Dionna Carlson

Recent Articles

‘It Will Not Be Easy and It Will Not Be Pleasant’: Board of Finance Hears Passionate Calls for Fiscal Prudence, Full District Funding as Vote Nears

New Canaan must be careful as a community to have frank, detailed conversations about its financial situation and not “succumb to the tyranny of the parent,” a homeowner and mother of four children in public elementary and middle schools here told members of the Board of Finance on Tuesday. Everyone loves their kids and wants a good school district, yet this idea floating around New Canaan now that spending on the public schools somehow fuels property values is false, according to Rita Nagle. “That is simply not the economic relationship that exists,” Nagle said during a budget hearing held at Town Hall. “Property values fund taxes, which fund school spending. That is the way the relationship works. Continue Reading →

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‘People Are Getting Frustrated’: NCHS Students Organize March 14 ‘Walkout’ in Wake of Florida School Shooting

Dozens of New Canaan High School students are planning to walk out of school for 17 minutes next week, as part of national protest to what organizers describe as inaction in Congress in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Emily Dowdle, a NCHS junior who has helped organize the EMPOWER Youth School Walkout with classmate Emily Shizari, said details still have to be worked out, though the walkout will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, at the flagpole out front of the main entrance. As with other walkouts planned at high schools throughout the United States that day, it will last 17 minutes—one minute for each of those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland—and could include a moment of silence, speakers and reading of a poem, Dowdle said. Asked what she felt was happening now that prompted student walkouts, Dowdle noted that the social media hashtag associated with the movement is ‘#ENOUGH.’

“I think people were hopeful that things would change after enough shootings, but I think they feel like they have not,” she said. Continue Reading →

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Board of Ed Votes 8-1 in Favor of $90.7 Million Proposed Budget

Noting that all but about .6 percent of a proposed 3.5 percent spending increase for next year is related to contractual wage increases or healthcare costs, members of the Board of Education on Monday night voted 8-1 to back a $90.7 million budget for next fiscal year. In backing the very same proposed budget that Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi had presented to the school board two weeks ago, the spending plan is higher than what town finance officials had set and recently underscored as a “strong guideline” of 2 percent for municipal departments. Yet that “edict,” school board member Brendan Hayes said, represents “an arbitrary number.”

“It just doesn’t really factor in the realities of both macroeconomics or the financial realities of the New Canaan Public Schools budget,” Hayes said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. At about 1.9 percent year-over-year, wage increases in the district are far lower than national averages, Hayes said, and given that about 2.9 percent of the overall proposed increase is tied to the wages and healthcare of those who work for New Canaan Public Schools, a reduction to 2 percent would require cuts to programs, he said. “So I just personally don’t really understand that 2 percent because it’s not explained, whereas I look at this budget and the thought that has gone into it, which frankly is—beyond this year—it’s the culmination of a decade or more of work and programs in the schools,” he said. Continue Reading →

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Board of Ed Member Calls for More Input from Parents Regarding Computer Use at Middle School

Parents should have a say in some curriculum decisions regarding the use of computers in the classroom, rather than mere access to the trusted New Canaan Public Schools educators now making them, according to one member of the Board of Education. Some parents closely monitor their children’s “screen time” at home and the study of how computer use affects young people is a rapidly developing area, Maria Naughton said during the school board’s regular meeting last week. “We don’t have a district curriculum committee in the district, which I think we should,” Naughton said during the group’s meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “And I would like to know: How will this impact the curriculum for fifth and sixth grade?” said Naughton, who has called for greater parent collaboration in the past. “I have had parents contact me. Continue Reading →

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District: After Years of Steady Growth, Enrollment in Public Schools Projected To Flatten

The modest, steady growth in enrollment that New Canaan Public Schools has seen in the past decade is expected to level out for a period, and possibly decline somewhat, according to new projections that district officials cited Monday night. Overall, the 4,182 students currently enrolled from kindergarten to 12th grade is projected to grow by just two students next academic year, to 4,184, according to Gary Kass, the public schools’ director of human resources. Longer-term projections from the New England School Development Council, a nonprofit organization based in Marlborough, Mass., call for a decrease of about 90 students overall over the next five years—mostly at the middle school level—and further declines over the subsequent five years, Kass said during a regular meeting of the Board of Education. “At Saxe Middle School, the demographer is projecting a very slight increase of three students for next year and at the high school a decrease of seven students,” Kass told board members during the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “So what you can see from what our demographer is projecting is a period of amazingly stable enrollment, when you are talking about a difference year-over-year of under 10 students at each location. Continue Reading →

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