By LINDSAY CAREY
The Southington Board of Education, along with State Senator Joe Markley, State Rep. Leader Joe Aresimowicz, State Rep. Rob Sampson and State Rep. Dave Zoni, sat down with students, teachers, administrators, and members of the community on Thursday, Feb. 5 for the Southington Legislative Breakfast to discuss public policy priorities for the school district.
The five issues addressed at the meeting were secondary school reform, special education, personalized learning, magnet schools and open choice, and the education cost sharing grant. Superintendent Tim Connellan created the detailed agenda of public policy priorities explaining in depth the issues and proposals of how these issues could potentially be solved.
The proposal for the first issue was to postpone the series of secondary school reforms required by the state for the class of 2020, which is the class that will be going into high school in the fall of 2016. With the appropriate funds not yet available for these reforms, the school board is recommending postponing this requirement because they have not received federal or state appropriated funds need to implement these.
The other aspect of the proposal is to reevaluate these reforms before requiring that they be implemented, because they were developed before personalized learning in secondary education became a more valued idea in the public education community.
Special Education was a major topic of discussion at the legislative breakfast with insight coming from both Connellan and the Director of Pupil Services Margaret Walsh.
The issues addressing Special Education include the high cost of Special Education. The proposal suggested legislators at the meeting to fix some of the problems was to “remove the cap on the excess cost reimbursement grant, reduce the excess cost threshold, assign burden of proof in due process hearings to the party that brings the action, fully fund state agency placement,” according to the agenda.
The Board of Education and administrators, like many other educators in the state, are devoted to implementing personalized learning systems to cater to a student’s individualized learning pace. The proposal for legislators regarding personalized learning is to support it by funding the startup of the system.
Additionally, the board would like for legislators to make it clear that the school district is responsible for allowing “experiential learning.”
Some of the other requests to support personalized learning include allowing unpaid internships for credit towards graduation, support and accountability for personalized learning from the Department of Education, and to allow students to progress through the school system based on competency not their age or grade.
Magnet Schools and Open Choice was another issue of concern at the Southington Legislative Breakfast.
The proposal for this included developing a state wide plan for magnet schools, developing a strategy to make magnet schools a place to improve student achievement, development of state wide for funding magnet schools to release the burden from local school districts, insuring the long term sustainability of effective magnet schools, updated magnet school applications with a ten year financial plan, increasing per student tuition of open choice enrollment and to provide infrastructure incentives for these schools, according to the agenda.
The final proposal was for Southington to receive an increase in in the Education Cost Sharing Grant to support education.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI