NEWTOWN — During the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, May 3, Wesley A. Johnson, II, coordinator of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Newtown Public School District, provided an update on the work being done in this area.

A survey indicated that 93 percent of students had not used Anonymous Alerts app to quickly report bullying, depression, drugs and safety threats.

The survey was available to students in sixth grade and higher; the app is available to students in third grade and older.

Forty-four percent of respondents believed the app has helped to address bullying, discrimination, harassment and other forms of mistreatment.

The same percentage said they found the tool to be effective.

Mr. Johnson said that the survey data could be helpful in learning how the app is used and he looks forward to aggregating the data.

In the presentation, he said that DEI School teams are dedicated to bring staff-driven support to lead DEI initiatives are positioning diversity, equity, and inclusion as a school-wide priority.

The teams support under-represented groups within the building from being or feeling excluded.

Every school in the district participated in DEI training as part of professional development.

The training included activities, articles and small group discussions to explore DEI and social justice.

The training also included a resource extracted from the State Board of Education’s position statement on culturally responsive and culturally tesponsive education.

Mr. Johnson has been actively involved in conversations and meetings regarding the district’s climate survey. His role is to support and help ensure that diversity and inclusion are reflected in the survey.

Following the presentation, board member Daniel Cruson, Jr., asked about respondents who said they had technical issues with the app.

Mr. Johnson said the survey did not provide follow up information for students, noting the survey was itself anonymous so it’s not possible to follow up with individual students.

He said teachers and administrators are following up with incidents reported by the app and, in his experience, those resolutions have been satisfactory.

Rebekah Harriman-Stites, another board member, said she would have liked the survey to ask if students were aware of the app because making sure people are aware of its existence and how to use it are challenges.

Mr. Johnson’s immediate goals would be to fine-tune how the Anonymous Alerts app is being used, continue to work with the school-based teams and training for people to help them know how to navigate situations and build awareness.

In other business, the board approved a five-year transportation contract with All Star Transportation by a vote of five to two, with Janet Kuzma and Jennifer Larkin against.

Tanja Vadas, director of business and finance, said she’s talked to other school districts to find out why there was only one bidder for the new contract; the current contract ends in June.

The bus driver shortage has severely impacted the industry, making it difficult for many vendors to submit bids.

All Star Transportation offered a five-year contract and a one-year extension of the current contract.

The extension would add $350,000, bringing the cost to $700,000, with no guarantee that the situation will improve in a year.

The five-year contract does meet the board’s budget guidelines and provides the school district with the chance to negotiate language and scope of work as well as plan expenses for the next five years.

Ms. Vadas noted the recruitment and retention efforts that All Star Transportation has put in place.

Before voting, board members expressed their dislike of either option.

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