Town Council

Recent Articles

Schools Superintendent: District Needs Alternative Program ‘With an Identity’ to Keep Students in New Canaan

When Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi presented a subcommittee of New Canaan’s legislative body with details of a proposal to create an “alternative high school” program for students with specific health challenges in New Canaan last week, a significant portion of the discussion focused on whether the former Outback building behind Town Hall would be a suitable location for the program. Other factors deemed equally—if not more—important were also addressed, including the short- and long-term effects of the program on the educational and emotional wellbeing of New Canaan’s students. Luizzi and Assistant Superintendent of Pupil and Family Services Darlene Pianka outlined their vision for a program that would replace New Canaan High School’s current Afternoon Instruction Program, or ‘AIP,’ which is held in the school’s media center. AIP is currently only available to four to 10 upperclassmen at a time, while Luizzi’s proposal will potentially provide flexible academic instruction for six to 12 students in grades 8-12 based on their educational and therapeutic needs. Over the past year, Luizzi and Pianka have been visiting both public and private alternative programs for teens throughout Fairfield County—some of which have accepted New Canaan students into its programs— and they shared a few of their observations with the subcommittee. Continue Reading →

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Town Council Members Mull Using ‘Outback’ Building To House Alternative High School Program

The superintendent of schools on Wednesday night presented a subcommittee of New Canaan’s legislative body with details of a proposal to create an “alternative high school” program for students with specific health challenges in New Canaan to be housed at the former Outback Teen Center behind Town Hall. Dr. Bryan Luizzi and Assistant Superintendent of Pupil and Family Services Darlene Pianka outlined their vision for a program to replace New Canaan High School’s current Afternoon Instructional Program, or ‘AIP,’ which is held in the school’s media center. AIP is currently only available to four to 10 upperclassmen at a time, while Luizzi’s proposal will potentially provide full- or half-day instruction for six to 12 students in grades 8-12 based on their educational and therapeutic needs, they told members of the Town Council’s Education Committee. The idea of locating the alternative high school at Outback had been broached with a town committee in November and the program itself was presented to the Board of Education on Monday as part of the approximately $90.7 million proposed budget for New Canaan Public Schools next year. Throughout Luizzi and Pianka’s presentation, Education Committee members Tom Butterworth, Rich Townsend, Joe Paladino and Christa Kenin raised questions about the potential costs of the program and the suitability of the Outback as the program’s physical site. Continue Reading →

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Despite Calls To Slow Down, Town Council by 7-3 Vote Approves Redesign of ‘Parterre Garden’ at Waveny

Thanking the volunteers who conceived of the plan and vowed to fund it—and despite opposition from some professional landscape architects—New Canaan’s legislative body on Wednesday night voted in favor of a redesign of a prominent garden at Waveny. The Town Council—New Canaan’s land use authority—at its special meeting voted 7-3 in favor of what some have called a “substantial redesign” of the parterre or “upper garden” at the beloved town park, though a national organization and prominent local landscape architect cautioned against a hasty approval. During an emotionally charged meeting at Town Hall, councilmen expressed regret that the two parties holding different opinions on what is best for the garden—the New Canaan Garden Club on one side with the redesign, and Keith Simpson Associates and a Washington, D.C.-based coalition on the other, advocating for a historic restoration—could not find a middle ground. Councilman Joe Paladino said he would like to see an “expanded dialogue” between the two sides—calling the Garden Club “an agency with decades and decades” of service to the town, and Simpson himself “an individual with hundreds and hundreds of hours that have benefitted our town.”

Yet a respectful exchange of ideas did not appear to be forthcoming, and the Town Council after some discussion approved the Garden Club’s plan. Those voting in favor included Chairman John Engel, Vice Chairmen Sven Englund and Rich Townsend, Steve Karl, Christa Kenin, Cristina A. Ross and Liz Donovan. Continue Reading →

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Audit Committee Chairman: New Canaan Should Review Bonding Practices

New Canaan’s bonded debt is the highest among all neighboring towns, the chairman of the Audit Committee said Wednesday night. What the town has bonded and plans to fund through bonding—typically large capital projects and equipment—would come, together, to nearly 100 percent of its revenues, Bill Parrett told members of the Town Council during their regular meeting. “It was a surprise to me,” Parrett said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. The question of just what New Canaan funds through bonding is “a significant issue,” according to Parrett, because though the IRS has rules and regulations around the practice, “that should not govern what we do as a town, as to what we in fact bond or don’t bond. “And when you bond something, as you all know, that is borrowing money±—sort of like a home equity loan, you have to pay it back … and we bonded quite a bit over last couple of years. Continue Reading →

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‘A Failure of Town Leadership’: Audit Committee Critical of How NCHS Fields Projects Unfolded

Though the donors and volunteers who gave time, money and energy to the partially completed fields projects at New Canaan High School deserve sincere thanks, the town also saw failures on multiple levels that led to undisclosed cost overruns, the chairman of the Audit Committee said Wednesday night. There were “adequate controls in place which should have helped avoid the issues and surprises that we had,” Bill Parrett told members of the Town Council during their regular meeting. “This is really important to understand, because if there were not adequate controls, we would have had material weaknesses from an accounting standpoint and having material weaknesses from an accounting standpoint would be very difficult to rectify in a short period. It looks to us that the issues are more about bad management—possibly waste—versus poor controls. There was a failure of town leadership, department leadership, boards, committees and councils, in our judgment.”

He spoke during an update for the Council on the Audit Committee’s review of how the projects at NCHS—rebuilding of a turf field, creation of two more and total overhaul of the track—came to cost New Canaan an estimated $800,000 more than originally thought. Continue Reading →

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