For Wilton students, parents, teachers, administrators and Board of Education members, the discussion around Middlebrook School‘s proposed schedule change has been fraught with uncertainty for all parties — about what learning will look like, how teachers’ jobs will change (or be lost), whether or not to approve the shift and how to implement it if they do — and ultimately, what’s truly in the best interest of the students.
On Dec. 15, 2022, educators presented to the BOE a proposal for changing the school’s bell schedule to an alternating day (A/B) 90-minute block schedule.
During that meeting and at successive ones, the teachers’ union (Wilton Education Association) president Andrew Nicsaji has publicly objected to the schedule change. He has protested the likely job reductions related to the proposal, and he pointed to a WEA survey of certified Middlebrook staff that he said found 90% of the teachers are strongly opposed to the new schedule plan.
Many parents have questioned the plan on social media and in meetings (BOE, PTA and administrator-led info sessions). At last night’s (Thursday, Feb. 2) BOE meeting, approximately 20 people, most of them parents, spoke passionately during the public comment periods against the change. No parents spoke in support.
Echoing the words of one BOE member who had expressed wanting to hear more from the teachers, GOOD Morning Wilton sought out teachers for their opinions. We interviewed six teachers who were willing to allow us to publish their thoughts. All teachers who spoke with us for this story oppose the schedule change. We also sought out teachers who are in favor of the schedule change but did not receive direct feedback from anyone who approves. (Andrew Nicsaji declined to comment directly to GMW).
One classroom teacher, Will Mathews, spoke in favor of the schedule during Thursday’s BOE meeting. We’ve published his statement separately today as well.
GOOD Morning Wilton rarely quotes anonymous sources, but almost all the teachers we spoke with felt conflicted about speaking out publicly against the proposed schedule change. They expressed respect for the building administrators they work with and acknowledged the difficulty of contradicting and at times criticizing their colleagues. But they asked us to not use their names for various reasons — one cited a fear of “retribution,” another said that administrators have asked teachers not to speak out publicly, and others cited an already tense work environment around the topic.
We have only quoted teachers who we spoke with directly and whose identity is known to GMW. We did not publish any comments sent anonymously to GMW or to the BOE.
We also spoke directly to Middlebrook Principal Jory Higgins and Superintendent Kevin Smith about the specific concerns raised by the teachers in our interviews, to get their responses. That conversation is published separately today as well.
Every teacher we spoke with led off with the belief that the schedule is not right for kids at the Middlebrook age. When asked how they felt about the proposed change to the block schedule, without hesitating, each one answered about how it will impact learning, how it will not serve the students, and how teaching the curriculum will suffer. They all started off with some version of, “I want what’s best for the kids.”
Higgins and Smith also firmly believe their approach to the schedule change is also primarily rooted in the best interests of the students in terms of learning, social and emotional development and curriculum development. Their point of view also originates from a place of needing to accommodate budget concerns and overall district management.
Thursday evening’s BOE meeting was unusually long, ending after 11 p.m. at just over the four-hour mark, with the bulk of the meeting about the Middlebrook schedule proposal. GMW will report more fully on what transpired, including BOE member discussion and public comments at a later date.
But today, our stories are focused on the teachers and on the administrators.