Maria Naughton

Recent Articles

Parents Call for Board of Ed To Open ‘Formal and Public’ Study on Later School Start Times

Eight months after hearing that they would be part of a working group dedicated to the task, parents in plain language on Monday night called for the Board of Education to open a “formal and public study” to evaluate later school start times in New Canaan. Saying she represented more than 600 New Canaan Public Schools parents who have signed an online petition advocating for later start times, Megan Steele said the group respectfully requested “that the Board of Ed members put to vote the immediate formation of a ‘School Start Time Committee’ to be formally and publicly created, per the bylaws, so that we the public can have full knowledge of any meetings, process and progress, and additionally provide meaningful input into this outcome.”

“It is a very important decision and we know it is a complicated one,” she told members of the Board of Ed at their regular meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “We know we need to understand the costs, the logistics and possible solutions. But we believe we must put our teens’ health first and take a holistic, creative approach to making this work. As parents and registered voters, we are entitled to this from our Board of Ed and school administration. 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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District Pursues ‘Alternative High School’ Program, Outback or No Outback

Though it appears the former Outback Teen Center is off the table for now as a future location for an alternative high school program, creating that program remains a priority for the district, officials said last week. New Canaan Public Schools administrators are actively looking at other locations for the program—designed to serve students facing specific health challenges such as anxiety, depression, mood and eating disorders—and a request to fund the equivalent of four positions to operate it remains in the Board of Education’s proposed spending plan for next year, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said. Though the district “would love to have the [Outback] building to establish the program, one is not dependent upon the other, so the alternative high school positions do remain in the budget at this point,” Luizzi said at the Board of Ed’s Feb. 5 meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “If it is not located at the Outback, we are looking at other possibilities, so just really exploring and we are looking at a couple of other places in town and other possibilities. 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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Proposed ‘Alternative High School’ Program Built into Superintendent’s $90.7 Million Spending Plan

The superintendent of schools on Monday night proposed an approximately $90.7 million budget for New Canaan Public Schools next year, a 3.5 percent increase over current spending. Of the approximately $3 million increase in spending over this fiscal year, about $2 million is due to salary increases, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi told members of the Board of Education during their regular meeting. And of that $2 million, $1.3 million is due to contracted wage increases, while $203,000 is from salary adjustments from units in negotiations and $186,000 represents anticipated raises for teachers at they progress in their careers, for example, after earning advanced degrees. Another approximately $827,000 of the overall increase comes from spending on benefits, Luizzi said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. His proposed budget is the first step for the Board of Ed toward developing its full spending plan for review and final approval (in April) by town funding bodies. Continue Reading →

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