Board of Education recap: Dr. Richards offers to stay until June

Tuesday night’s Wilton Board of Education meeting at Wilton High School was, in part, about saying good-bye, but also about Dr. Gary Richards’ status as superintendent.

Chairman Bruce Likly announced that Dr. Richards has offered to stay in his position through the end of the school year, allowing the search firm of Hazard, Young, and Attea suitable time to find a potential successor.

“You can give out another set of diplomas,” Mr. Likly said.

Dr. Richards was originally set to retire on Dec. 31.

With both Gil Bray and Karen Birck reaching their two four-year term limits, this meeting was their final one as members of the board.

Mr. Bray will be replaced by Glenn Hemmerlee, while Christopher Stroup will take Ms. Birck’s seat. Both men were in attendance.

Mr. Likly has served one four-year term and was re-elected to a second, but spoke in favor of his two departing colleagues.

“I think I can speak for the entire board when I say it was a privilege, and we’re going to miss you,” he said.

“It has been an education experience,” Mr. Bray said. “It’s been a wonderful time.”

“I’ve had a lot of fun and have learned a lot,” Ms. Birck added.

Superintendent search

The process of finding a new superintendent took center stage as John Chambers and Deborah Raizes of the search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates stepped up to the podium. Their presentation focused on their findings from the online survey and meetings with staff, students, and the public around Wilton.

“Your students were engaged, and very engaging,” Ms. Raizes said.

They said 94 individuals were interviewed, to go along with 471 responses to the survey. Overall, the responses, which will be made public on the Wilton Public School website, didn’t appear to be a surprise.

Among the highlights outlined were the facilities, the community, and the culture of Wilton Public Schools. Student needs and community stressors, along with morale and facilities, were mentioned as challenges.

Praise was thrown at Dr. Richards, with many responses indicating the new superintendent will have big shoes to fill.

Class size

Dr. Charles Smith, assistant superintendent, addressed the audience regarding the class size report that was reviewed at the Oct. 30 meeting. Special attention was given to the high school classes, with principal Bob O’Donnell saying core subjects such as English are kept to smaller sizes, and various math classes stretched to the mid 20s.

Food allergies

Michael Cicchetti, interim director of human resources and general administration, discussed policy 5141.25, which is to set a plan and guidelines for students with food allergies and/or glycogen storage disease.

The policy, as reviewed with the board, aims “to assist students with life-threatening food allergies and GDS in avoiding exposure to the allergen(s) and to provide guidelines to assist in the development of individualized health care plans and emergency care plans for such students in the event of accidental exposure and/or diabetic emergency.”

At the same time, the policy stresses “that the school district cannot guarantee the elimination of allergens from the school environment.”

The policy also indicated that hand washing would be encouraged, while discouraging students sharing food at lunch. Additionally, students in pre-K to fifth grade will not celebrate holidays and birthdays with food.

However, the policy did state some leeway.

“On occasion, at any grade level, food products may be included in building wide celebrations with the oversight of building administration, communication to parents in advance, and the consideration of individual student needs, including the possibility of providing alternative food products as appropriate,” it said.

This policy, Dr. Cicchetti said, is in line with state guidelines.

Physical activity and student discipline

Dr. Cicchetti stayed in front of the board to discuss the lone action item of the night, policy 5144, which involves the use of student discipline in regard to physical activity.

For students in elementary school, 20 minutes per day is to be devoted to some form of physical exercise.

“The Board prohibits school employees from disciplining elementary school students by preventing them from participating in the entire time devoted to physical exercise during the regular school day,” the policy said.

“For all students, the Board prohibits school employees from disciplining students by requiring students to engage in physical activity as a form of discipline during the regular school day.”

While the policy was already a state statute, the board reviewed the policy and approved it.

As the next regularly scheduled meeting was scheduled to fall on Thanksgiving, the board will meet at on Dec. 5 at the Wilton High School Professional Library. At that time, Mr. Stroup and Mr. Hemmerlee will take their place at the table.