I couldn't attend the Oct. 27th Middletown Board of Education Meet The Candidates Night, hosted by the Harmony Elementary School PTO because I had to work. Fortunately for me (and you), my friend Roxanne did attend and sent me her notes from the evening which appear below (keep in mind that her notes are not transcripts from the evening, they are NOTES).
I found Roxanne's notes very helpful and I wish to thank her for taking the time to type them out and send them to me to share. I hope that those that read this post will find her notes as helpful in determining who to vote for on Tuesday as I have.
Christopher J. Aveta – resident of Middletown for 10 years, 2 kids in M‐town schools, lawyer. Was previously on the BoE and served as chair of finance committee, instrumental in curricula and tech updates, progress began when he was elected in 2010, hopes to be elected again.
Mark Bouthillette – 13 years in district, 3 kids in schools now, former Marine Corps, carpenter, worked with IT/Webhosting company for Merrill Lynch, feels connected with district, team player
Ernest Donnelly – 40 year resident, passion is education, was an educator – teacher, vice principal, principal and superintendent, chairman of the tech committee, wants to make improvements in safety
Sue Griffin – 17 yrs in district, 4 children went through schools, president of the BoE now, 3rd year on the board, been serving in some capacity since 2000, 2 most important aspects of her job – the children and tax payers’ money
Helen A. Henkel – 23 year resident, 2 kids went through M‐town, service back to the community important to her, RN that works with children with cleft palate, able to work with families, professionals due to this experience
Question and Answer portion:
Question 1. What are the educational gaps or weaknesses in Middletown schools?
Aveta – mainly in elementary school, gaps in grammar, spelling, need continuity of instruction in the formative years
Donnelly – articulation necessary for all levels especially with 17 schools, listen to teachers and parents for feedback
Griffin – Chair of the curriculum committee, feels language arts and writing and also handwriting are issues
Henkel – need to know what the impact of the Common Core standards will be for our students, civics education lacking
Bouthilette – Core Curriculum implementation is key, working together with BoE, admin, staff and families
Aveta – language arts scores and interpretation need to be discussed with teachers. Parents confused about how their children are doing.
2. Common Core – opinion of? Viable for Middletown to opt‐out?
Bouthilette – mandated by state, need to implement, it does take away from face‐to‐face teaching time, but we need to find a way to make it fit with our town
￼￼￼￼￼Aveta – it’s here, cannot opt out of a state mandate, needs to be addressed by parents and staff together
Donnelly – Follow the rules and regs of the state mandate, common core was put together by teachers and researchers, already spent $ to prepare for Common Core and PARCC testing, let’s see results first, adapt it to help us
Griffin – opening up a discussion with teachers, need to make it a continual conversation
Henkel – not a proponent of Common Core, not sure if we should wait to see long term results since it might not work, encouraged people to contact legislators about making changes
￼￼3. Leading concern among special needs parents in Middletown?
￼Donnelly – always seeking to improve educational opportunities, listen to parents, constant communication, help bridge special and regular ed
Aveta – parents and students want to be heard, need the least restrictive environment possible
Henkel – communication to be open at all times, adapting education to that child, not adapting child to the education, advocacy for children and parents
Bouthillette – 100% for inclusion classes Griffin – looking at each child individually
Donnelly – inclusion for special needs, try to keep students in district at all costs
Henkel – we’re all part of the same team and we need to remember that
￼￼4. With a potential debt/deficit looming over the next year, how will you deal with a substantial loss to the budget?
￼￼Bouthillette – supplying the best education possible is our goal – esp preparing students for a global market, make collective decisions, cannot promise that taxes will stay the same.
Donnelly – we’re capped at a 2% budget increase, need to review all accounts and programs – perform an audit to see what is working and what can be cut.
Aveta – Chair of finance in the 3 years he served, had a surplus, the $5.5 million deficit was caused by state, need to have a contingency plan if that debt comes to fruition, questions some employee practices like early retirement
Henkel – properties that are owned and unused by the district should be assessed and sold off, check out administrative costs and potentially cut there
￼￼￼￼￼Griffin – look over budget and see what parents/community wants/needs
Donnelly ‐ $5 mil debt is a surprise to everyone, state is seeking money from 7 years back, want to ensure that we can still provide same quality education
￼￼5. Budgeting for future construction/maintenance costs?
￼Aveta – submitting any grants possible, see where we are before asking public to help subsidize, moving forward will need to have to do it better
Bouthillette – work going on now is only phase 1
Donnelly – neglected facilities was his cause when he initially ran for the BoE, successfully installing new roofs and boilers and these will last for years, also continuing the maintenance supervision to ensure a huge undertaking doesn’t need to occur again
Griffin – putting together a long‐range facilities plan – 5 y ear plan, keeping track of current issues and conditions
Henkel – Regular maintenance key, also need to check to see if we really need more buildings –unnecessary storage structure that cost $300,000?
Aveta – continue to make smart decisions going forward
￼￼6. What about the redistricting issue?
￼Bouthillette – not an easy process, would need community involvement for sure, also need a long‐range plan
Aveta – hardest sell is in the elementary schools where people feel the most community, what would be best for all residents?
Donnelly – currently have undertaken a “strategic plan” for the district that will be looking 10 to 15 years out. No one will redistrict until that plan is reviewed. What would be right for students/schools?
Griffin – need to hear from the community, also the strategic planning committee needs to report out, information is on the website – wants input from everyone in the Middletown community
Henkel – it’s everyone’s responsibility to shape the Middletown school district, not just BoE and educators, if we pay for it, we should be making the decisions
￼￼7. Describe an effective Board Member
￼￼Griffin – present, active listener and participant, willing to compromise, don’t take things personally
Donnelly – communicator, listener, respectful, solve problems, not micromanaging a district, listen to recommendations from admin
￼￼￼￼￼Aveta – involved, respectful of other’s views, ask questions, compromise
Henkel – advocate for the children, need to leave personal attacks aside, compromise, gather information
Bouthillette – team player, work with colleagues, input from rest of BoE, make decisions based on the facts, not personal beliefs
￼￼8. How can there be a more transparent and open culture in Middletown schools?
￼Bouthillette – the BoE is a liaison between the community and the education system, need community members to go to meetings, bring info to attention of the BoE members
Aveta – wants participation from community members all of the time, not just when big issues arise
Donnelly – Hiring a competent superintendent that can work with everyone is important, need to find someone who is willing to work with BoE and admin
Henkel – be open to all communications, willing to talk
Griffin – always sees the same people at meetings, inviting more to speak out and attend, always willing to talk
￼￼9. What is your educational philosophy?
￼Griffin – every child should be able to perform at their best at all times, not everyone will be an A student, but everyone can achieve in their own way
Aveta – every student should have the best opportunity to achieve at their best ability
Donnelly – continue to help students strive to improve, increase level of rigor each year
Henkel – everyone should be able to meet/exceed their dreams, meet every concern of every parent/student
Bouthillette – best education possible to make this the best community possible, afford our students the opportunities to be successful later in life
￼￼Henkel –open to contact, serving the community of students and parents, CHILDREN FIRST and everything else takes a back seat to them
Griffin – Fighting for children to continue to learn, thrive and grow
Donnelly – takes education seriously, proud to serve, keeps himself involved on variety of meetings, need a united, equal opportunity Middletown
Bouthillette – passionate about Middletown and the ed￼￼￼ opportunities, brings a diverse background, team player, progress of all, willing to take time to better himself by going to training
Aveta – Wants to continue to serve his community, wants to learn from mistakes of past, ability to compromise and works well with others