WATERTOWN — The Watertown Board of Education, meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 13, congratulated the winners of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Student Leadership Award, received presentations regarding solar panels and a new after-school service and took public participation.
To begin the meeting, a moment of silence was observed to honor Patricia Walluck and Katherine Palmer, two district faculty members who recently passed away.
The board then honored the winners of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Student Leadership Award. The award is given to two students from Swift Middle School and two students from Watertown High School.
Students were chosen by their principals based on their exceptional leadership skills.
Eighth grade students Erin Pienczykowski and Ethan Rodriguez, WHS Junior Hannah Jack and WHS Senior Alyssa Perugini were given certificates for their accomplishments.
The board recognized the school district’s nurses in honor of National Nurses Week last week.
The board noted school nurses Janet Crocker and Maureen Galvin of John Trumbull Primary School, Sarah Simmons of Judson School, Carol Crean of Polk School, Lynn Kelly of St. John the Evangelist School, Anna DeMayo of St. Mary Magdalen School, Ann Terzigni of Swift Middle School and Michelle Spagnoletti of Watertown High School.
Adam Teff from Titan Energy spoke about adding solar panels to Watertown High School. Earlier this year, with the help of Titan Energy, the board approved a measure to set up solar panels at Judson Primary School and Swift Middle School this summer.
Titan Energy has proposed a similar setup at WHS. If the district sends in their application by Wednesday, June 12, they could get approval for free solar panel installation at the high school.
The setup at WHS would be similar to the ones at Judson and Swift; the solar panels would be installed and maintained free of charge at the school and the district will purchase the discounted solar energy from the owner of the solar panel.
The board expressed interest in the idea of setting up solar panels at WHS as they are already expecting significant savings with the new installations at the other schools.
Mr. Teff thanked the board for their time and said that he looks forward to continuing to work with them.
Representatives from Right At School, a private company that provides before- and after-school services for school districts, explained their services.
Right At School would work in partnership with the school district and handle before- and aftercare for students. Parents would pay the company for their services and students would stay at the schools and be cared for by Right At School staff.
Representatives assured the board that if their services are used they will make sure that children are safe, the district’s education goals are represented and they would work with families.
The representatives said that Right At School offers various aftercare programs that will allow students to be creative and learn various development skills.
The company’s representatives said that they would hire local and have residents run their after-school programs. They expressed their intentions to be a part of the community and get involved with the personal growth of students.
After the presentation the board took public participation.
Adam Simonsen, a local parent with children in the school district, went before the board to denounce their plans to use Right At School.
He expressed disappointment with the board for looking at other after-school care providers, considering the Waterbury YMCA has been providing those services for the school district for decades.
Mr. Simonsen distrusted a private company to properly handle the community’s needs for an aftercare program for students.
“If enrollment in the program isn’t profitable enough for them, they can close any site they want with only two weeks notice,” said Mr. Simonsen.
Jim O’Rourke, executive director of the Waterbury YMCA, also expressed concern with the board’s potential decision to cancel its aftercare services with the YMCA and choose Right At School.
Mr. O’Rourke told the council that the Waterbury YMCA has been a part of the community for decades and that they have become an important part of it.
He told the board that the YMCA kept their after-school programs open in town, even though attendance has shrunken considerably due to the recession. He said that they kept the sites open because the YMCA knew it was important for the community to have areas that offered after-school care.
He told the board that the YMCA gives more than $350,000 in aid to families each year, some of those funds go to local families who use the YMCA’s after-school care facilities.
“We don’t just look at the financial part of it, we look at the whole picture,” said Mr. O’Rourke.
Mr. O’Rourke then asked some of the staff to stand up in front of the board. “This is the team that supports your families every single day,” he said.
“The board is committed to finding an amicable solution to this,” said Board Chair Leslie Crotty.
The board will discuss what to do after they have gathered more information. The discussion will continue during their next meeting on Tuesday, May 28.
Ms. Crotty then gave the chair report to the board. In it she expressed gratitude to Town Council Chairman Thomas Winn for approving a special town council meeting that would transfer $568,954 from the general fund to the Board of Education, which will keep the board in compliance with its state mandated minimum budget requirement.
The meeting ended with the board approving a gift from Shirley Plourde from Oakville, who donated a check for $318.15 to the Watertown High School Baseball team. The board will send a letter of appreciation to Ms. Plourde.
Those seeking additional information may visit http://www.watertownps.org/board_of_education/agendas_and_minutes.