Somers Public Schools
September 23, 2019 6:00 PM

The regular Board of Education meeting was called to order by Chairman Devlin at 6:01 p.m. in the Mabelle B. Avery Board of Education meeting room.  


For the candidates who are on the ballot this November for the Board of Education, the Board will give them informational material in this workshop.


Chairman Devlin welcomed the new Board of Education candidates and outlined the various topics to be presented by Mr. Nick Caruso from CABE, BOE members, and Superintendent Czapla:

  • Roles and Responsibilities:  Mr. Nick Caruso from CABE presented the roles and responsibilities of the BOE.  School Boards establish vision, Board goals, district goals, set and monitor policy, hire and evaluate the superintendent, establish a budget, act as a hearing panel, and work in negotiations.  The purpose of the BOE is to improve student achievement and make decisions that is in the best interest of the school system.  School Boards have an obligation to be out in the community and be well informed.  He encouraged BOE members to contact him with any questions.
  • Student Perspective:  Fiona Cheyney, Somers High School Senior, presented the student perspective at SHS.  Miss Cheyney is a member of the Superintendent Advisory Group at SHS.  She reported that the BOE, Superintendent Czapla, and administrators have been direct and want to make changes to better the school.  She stated that Students to Solve Student Issues has been highly effective.  Mental health continues to be an issue, and she hopes the BOE embraces and educates students regarding mental health.  She stated that she has had amazing experiences at SPS and has developed good character traits. She attended a summer program where she learned about government and the BOE.  Miss Cheyney thanked the BOE.

  • Policy:  Anne Kirkpatrick presented the role of policy to the BOE candidates.  The 382 policies are divided into eight categories and are listed on the district website.  Every policy has the same structured format.  Most policies come from the State Legislature.  The Policy Committee receives quarterly packets provided by a policy update service.  The superintendent will go through the policies in the packets, CABE will include what is required/recommended, and the Policy Committee will discuss changes with the superintendent.  The BOE has to approve new or revised policies which will be initially warned at a regular BOE meeting and will return on the agenda at the following BOE meeting to be approved. 
  • Curriculum & Instruction:  Jan Martin stated that the BOE strives to provide a solid foundation for student achievement through curriculum and instruction.  SPS continues to use Atlas, an online curriculum management system implemented by teachers for vertical and horizontal alignment.  Atlas will be completed by the end of 2020.  SES initiated the Fountas & Pinnell reading program.  SPS is working to improve math scores.  Grades K-5 are piloting three math programs, one of which will be chosen in the spring.  A social-emotional curriculum is a goal to address the national mental health issue in children.  The new Sixth Grade Success Seminar is a program for students transitioning from fifth grade to sixth grade which focuses on executive functions, study skills, etc.  Fifth grade students now change classes for each of the five disciplines to help transition them for the sixth grade schedule. 
  • Budget:  Superintendent Czapla reported the current budget as $23.8 million and is very appreciative of the BOF and Town of Somers.  He discussed a historical budget timeline when the State was in a budget crisis in 2017-18 which impacted technology and instructional resources.  2018-19 had a budget increase of only 1.17%.  2019-20 has a 4.65% increase.  This year's budget focuses on social-emotional needs, increasing academic achievement, improving facilities' needs, and restoration.  Future budget concerns include health care premiums, special education, instructional resources, and increased enrollment (SES increased by 4.3% since last year).
  • Long-Range Planning:  Superintendent Czapla stated that three years ago Techton was hired to create a long-range facilities analysis for improvements and compliance.  The BOE developed a long-range facilities plan based on this report.  The plan is updated annually to evaluate what has been completed, what is in process, and what needs to be done.  The BOE received $6 million from the town bond this year to deal with a number of high-level projects, such as the SHS track and mechanical rooms.  A plan has been established for maintenance and replacement with a level of priority and timeline for projects.
  • Strategic Plan:  Jeremy Anderson discussed the development of SPS's Strategic Plan.  The committee was comprised of a variety of people within and outside of SPS.  A consultant came in to help with the process and design.  The committee developed the vision, mission, and beliefs as well as the four C's for student success skills (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity).  Three goals were determined anchored in student achievement, professional learning within the district, and accountability.  Each goal is set up with a timeline, resources, and targets which makes it easier for evaluation.  The Strategic Plan acts as a guide and may be referred to throughout planning for professional development, annual district improvement, school improvements, and annual budget process. 
  • Pupil Services and Special Education:  Kate McLellan discussed the BOE obligations to provide free and appropriate public education.  Pupil services provide a continuum of services through IEP's, 504 Plans, and Child Find which evaluate students at least annually.  Special Education is regulated at the Federal and State levels. 
  • District Leadership:  Chairman Devlin stated that one of the most important duties of the BOE is hiring a superintendent.  He commended Anne Kirkpatrick for recommending CABE to assist with the superintendent search process.  A CABE consultant met with administrators, staff, and the community to compile a list of issues and leadership qualities.  The leadership profile directly drove the decision-making process and is the reason the BOE hired Superintendent Czapla.  Criteria included being visible in the schools; increase communication within the schools and community; someone who develops and fosters a shared vision to excellence; a visionary; accessible and approachable; keeps student growth a primary focus; and, an inspirational team builder.  Chairman Devlin commended Superintendent Czapla stating that he has exceeded expectations.

Krista Cherry, BOE candidate, asked questions regarding subcommittees and hearings which were answered by Chairman Devlin.