After One-Time Suspension, Board of Ed To Reinstate Public Comments Monday

After suspending the practice for one meeting, members of the Board of Education said last week that they’re hoping to find a secure way for the public to offer comment before the elected body during remote meetings in the future. Receiving people’s emails isn’t an adequate substitute for the live public comment period that’s part of regular meeting agendas, according to Board member Dionna Carlson. 

“I wouldn’t want to see this going to the emails that just come to the Board, because that’s not public,” Carlson said during the Board’s March 30 meeting, held via videoconference. 

“There is a lot going on right now and I do think we need to find a way for the public to be able to address us through the digital platform,” Carlson said. She added, “I think it is is important for us to see and hear the public and for the remainder of the public to see what is being addressed to the Board. So I would not want to see this go to emails and things like that. We just need to figure out how to work with [New Canaan Public Schools Technology Services] to keep these random things off the Zoom platform or go to a different platform that is more secure.”

She referred to inappropriate material that appeared during recent public meetings held by other municipal bodies in New Canaan on Zoom videoconferencing software—a practice known as “Zoom-bombing.”

Board member Bob Naughton suggested the district look into webinar platforms that require advance registration. 

Board Vice Chair Brendan Hayes said it was a good idea to “pre-clear those who are going to speak.”

“It is a bit difficult, I think, but my guess is we are not going to have a huge number of people during this period of time,” he said.

Op-Ed: School Start Times—a Decision We Didn’t Want To Make

Thursday’s Town Council vote on the school budget will determine whether school start times will change next year to improve student health. It’s a decision we never wanted to make. 

It was thought the controversy might be resolved before the Town Council got involved. 

Just maybe, we thought, the Board of Education would back down after being confronted by opponents and after learning how disruptive the change would be. But student health was the BOE’s first priority and they forged ahead. 

Just maybe, a group of dissenting elementary school parents would sour people on the proposal, as their schedules could be the most severely affected. But they endorsed an 8:00 am start time for elementary schools compared to 7:50 am in the BOE proposal—a mere 10-minute difference. Only a handful of dissidents spoke against the BOE budget at Tuesday night’s public hearing compared to 43 who spoke in favor.

Letter: Town Council Should Reject Funding for Changes to School Start Times

This week our Town Council has the difficult and unenviable task of advising the Board of Education on this year’s budget. One that contains the controversial addition of a start time initiative that has been conveyed to many as simply “later start times for high school students.”

In actuality, we are not removing early start times at all. 

Our tax dollars would be going to swap “too early for high school” start times with our youngest elementary school children. Giving our youngest children the dubious honor of having the earliest elementary school start times in all of Connecticut, an hour earlier than other top ranked schools. So, is this swap worth more than $1 million this year and hundreds of thousands of dollars each year going forward? I contend that not only is it not worth it, but we could be doing greater harm to our elementary schoolchildren than any benefit received by high school students.

Letter: Earlier School Start Times for New Canaan Students

Perhaps many have heard the New Canaan Board of Education touting its plan for later school start times for students and how it would be a great win for “our” students. More sleep for our children sounds like a great thing, right? What Board of Ed members don’t mention is that it would be solely at the expense of our youngest children (and about $1 million in tax dollars). The current plan they are trying to push through is attempting to give high school students an additional hour of sleep by taking away one hour and 20 minutes from most elementary school children. This would represent the earliest elementary school start time in all of Connecticut and an average of one hour earlier than the other schools.