Board of Education member Carl Gardiner has resigned from the elected body effective Oct. 1, according to a letter on file at Town Hall. The Republican is relocating out-of-state due to work, he said in a letter received Sept. 24 in the Town Clerk’s office (full text below). It’s unclear who will fill the remaining two years on Gardiner’s term.
The Board of Education on Monday voted 6-2 to change to a school start times schedule that will see elementary schools start first in the morning (at 7:50 a.m.), followed by grades seven through 12 (8:30 a.m.) and then grades five and six (9:15 a.m.). Dubbed “Scenario A” by New Canaan Public Schools officials, the schedule would take effect next April. The Board had also been considering a “Scenario B,” which would have seen grades five and six start first (7:45 a.m.), follows by grades seven through 12 (8:30 a.m.) and the elementary schools last (9:15 a.m.). Saying additional school buses could be hired on a trial basis, Board member Dionna Carlson urged the elected body to either adopt Scenario A on the condition that the district “solve for” an elementary school start time no earlier than 8 a.m., or else adopt Scenario B.
“We need to sharpen our pencils—7:50 is nice but 8 o’clock is not an unreasonable request and I think that because we have these local schools, you could add a few more buses in the early tier and then those buses would be done getting those kids back quicker than they normally would be if it was a Saxe or high school drop off at the end of the day,” Carlson said during the meeting, held both in persona and via videoconference. “The research that I read about elementary start times is when you are looking at giving high schoolers more sleep, don’t ever do it at expense of the younger kids,” she added.
The New Canaan Board of Education last week debated whether to adopt formal goals for the upcoming school year designed to address issues of race through staff training, changes to curriculum and parent education, among other areas.
Draft goals discussed at the Board’s July 13 meeting (they can be found here, under Goal 4-2, and embedded below as a PDF) include creation of what would be the districts’ first “statement on equity, diversity and inclusion,” as well as an update on Social Studies curriculum and identification of “additional opportunities in other content areas to increase content on diversity and inclusion K-12.”
Some Board members voiced support for adopting the goals, while others said they were concerned about introducing the changes during an academic year that likely will include some form of distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic that strains the “bandwidth” of educators and where spending on schools is tight. Sheri West said she strongly supported the new goals and that it’s “crucial that at this moment in history, that we as a Board, as educational leaders in our district that we communicate the importance of these values and really truly that they are at the cornerstone of what we do—our values and our belief system and our actions.”
“I especially like the addition of the professional development and of the parent education,” West said during the 3.5-hour meeting, held via videoconference. “One thing I would like added is I believe in order for us to execute on these goals, we are going to need budget dollars to bring in an expert consultant. I don’t think this is work that we can do alone. I think many districts have already or are hiring DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] leaders for their districts.
The Board of Education may adopt a policy that would see drug-sniffing dogs allowed in public schools so long as students are not present during searches or criminalized as a result of them, the elected body’s chairman said Wednesday.
Board members have talked about the issue in the last two weeks though they’re “somewhat concerned over because they don’t want dogs necessarily coming into schools and causing a problem as it relates to student stress or health,” according to Brendan Hayes. “So we are thinking about that carefully but that may be something that the Board moves forward on, so that we have a policy that governs dog searches which would never occur when kids are actually walking around,” he said during a Candidates Debate, held at Town Hall. “The dogs cannot come into contact with the kids. So we would do that very carefully if we chose to do it.”
The Democrat later added, “I met with Chief [Leon] Krolikowski and the superintendent a number of months ago, talking about this specific issue of we will do nothing if it results in kids being criminalized when they are in school. We will absolutely not do that.
The five New Canaan Republicans vying for party backing as three Board of Education seats come up for election this fall shared their views Monday night on topics that included district funding, school start times and the elected body’s role with respect to curriculum. Carl Gardiner, Suzanne Harrison, Daniel LaGattuta, Bob Naughton and Julie Reeves are seeking GOP endorsement at the Republican caucus, to be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the New Canaan High School gym. Reeves is seeking to retain a seat she’s held since March, when Hazel Hobbs retired from the Board of Ed, and seats held now by Tom Cronin and Maria Naughton also are up for election. (Maria Naughton is running for Town Council.)
During an approximately 45-minute debate at Town Hall that was attended by more than 70 New Canaan Republicans—including current Board of Ed members, councilmen, Republican Town Committee representatives and municipal officials—the school board candidates introduced themselves and weighed in on some major issues facing the district.
Here’s how they introduced themselves and responded to two key questions posed by moderator Fred Wilms.
Carl Gardiner said he earned a bachelor’s degree government from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and that he’s worked for 25-pls years in the investment industry. A father of three kids who went through New Canaan Public Schools, Gardiner said his own mother was president of the Board of Education in the town where he grew up, and that in New Canaan he has coached baseball and hockey, served on the New Canaan Baseball board and volunteered as a Sunday school teacher at St.