Officials Recommend Training in More Proactive Approach to Handling Violent Incidents in Schools

Officials who help shape school safety policy in New Canaan are recommending training for all district staff in a new way of preparing students for violent incidents. 

Members of the district’s Crisis Advisory Board, or ‘CAB,’ told the Board of Education last week that the powerful experiential training they’ve undergone in a more proactive approach to handling situations such as shootings should lead to new “lockdown” procedures at all public schools. In traditional lockdown drills, children go into a classroom and teachers all follow the same procedures, South School Principal and CAB member Joanne Rocco told the Board of Ed at its regular meeting Dec. 3. Those steps include “locking the door, pulling down the shades, turning off the lights and students would all go into one corner of the room where they weren’t visible and would just wait,” Rocco said. “So that was the traditional lockdown,” she said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School.

‘We Are Excited’: Long-Neglected Ponus Ridge Chapel To Be Restored

After years of disuse that dragged on due to bitter legal disputes, a neglected and deteriorating former chapel and community center on Ponus Ridge now is poised to be restored in a way that historic preservationists in New Canaan long have supported. The historic Ponus Ridge Chapel stands to be transferred from a dormant association to a neighboring property owner, clearing the way for its protection and eventual conversion into a privately owned structure that will be opened periodically to the wider community. “We are really happy about it,” said Brendan Hayes, next-door neighbor and soon-to-be owner of the Chapel property along with his wife, Ainsley, told NewCanaanite.com. “Restoring historic properties is one of the things we feel strongly about, so we are excited to be able to start this project—it is long overdue.” Once a community hub that functioned as gathering place for important community events—church services, Sunday School, group dinners, fairs, christenings, weddings, a funeral, dancing and art classes, holiday parties and meetings of the Ladies’ Aid Society, Farm Bureau and Fish and Game League—the Chapel hasn’t been used in some 50 years, according to town records. 

Since 1959, the ca.

‘The District Is Always Looking for Ways To Rationalize Costs’: Board of Ed Spotlights Money-Saving Efforts

Through contract negotiations, competitive bidding, new carrier agreements and shifting retirees to a state health plan, New Canaan Public Schools has saved nearly $1.6 million annually in the area of employee benefits, district officials said last week. About 80 percent of the district’s operating budget is devoted to staff salaries or benefits and that is an area “we can be creative in and have some good thoughtful conversations is around the type of health benefits that we offer our employees,” Dr. Jo-Ann Keating, NCPS director of finance and operations, told members of the Board of Education at their regular meeting May 21. Public schools officials looks especially at plan design changes, such as those in other districts, and cost-sharing options, Keating said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. Together those components “do generate quite a bit of savings for the school district.”

“And it is really the one thing that we are able to use to offset our salaries, because salaries grow at a much lower rate than health insurance does,” Keating said. “You have close to double-digit increases with trends in some years whereas salaries lower percentages.”

Specifically, she said, the district is saving $747,000 per year through contract negotiations (by replacing a PPO with a high-deductible plan for both certified and non-certified staff, and a 1 percent savings through cost-sharing), $326,000 through competitive bidding (stop loss insurance changes that significantly increased the threshold, creating risk, but saved money as fewer claims came in, and life and long-term disability), and $506,000 through carrier agreements such as pharmacy rebates and performance guarantees, as well as transitioning retirees from Cigna to the state Teachers’ Retirement Board or ‘TRB’ plan.