Bd. of Ed. Chair: Getting Info From the Schools–and Giving Feedback

The following is “Notes from the Board Table,” the regular update from Christine Finkelstein, chair of the Wilton Board of Education.

If you have a few minutes, I would encourage you to visit the Wilton Public Schools website. The website has been upgraded over the past year, and is a great source of information about the initiatives and events taking place across the district. Even community members who don’t have students enrolled in the schools will enjoy learning about the different approaches to learning that are integral to today’s innovative classrooms.

Specifically, I would direct your attention to the “News” section of the website. Here you will find timely, concise overviews about current district activities. This week for example, the “News” section includes information about the new “SpeakUp” mobile app, that provides students with a venue for alerting building administrators about possible safety issues, or to share concerns regarding a classmate. Another article discusses the district’s new “Let Grow Project,” which encourages parents and students to take time from the daily hustle and bustle for unstructured activities.

When you’re done looking at the website, you might want to take a look at the Wilton Public Schools’ Twitter account, and the hashtag #WiltonWayCT. I just took a look and saw some great photos of the 8th grade band working with our Wilton High School band, preparing those young musicians for next year’s transition to high school. There’s another Tweet that showcases the use of “digital breakout rooms” to help Middlebrook students practice their foreign language vocabulary skills. And if you scroll through far enough, you’ll come across a post of Superintendent Kevin Smith dancing, which is a good reminder to always be on your best behavior in public!

Dr. Smith, in fact, maintains a separate Twitter account that is chock full of district news. You can follow Dr. Smith’s account at @DrKevinJSmith95. His tweets support the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” since Dr. Smith often includes photographs that describe how different teaching practices are being applied in the classroom.

I highlight these specific communication venues – the district website and Twitter accounts – because they are accessible to all members of the community, and because they really do offer great snapshots into daily occurrences in the Wilton Public Schools. There are so many good things happening, and a few minutes spent learning about them would be time well spent.

I’d also encourage your participation in the “Wilton Taxpayer Survey,” which is currently being conducted by the Board of Finance (BOF). The purpose of the survey, which takes about 10 minutes to complete, is to determine Wilton residents’ priorities, especially when it comes to allocation of resources. You can access the survey by clicking here, or through the Wilton Bulletin or GOOD Morning Wilton. I am grateful to the BOF for undertaking this important initiative, and encourage all residents to take a few minutes to complete the survey.

Another important opportunity to weigh in, specifically with regard to the school budget, will be on Thursday, Nov. 8. The Board of Education will host a “community budget workshop” to which all members of the community are invited. The workshop, which will take place from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Wilton High School library, will allow anyone with a comment or concern about school spending to share those thoughts with board members and school administrators. We held a similar event last year, and while attendance was not as great as we had hoped, we did hear some interesting perspectives that were very much taken into consideration during the budget process.

As we continue to build the 2019-2020 operating budget, community input will be an important consideration. Since voters have the ultimate say in whether or not our budget is approved, it’s essential that our budget reflect the priorities of our community. So please, if you have questions or concerns, mark your calendar for Nov. 8, and plan to participate in the community workshop.

I should also note that, while you’re at the community workshop, we hope you will stay for the regular board of education meeting, which will take place immediately following, with a scheduled 7:30 p.m. start time.

The community workshop will mark the official start to the budget season, but it will not be your only opportunity to learn about the district’s spending priorities. Once Superintendent Smith completes the proposed 2019-2020 budget, he will host a number of public meetings to present the document and answer questions. We will certainly make the public aware of all key budget-related dates once the calendar is finalized.

Until then, please check out the district website, and follow us on #WiltonWayCT.