‘More Conversation Is In Order’: Board of Ed Puts Off Discussion, Vote on K-9 Policy

District officials said Monday night that they’re gathering more information for Board of Education members before the elected group votes formally on whether to allow a K-9 dog in New Canaan Public Schools. Some Board of Ed members last month voiced concerns over the prospect of adopting a new policy whereby police could be invited by the district to bring a drug-sniffing dog into a school. 

Since then, administrators have received “a couple of questions from the Board,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said during a regular meeting of the Board of Ed. “One, for instance, around how many school districts in our [District Reference Group] have such a policy, things like that,” Luizzi said during the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “We expanded it a little bit just to look around, we asked nine other districts, and it’s not helpful at all in that four of them do not have a policy and five of them do. Pretty much down middle.

P&Z: Board of Ed Lacks Site Plan Approval for ‘Alternative High School’ Downtown

The Board of Education plans to install New Canaan’s first-ever “alternative high school” on the second floor of the downtown building its administration currently occupies, though town officials on Tuesday night raised concerns that required zoning approvals for such a program have not yet been obtained. Specifically, the Board of Ed needs approval for a site plan in order to move forward with the program on the second floor of 39 Locust Ave., members of the Planning & Zoning Commission said during their regular meeting. 

Though school starts Thursday, the Board of Ed “missed a deadline” to get on the agenda for this week’s meeting, according to P&Z Chairman John Goodwin. “I think when they make the site plan application in September we will learn more,” Goodwin said at the meeting, held at Town Hall. “What is unfortunate is that they are going ahead and doing this without the site plan approval. So my question to them next month is, why did they miss the deadline?”

No Board of Ed members or district administrators attended the meeting.

School District Sees Unexpected Decline in Kindergarten Enrollment

Kindergarten enrollment in New Canaan Public Schools this fall is expected to come in at 46 students lower than projections, district officials reported this week. The district has 233 total enrollments in kindergarten this year, officials said during Monday’s meeting of the Board of Education, compared to 279 projected by the New England School Development Council or ‘NESDEC,’ a Marlborough, Mass.-based nonprofit organization. The figure—still subject to change, as families move into town just before the first day of school—also marks an 18 percent drop from last academic year, when 276 kindergartners were enrolled in the public schools, according information presented by Gary Kass, NCPS director of human resources. “Overall we are decreasing enrollment in certain areas but what is particularly evident is a reduction of students in kindergarten,” Kass told Board of Ed members at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. He added: “That could possibly be a trend as we move forward.”

It isn’t clear what is causing the lower-than-expected figures among kindergarteners. 

Board of Ed member Sheri West did ask whether district administrators had a handle on the data behind the lower enrollment there, but officials instead addressed a separate question from her, about why the fourth grade from last year appeared to be declining by about 17 students going into fifth grade this year.

‘We Do Not Want To Permanently Damage Kids That Make Mistakes’: Board of Ed Balks at Allowing K-9 Police Dogs in Schools

Saying they need more information and time to reflect on what would follow from allowing a police K-9 dog to search for narcotics in New Canaan schools, members of the Board of Education on Monday night decided to forgo voting on a new policy that would introduce the practice. Even if authorization from school administrators was required for K-9 searches of lockers or other areas, allowing them “has the potential to change kids’ lives,” according to Board of Ed Chair Dionna Carlson. 

“It is an important thing,” she said during the board’s regular meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “We all agree we want drug-free schools. But I think it is also an important thing to say that we have hired experts in their field to deal with kids in crisis. And so we want to do the right thing to keep our schools drug-free, but we also do not want to permanently damage kids that make mistakes.

District Officials, Police Affidavits Detail Lunch Ladies’ Theft of Nearly $500,000

When New Canaan Public Schools’ budget director returns from summer break next week, she’ll help create reports that could establish or rule out the notion that the lunch ladies arrested last week depleted school parents’ funds while stealing nearly $500,000 from the district itself, officials said Monday night. Tracy Haberman knows the point-of-sale or ‘POS’ software system used at cash registers in Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School “very, very well,” according to Dr. Jo-Ann Keating, director of finance and operations for the district. “We are going to look at pulling reports and I am not certain that all the transactions are time-stamped, but that would be a key piece to doing an audit and reviewing accounts that have been modified,” Keating told members of the Board of Education during their regular meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “So, we can see where transactions take place—a parent deposits to a child’s account, it is pulled in through the system, a child goes to a register to purchase something, it’s keyed in there—and we can also see if there are double entries at that point and we can also see if someone went in and modified after-the-fact. So those are the kinds of things that we are going to try and audit and we are going to be looking at situations surrounding those changes, if there are any, and also look at the frequency of that.