The following is “Notes from the Board Table,” the regular update from Bruce Likly, chairman of the Wilton Board of Education. 

You might have noticed that the Board of Education has altered its meeting schedule, and now holds a monthly regular meeting, versus the bi-monthly meeting format we followed in recent years. Several people have asked about the change, so I’d like to explain the reasoning behind the decision.

In recent months, every member of our Board expressed an interest in having the opportunity to gain a better understanding and delve deeper into the many subject areas that fall within the Board’s scope of authority. It often seems that the fast pace with which important matters are reviewed does not leave enough time to truly evaluate an issue, ask questions, or seek additional information. We have decided to address this concern through a series of subcommittees, each focused on a particular subject.

Dr. Kevin Smith, who took over as superintendent in July, had direct experience with the idea of “Board subcommittees,” during his tenure in Bethel. During our July “special” Board meeting, we agreed to establish three distinct subcommittees:

  • Teaching and Learning: BOE members Laura Schwemm and Lory Rothstein, joined by assistant superintendent for curriculum Charles Smith and superintendent Smith.
  • Communications, Alignment and Policy:  BOE members Bruce Likly and Chris Finkelstein, joined by superintendent Smith.
  • Business Operations:  BOE members Glenn Hemmerle and Chris Stroup, joined by director of finance Ken Post and superintendent Smith.

Each of these groups has begun its work, and has outlined ambitious agendas for the coming months. As a member of the Communications subcommittee, our work will focus on three specific objectives:

1) Review all current communications process–both internal and external–within the Wilton Public Schools.

2) Review our Board of Education by-laws and recommend any revisions as appropriate.

3) Review and evaluate all existing Board policies to ensure relevance, and to make recommendations for any additional policies that may be warranted either because of “changing times,” or because of regulatory or legislative mandates.

Each subcommittee will hold periodic meetings. Subcommittee meetings are open to the public, and any member of the community is welcome to observe. Meeting notices are posted on the district website, the district’s FB page and Tweeted as the meetings are scheduled. If you would like to keep posted on when subcommittee meetings will be held, please check one of these three outlets on a frequent basis.

As we began to dig into our subcommittee work, it became clear that not only will this be time well spent, but we’ll be spending a lot of time on it! So, we decided to switch the meeting schedule to one regular meeting a month, as a way to provide added time for subcommittee work.

We will provide status reports about the subcommittees’ work, and I hope you will follow the resulting reports and other communications. I think I can speak for the entire Board in saying that we are very excited at this new approach to our work, and think it will allow us to be more effective and insightful, and also more responsive.

On an entirely different matter, I wanted to pass along our “official” enrollment numbers. As you may know, every August we are often surprised by the numbers of students who show up on the first day of school, since we really have no way of tracking families who move into Wilton, or who leave town, during the summer months. For the past several years Ellen Essman, a local actuary and Wilton community leader, has provided us with enrollment estimates based on a systematic process that considers several variables including five-year enrollment trends, Wilton birthrates, housing starts, and economic conditions. For the 2014-15 school year, Essman projected enrollment of 4,224 students. Our actual enrollment is 4,182 students, for a variance of less than 1 percent! This accurate enrollment will be very helpful in helping us adhere to our classroom staffing levels and other budgetary assumptions.

Finally, my deepest thanks to those community members who came out in support of the Miller-Driscoll renovation project. Because of you, our community will soon have a like-new elementary school that will act as an inviting gateway to our amazing town and welcome our youngest learners for decades to come. Having been deeply involved with the project for the past five years I can say with absolute certainty that the plan we approved last month is highly cost effective and the best option for our unique situation. I would like to personally thank Karen Birck and Bruce Hampson, who have worked tirelessly as the building committee co-chairs. I truly hope our town can unify behind this project, and celebrate the investment we have made in our students and our town.