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.

‘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.

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.

District: New ‘Personal Safety’ Lessons Introduced to Fifth-Graders in Health Education

Fifth-graders in New Canaan Public Schools starting this year are getting new lessons in personal safety—including “good touch versus bad touch” and going to trusted adults if “put in an unsafe or risky situation”—as part of an updated health curriculum, district officials say. Two new lessons within personal safety, co-taught by a school counselor and health teacher, are “focused primarily around healthy relationships, building that foundation that we are looking for within personal safety that is aligned with the sexual assault and abuse prevention mandate,” Jonathan Adams, the district’s K-8 heath and physical education coordinator, told members of the Board of Education during a presentation (available here under “Health Update”) at their Dec. 4 meeting. “It’s a two-part lesson and it starts with the people around me and it’s the individuals that they have that they have healthy relationships with, and they start building that circle out from the inner side to the closest relationships they have to maybe some people that are acquaintances,” Anderson said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. Answering a question posed by Board of Ed Vice Chair Penny Rashin, about how “stranger danger” school safety lessons cross into other lessons plans that touch on students protecting themselves—Anderson said they relate “in terms of their trust circle.”

“So it’s the same diagram but then it’s who are those adults in their life that they can actually go to within their circle or outside of that, too,” he said.