Notes from the Board Table: Superintendent search continues

The Nov. 12 Board of Education meeting was somewhat bittersweet, as we said good-bye to two long-serving board members, Karen Birck and Gil Bray, who marked the end of their terms of service. Both Karen and Gil served the board tirelessly and with distinction — including periods during which each served as Board chair — and they will be missed. Fortunately, Karen has agreed to continue to serve the community in her capacity as co-chair of the Miller-Driscoll building committee, for which we are very grateful.

We will welcome two newly elected board members, Glenn Hemmerle and Chris Stroup, at our Dec. 5 regular meeting. Both have children in the Wilton schools and extensive organizational experience I am sure will be of great benefit to our efforts.

In keeping with this theme of transition, last week’s board meeting included an update on our efforts to identify a candidate to succeed Dr. Richards.

When Dr. Richards notified the Board of his intention to retire at the end of 2013, he made clear that he was willing to remain in his position until we found a successor. We knew at the time this was a very generous offer, and indicative of Dr. Richards’ concern that his departure in no way disrupt the school year. And now that we are well into our search for a new superintendent, we clearly recognize that by offering to remain on board, Dr. Richards has really given us the gift of time to make sure we find the ideal candidate to fill this critical position.

With this in mind, the board — acting in its capacity as the “superintendent search committee” — decided to accept Dr. Richards’ kind offer. In doing so, Dr. Richards’ retirement date will shift from Dec. 31, 2013 to June 30, 2014, enabling the board to take the time necessary to ensure that our nationwide search allows ample time to thoroughly assess all potential candidates.

I will continue to use our “Notes from the Board Table” venue to keep the community informed as the superintendent search continues. As I have said previously, hiring a superintendent is the most important task any board of education will face, and it is so important for the entire Wilton community to be engaged and informed during the process.

Meanwhile, work continues on many fronts.

As many parents are keenly aware, the board pays close attention to class size, and has established district goals of 18-20 students in Grades K-1, and 20-22 in Grades 2-12. Every November the board receives a class size report that details student enrollment in every class district wide. The 2013-14 report, with a few exceptions, revealed that we are largely meeting our goals. Areas of concern include certain sections at Cider Mill and Middlebrook, along with the math and world languages departments at Wilton High School.

The larger class sizes at Cider Mill and Middlebrook are anticipated to be short-term issues, since enrollment projections suggest fewer students in these grades next year.  It is important to note that these enrollment projections are accurate for the coming year only and should not be considered for budgeting purposes in later years. We will continue to work to resolve class size issues at the high school, but keep in mind that the high school curriculum is unique. We take great pride in offering a range of courses that are designed to meet Wilton student interest and ability. We would, for example, rather allow a few additional students to enroll in an AP calculus class, than deny some students enrollment in the course. Nor would we want to split the calculus class into two sections, thereby causing us to cancel a section of another course other students are counting on.

The class size report is available on the district website:

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. in the Wilton High School professional library.