Board of Ed Member Calls for Increased Parent Collaboration on ‘Social and Emotional Learning’ in New Canaan Schools

The district must ensure that there’s an open channel for parents’ feedback on curriculum, including in the area of “social and emotional learning” or ‘SEL,’ according to one member of the Board of Education.

Students are “consumers of the education” supplied by the New Canaan Public Schools, according to Maria Naughton. The kids “might show parents something at home that we may not see not in school, so if there is no collaborative approach,” then the district could miss an opportunity to improve, she said.

“I was thinking, ‘I do not teach math at home but social-emotional skills I do teach at home,’ ” Naughton said during the Baord of Ed’s Sept. 5 meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “So how do we collaborate? I don’t want to be educated on what is done at school—I want to be a part of the process.”

She added: “I would like to see a more integrated approach to include parent feedback, not just communication to parents but feedback from parents.”

The comments came as the school board reviewed its “District Goals and Objectives” for the upcoming school year. Ultimately, the Board of Ed adopted a slightly updated version of its goals by a 9-0 vote.

Naughton focused on one goal that reads: “Promote an environment that fosters respect, ethical behavior and responsible global citizenship.” One objective under it says: “Conduct parent/community education sessions on school climate, health and wellness, school safety consistent with district crisis and climate plans and the K-12 health curriculum.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi told Naughton that it seemed the objective regarding parent sessions “is an attempt to do what you are saying.”

Luizzi added that as school officials “structure these sessions,” feedback could be shared with them.

“Part of our goal is to provide parents with the tools and information they need in order to reinforce and continue [at home]—as you would in English and math—and support what we are doing here [in school] and vice versa.”

Naughton asked for clarity on how explicitly SEL is being taught in the district.

Luizzi said that “it’s not an explicit class” such as English, science, social studies or languages, “and that is not the plan.”

“Right now we are looking at developing the appropriate ways to build those skills in our students by integrating [them into] the classes.”

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