slushy mixture that iced over during the overnight hours. There was also some road ponding and minor flooding.
The Westport school system announced a two-hour delay because of the slick road conditions and icy drizzle.
State police reported slippery conditions on Interstate-95 and the Merritt Parkway. An accident near Westport’s exit 17 on I-95 backed up southbound traffic just before 6 a.m.
The National Weather Service, in a wind advisory, said winds would reach 45 to 50 miles per hour later in the day toward evening as a low pressure area moved away from the region.
Police reported only a few minor accidents during the storm. In the potentially most serious incident, a tree crashed into a house on Punch Bowl Drive at mid-evening.
An elderly couple in the home was not injured, but there was extensive damage to the roof and a room where the tree smashed through a window.
The tree was in an adjoining wooded area 50 yards or so from the house but was so tall and fell in such a way that it smashed directly into the structure.
Westport firefighters, working in a heavy rain, managed to secure a rope to a large portion of the tree on the snow-covered and slippery roof and push it harmlessly to the ground.
They then covered portions of the roof as well as the window with protective plastic sheeting.
It looked like the tree just rotted at its base,Ӕ said Asst. Chief Jon Gottfried. They were very lucky it was not worse.Ӕ

Snowstorm Coats Roads, Causes Power Outages

The second pre-winter snowstorm in a week moved through the Westport area today, coating town roadways and downing trees and power lines.

The storm dumped three to four inches of snow on roads before turning to a mixture of sleet and rain early in the evening.

Police and fire units were kept busy responding to reports of trees and power lines down tonight.

Affected areas included portions of Turkey Hill Road North, Prospect Road, Maple Lane near New Creek, and Valley Road.

High winds caused a tree to fall on a house on Punch Bowl Drive at mid-evening. An elderly couple inside escaped injury, but there was extensive damage to the roof and an interior room where the tree knocked out a window.

As of 11 p.m., Connecticut Light and Power reported 1,011 Westport customers were without power. By midnight, the number was down to 227.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch and a wind advisory for the area. It predicted wind gusts of 45 to 55 miles per hour and said rain combined with melting snow raised the danger of ponding of water in some areas as well as some street flooding.

Schools Superintendent Proposes More, Earlier Board Meetings

In an effort to accommodate more Board business and public input, Schools Supt. Elliott Landon is proposing the Board of Education meet three times a month instead of two and start a half hour earlier—at 7:30 p.m.

In a memo to Board members in advance of Monday nights meeting, Landon proposed that the Board have one monthly meeting devoted solely to public input and not take public comment at the other two meetings.

ғDepending on the press of business, the Board could schedule one of the meetings for extended public comments or, if the meeting is deemed not necessary, the meeting could be canceled, he said.

Landon added, ԓIf the Board approves this approach, members might wish to consider eliminating public comment on non-agenda items for two meetings per month and opening the floor for general public comment at the third meeting.

In response to concerns from Board members and the public about starting important topics late in the evening, Landon proposed moving up the meeting start time a half hour from 8 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

He said this would mean starting executive sessions at 6 p.m., and following the practice of the Board of Finance, bringing in dinner for members.