Hamden resident Tom Figlar managed to relay this information in spite of nearly no seating for the public. He attended the Special BOE meeting (Workshop), which was advertised approximately 24 hours in advance.
Per Tom’s social media post:
The workshop was advertised to make it just possible for parents or citizens to be able to attend. At the workshop, the Board of Education had a series of tables set up in a closed, U formation; this left a single back row of chairs, leaving room for a maximum of about seven people. I thought, what if more wanted to attend?
Figlar and New Haven Register reporter Megan Friedmann were then rudely advised that “tables are for Board members only” by the Chair of the BOE, Melissa Kaplan.
The meeting was in-person only, not online — and it was not recorded, suggesting the meeting was intended NOT to have much public input or information.
The state Board of Education is searching for a plan to be in place by June 2023, in regards to the racial balancing of schools. The key takeaway is, the first process they are discussing is the sister school process, where the 8 elementary schools will be divided into four K-2 schools and four [grades] 3-5 Schools.
The middle school wing is not a guarantee at this point; the state still needs to approve the $22 million project (per the Superintendent, the state will cover 80%, if it is part of racially balancing schools), leaving the remaining $4.4 million dollars to be covered by taxpayers or from proceeds of Wintergreen school sale — completed in 2022 in response to what’s known as the “3R project”, a failed effort by Hamden school officials to racially balance a few elementary schools.
The middle school wing not being guaranteed also applies to 6th graders moving to the middle school: it is far from certain at this point. I suggest the Board is also thinking Hamden Collaborative Learning Center will be housed at new community center if this big plan on racial balance is approved.
The three schools that are affecting the racial imbalance are Church street elementary, Dunbar Hill elementary, and Helen street elementary, due to the state’s antiquated definition of racial balancing. That definition includes merely “non-white persons”.
The Board is also looking at pairing schools with local farms and local businesses.
The Board also compared Hamden and Wallingford, regarding test scores and cost per student. Hamden averages $19K per student while Wallingford is at $16K per student; yet while Wallingford’s test scores are 76% success, Hamden is lower, at 71%.
Board of Education Chair Melissa Kaplan said the sister school pairings would “prevent opportunity hoarding among the 8 schools PTA’s”. She went on to say “…the well-funded schools PTA’s hurt the schools, whose PTA’s are not as well funded.” She continued with, “well-meaning parents at well-funded schools hurt the not-so-well funded schools.” Apparently, PTA’s would potentially have to pool monies together and possibly help with the budget deficit.
Gary Highsmith, BOE member, said sister school concept is a draft and not a plan yet. A feasibility study is going to need to be done.
Kaplan also admitted that the 3R Project was a big mistake as it caused angst among many different school communities. She also went on to literally say “West Woods is a very WHITE school”.
A board member did bring up that the BOE is possibly facing an $8 Million dollar budget deficit in the upcoming budget. If that is the case, the town may have to close 1 or 2 schools. I also advocated to making sure meetings regarding this new plan need to be hybrid to allow for full transparency to the town.”