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Education

Most School Districts Improve in Statewide Testing

By Kathleen Megan and Jake Kara

www.ctmirror.org

Nearly three-quarters of the state’s school districts improved their performance on the state’s latest annual assessment, showing higher scores in 143 of 202 districts during 2017-18, according to the state Department of Education.

Among schools that were scored in both 2016-17 and 2017-18, 779 saw increases, while 456 declined.

In its fourth year, the state-administered Next Generation Accountability System takes a holistic approach in its assessment of schools and districts, relying on data from a dozen indicators including test scores, academic growth, chronic absenteeism, graduation rates, college readiness, and arts access.

The state assigns different weights to those factors then calculates a single “accountability index” number for each school and district.

Governor to Small School Districts: Regionalize or Risk Penalty

By Kathleen Megan

www.ctmirror.org

As part of his plan to cut state spending, Gov. Ned Lamont is proposing a plan that would strongly encourage certain small school districts to regionalize or face a possible reduction in the state’s education cost sharing grant.

“Small local school districts that choose to have inefficient governance structures and too many expensive superintendents can no longer expect the state to bear the costs of these decisions,” Lamont’s budget document says. “Under this budget, a small local district’s decision to retain rather than share a superintendent may result in a reduction of a district’s [Education Cost Sharing] grant, after July 1, 2020.”

Lamont’s budget would establish a School Services and Redistricting Commission “to engage stakeholders in a thoughtful and structured process which will achieve greater economies of scale,” the budget document says.

Lamont expects that some savings at the local level could be achieved this year and continue for several years.

Lamont Seeks Giveback From Future State Retirees, Asks Towns to Pay Portion of Teacher Pensions

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Ned Lamont will seek concessions that could reduce pension benefits to future retired state employees by more than $130 million per year — a move that was immediately met with resistance today from union officials.

The governor announced today he would revive a controversial proposal to share a portion of those costs with cities and towns — albeit a smaller share than his predecessor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, initially sought in 2017.

And Lamont also offered a few more details of his plans to broaden the sales tax base.

“While I love history and tradition, there is no reason to continue with bad or outdated policies that are no longer working for the people of this state,” Lamont said today.

Reflections Winners

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Five Staples High School students were among winners of the Reflections program, a national PTA art contest. Three of them are pictured here (l-r) Rachel Varsano, Chloe Chaple, and Dylan Goodman. Not pictured Greta Gilbert and Juliette Savarino. Winners at Bedford Middle School were Quinn Mulvey and Charlotte Franklin; at Coleytown Middle School Allison Gillman and Allegra Bockhaus. Their work, based on the theme, “Heroes Around Me,” is moving on to be judged at the state. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Town Side Takes Command Of CMS Rehabilitation Project

By Jarret Liotta

At the behest of First Selectman Jim Marpe, an accelerated rehabilitation plan for Coleytown Middle School (CMS) was presented to the Board of Education (BOE) tonight by Peter Ratkiewich, director of public works, aimed at getting it opened for the 2020-21 school year.

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Peter Ratkiewich, public works director, tells the Board of Education about the rehabilitation plans. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

Sidestepping the RFP process and foregoing state reimbursement opportunities are among the sacrifices the town will have to make to keep the tight timeline, Ratkiewich said, in order to execute a project that he quoted Board of Finance (BOF) Chairman Brian Stern as estimating in the range of $10-20 million.

“That’s a very broad range, but I don’t think it’s gonna be under 10,” said Ratkiewich, who is initially requesting a $400,000 appropriation to get the ball rolling and will do so at Thursday’s BOF meeting.

“Part of the $400,000 upfront … is to retain a hygienist, independent of the design team, independent of the construction team … to insure that we have good conditions,” he said.

BOE Votes to Fast-Track Portables Purchase

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To expedite the process, the Westport Board of Education voted unanimously tonight to move forward immediately with the purchase of portables for Bedford Middle School, foregoing the chance for state reimbursement. The town funding bodies have authorized $1 million for purchase of the portables. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

Saugatuck El Students Star at Sound Tigers

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Students from Saugatuck Elementary School sang the national anthem today while others held the American flag on the ice during the Sound Tigers game at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. The Sound Tigers skated to a 5-4 overtime victory against the Utica Comets. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Sam Diedrich for WestportNow.com

Marpe: Westport Has ‘Lot to Lose’ in School Regionalization

The possibility of the state requiring regionalization of smaller school districts brought a sharpe response today from Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe.

Discussing the possible change offered up by state legislators as a cost-saving measure, Marpe told today’s Town Hall State of the Town event: “Westport has set the bar for world class school systems throughout the nation, and I’m concerned about the possibility of combining that would not necessarily raise that bar but in fact have the potential to impact that quality.”

He added: “I think we have to be very careful as to how that would unfold” and who Westport might be required to partner with.

“I think we have a lot to lose as it relates to the quality of our community and the attractiveness of our community…,” he said.

Board of Ed Chair Highlights ‘Resilience’

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Westport Board of Education Chairman Mark Mathias told today’s State of the Town event at Town Hall that he had titled his remarks “Resilience,” which he said “is a powerful thing for people to learn and to know.” With the closure of Coleytown Middle School in the background, he said this year has demonstrated that “we are a resilient town. That we are very good at what we do. That we have very powerful, strong people that help us here in our town and we are going to continue to deliver very, very high quality education for the next foreseeable future.” He added: “We have the talent. We have the resources. Our kids are going to be just fine.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com