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www.cabe.org

Vol. 25, No. 1

January, 2021

Historic Vote by CT State Board of Education

View from the Capitol Patrice McCarthy

Deputy Director and General Counsel, CABE

Sheila McKay

Sr. Staff Associate for Government Relations, CABE

See VIEW FROM THE CAPITOL page 2

Resolutions Committee Chairman Leonard Lockhart (Windsor) presented the recommendations of the Resolutions and Government Relations Committee to the delegates for action. The delegates reaffirmed their support for many CABE positions, including economic, racial and ethnic integration; 21st century skills; school climate; civility; See VIRTUAL ASSEMBLY page 7

See HISTORIC VOTE page 10

Happy New Year!

CABE Virtual Delegate Assembly Patrice McCarthy

Deputy Director and General Counsel, CABE

CABE’s first virtual Delegate Assembly was held on November 19, 2020. The first order of business was the election of officers. All current members of the CABE Executive Committee were eligible for re-election and were elected by acclamation. They included: President, Donald Harris, Bloomfield; First Vice President, Elizabeth Brown, Waterbury; Vice President for Government Relations, Michael Purcaro, Ellington;

Guilford’s Paul Freeman Named 2021 Superintendent of the Year CAPSS has named Paul Freeman, Superintendent in Guilford, as the 2021 Superintendent of the Year. Superintendents of the Year are selected for their excellence in leadership, communication, professionalism and community involvement. Freeman has served as Guilford’s superintendent since 2011. Prior to leading Guilford’s school system, he served as superintendent of the Griswold Public Schools, and in various administrative roles in the East Lyme school Paul Freeman system. His career as an educator started as an English language arts teacher in the Amity school district, teaching middle and high school students. When asked for a comment, CABE Executive Director Robert Rader said, “We are so glad that Paul has been honored in this way. Members of our Staff have worked with him over the years and we know what a thoughtful, innovative leader he has been. Congratulations, Paul!”

Vice President for Professional Development, Bryan Hall, East Hartford; and Secretary/Treasurer John Prins, Branford. Bob Mitchell, Montville serves as Immediate Past President and Lydia Tedone, Simsbury serves on the Board in her role as NSBA Director. Elected as Area Directors to the CABE Board of Directors were: Area 2 Director Leonard Lockhart, Windsor; Area 4 Director Joan Trivella, Woodstock Academy; Area 7 Director George Kurtyka, Derby; and Area 8 Director Lon Seidman, Essex. Congratulations to all!

Adoption of Resolutions

inside

Legislators, just like school boards, will be demonstrating great flexibility, creativity and resiliency during the upcoming Legislative session, which begins on January 6. The “View from the Capitol” will most likely be by Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx or another virtual platform, at least during the first several months. The need for virtual public hearings may provide the opportunity for greater participation, and we are hopeful that board members and superintendents will take advantage of these opportunities to communicate with legislators. Incoming House Speaker Matt Ritter has indicated that it will be necessary to limit the number of bills

PA19-12, An Act Concerning the Inclusion of Black and Latino Studies in the Public School Curriculum required the CT State Board of Education to review and approve, by January 1, 2021, a Black and Latino studies high school course that the State Education Resource Center (SERC) would develop. Members of the State Board were moved as they took the lead in the United States to support requirements for coursework by their overwhelming vote of approval at their December meeting. The process to take input from stakeholders was very inclusive. Legislators, educators, students, and higher education professors all provided input. CABE’s appointment to the task force to create the course was Dolores Bolton, of the Bloomfield Board of Education. She was impressed by the large group of stakeholders and what their diversity brought to the process. Districts may offer the full year course in the 2021-22 year but must offer it beginning in September 2022. As required by the act, the State Board of Education must make curriculum materials available to assist boards develop their instructional programs. For the school years 2022-23 to 202425, the State Department of Education must (1) conduct an annual audit to ensure that the Black and Latino studies course approved under the act is being offered by each board of education and (2) annually report on the

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What Do You Know About Housing in Your Town?

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CT School Programs Aimed How a Budget Attorneys at Diversifying Document Can Help Hold Annual State Teacher or Hurt Your School Meeting Workforce District Brand


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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021 PRESIDENT COMMENTARY

New Year’s Resolutions Donald Harris President, CABE

January is a time for renewing our resolve to do something good – whether it is health related, a lifestyle change or a promise to serve our community with more energy. Often we make lists of resolutions with the best of intentions. For some, that may be the start of the school year, for others January 1. This date allows us the opportunity to refocus our energies in ways we can improve ourselves, whether personally or professionally. While 2020 has been difficult, it may be helpful to hit “reset” and start 2021 fresh. Many of us know from experience that without a specific goal, you’re unlikely to ever make a significant change in your life. Creating S.M.A.R.T. goals is a great way to develop concrete goals. A Specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six questions: Who: Who is involved? What: What do I want to accomplish? Where: Identify a location. When: Establish a time frame. Which: Identify requirements and constraints. Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal. Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the excitement of achievement that spurs you on to reach your goal. To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as......How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished? You can attain almost any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them.

To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. A goal should be grounded within a timeframe. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. When your goal is tangible you have a better chance of making it specific and measurable and thus attainable. Below are some thoughts that may help you set your own “reset” button.

Active participation in your district’s CABE membership

In these tough times, networks are more important than ever. Take the time to learn from others. Share ideas. Explore ways to reduce costs and increase effectiveness. Now, more than ever, board members need to pull together and utilize the network and support system that CABE provides. Who better than those in this network understand the challenges currently being faced? Take an active role in the organization and get to know other members. Simply being a member of CABE won’t help you much. Being on a committee with your peers allows you to network and learn from one another.

Actively participate in board-related professional development opportunities.

We all should be lifelong learners. Attend professional development programs sponsored by CABE that will sharpen your boardsmanship skills and help you participate in effective decision-making that will help your board focus on increasing student achievement in your district. CABE has made it easier than ever to do this through webinars. If you are unable to attend a live webinar, you can still register and then view the webinar at a time that is more convenient for you. Through CABE’s Board Member Academy set a goal to earn Certified Board of Education Member or Master Board of Education

Mission: To assist local and regional boards of education in providing high quality education for all Connecticut children through effective leadership. Vision: CABE is passionate about strengthening public education through high-performing, transformative local school board/ superintendent leadership teams that inspire success for each child.

Board of Directors Member level of learning.

Use your time at home to read a good book or two

Read one good book that will enable you to sharpen your boardsmanship or leadership skills. Apply what you learn to your interactions with your fellow board members, the superintendent and others. Books you may want to consider: Leading Leaders by Jeswald Salacuse or So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.

Read one good book about current education issues

Share your reading with your board. Are there things your board can look at implementing? Books you may want to consider: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum or The Art of School Boarding by Jim Burgett. Remember nothing big gets accomplished in one day. Resolutions and goals are set in one day, but accomplished with a hundred tiny steps that happen throughout the year. New Year’s resolutions should be nothing more than a starting point. You must develop a ritual or habit for revisiting your plan. Finally, the pandemic has forced districts to do many creative and innovative things – some of which worked well! As a lifelong educator, I will continue to advocate for moving us past the status quo.

VIEW FROM THE CAPITOL

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that actually reach public hearing, making the role of committee leadership even more important. Experienced leadership returns to the Education Committee, with CoChairs Senator Doug McCrory and Representative Andy Sanchez, and Ranking Members Representative Kathleen McCarty and Senator Eric Berthel.

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Donald Harris | President, Bloomfield Elizabeth Brown | First Vice President, Waterbury Michael Purcaro | V  ice President for Government Relations, Ellington Bryan Hall | V  ice President for Professional Development, East Hartford John Prins | Secretary/Treasurer, Branford Robert Mitchell | I mmediate Past President, Montville Christopher Wilson | Member at Large, Bristol Lydia Tedone | NSBA Director, Simsbury AREA DIRECTORS Bryan Hall | Area 2 Co-Director, East Hartford Leonard Lockhart | Area 2 Co-Director, Windsor Joan Trivella | Area 4 Director, Brooklyn Michelle Embree Ku | A  rea 5 Director, Newtown Karen Kleine | Area 6 Director, Westport George Kurtyka | Area 7 Co-Director, Derby Robert Guthrie | Area 7 Co-Director, West Haven Lon Seidman | Area 8 Director, Essex Sean Nugent | Area 9 Director, Preston ASSOCIATES Julie Auseré | Associate, Canton Eileen Baker | Associate, Old Saybrook Ethel Grant | Associate, Naugatuck Ann Gruenberg | Associate, Hampton Robert Trefry | A  ssociate, CT Technical High School System Elaine Whitney | Associate, Westport COMMITTEE CHAIRS Leonard Lockhart | Chair, Resolutions, Windsor Becky Tyrrell | Chair, Federal Relations, Plainville Michelle Embree Ku | Chair, State Relations, Newtown CITY REPRESENTATIVES Ayesha Clarke | City Representative, Hartford Yesenia Rivera | City Representative, New Haven Charles Stango | City Representative, Waterbury STAFF

Robert Rader | Executive Director Patrice McCarthy | Deputy Director and General Counsel Nicholas Caruso | Senior Staff Associate for Field Services and Coordinator of Technology Sheila McKay | Senior Staff Associate for Government Relations Vincent Mustaro | Senior Staff Associate for Policy Service Lisa Steimer | Senior Staff Associate for Professional Development and Communications Teresa Costa | Coordinator of Finance and Administration Pamela Brooks | S enior Administrative Associate for Policy Service and Search Services Terry DeMars | Administrative Associate for Policy Service Gail Heath | Administrative Associate for Government Relations Wilmarie Newton | Administrative Associate for Labor Relations Nancy Propfe | Administrative Assistant for Membership Services Corliss Ucci | Receptionist and Assistant to Executive Director

The CABE Journal (ISSN 1092-1818) is published monthly except a combined issue for July/August as a member service of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, 81 Wolcott Hill Road, Wethersfield, CT 06109, (860) 571-7446. CABE membership dues include $30 per person for each individual who receives The CABE Journal. The subscription rate for nonmembers is $75. Association membership dues include a subscription for each Board Member, Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent and Business Manager. The companies and advertisements found in The CABE Journal are not necessarily endorsed by CABE. “Periodicals Postage Paid at Hartford, CT.” POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The CABE Journal, CABE, 81 Wolcott Hill Road, Wethersfield, CT 06109-1242. Email: lsteimer@cabe.org. Members can find the CABE Journal online at: www.cabe.org/ page.cfm?p=1024


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

CABE Affiliate Members BUSINESS AFFILIATES VALEDICTORIAN Connecticut Business Systems – A Xerox Company Finalsite SALUTATORIAN

Berchem Moses PC Shipman & Goodwin HIGH HONORS

Pullman & Comley HONOR ROLL Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield ESS JCJ Architecture SCHOLAR Brown & Brown Chinni & Meuser LLC Coordinated Transportation Solutions Dattco, Inc. Goldstein & Peck, P.C. Kainen, Escalera & McHale, P.C. The Lexington Group Network Support Co. OneDigital Health and Benefits Perkins Eastman T-Mobile The S/L/A/M Collaborative Zangari Cohn Cuthbertson Duhl & Grello, P.C.

EDUCATIONAL AFFILIATES American School for the Deaf Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES) Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) The College Board Communities in Schools Connecticut Arts Administrators Association Connecticut Association of School Business Officials Connecticut School Buildings and Grounds Association Connecticut School Counselor Association Connecticut Technical High Schools Cooperative Educational Services (C.E.S.) EASTCONN EdAdvance Exploratioins Charter School Integrated Day Charter School ISAAC LEARN

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EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR COMMENTARY

Ed Week Focuses on School Boards Robert Rader

Executive Director, CABE

It may seem unusual to write a review of a pullout section of a weekly magazine. However, when Education Week, which is billed as the “American Education News Site of Record” published a section on “Improving the Superintendent and School Board Partnership,” I was surprised. Usually, school boards are ignored or criticized when the media writes on education.  The introduction from “THE EDITORS” stated,  “[w]hile they may not attract widespread media attention, school boards play a critical role in steering the progress of the nation’s schools... They choose curricula, set school-year calendars, and negotiate employee labor contracts. They hire, fire, and evaluate school superintendents and approve their goals and policies.” It was nice to see that acknowledgement of the importance of boards, although I disagree with the language that the “superintendent-school board relationships are often fraught-marked by conflict, attempts at micromanagement, and single-issue politics.” “Often” is an overstatement. In my more than 40 years working for school boards associations in New York and Connecticut, most school boards work well with their superintendents. Disagreements are part of the natural order and, if pursued appropriately, make for a more effective board. If every vote taken by a board is unanimous and passed without discussion, the district would only need one board member. That beneficial tension is due to there being few formal qualifications for serving on a board except that they live in the district, do not work for the district, and, usually, have been elected. All of those individuals show up to their board meetings with different skills, knowledge, experience and personalities. We are well aware of some boards

that appear to be “dysfunctional”. These boards generally get the media’s attention. The reasons that some boards and superintendents are “fraught” can be blamed on a number of issues, including making difficult budget decisions over too-few resources, different priorities and agendas and, yes, personalities that may not mesh. However, I really did find this booklet of articles helpful. It is not solely dedicated to board-superintendent relations. It provides helpful advice and even quotes from real school board members. Okay, that “real” was sarcastic due to having heard boards criticized in the media looking to sell more issues, or these days, more clicks. Too often, there is too much of a focus on discord among board members. I want to recommend this booklet to school boards because, despite my concerns, it contains excellent articles and lessons to be gained. Here are some that I found: •A  real concern from board members that they were not prepared very well. Many believe that they were unprepared for the job ahead of them. Building Better School Boards: 3 Strategies for District Leaders sets out several good ideas about ensuring candidates for the board and novice board members get the training and support they need. One idea was that a board should develop “a deeper bench” which “hinges on the district better communicating its goals and educating a broader segment of the local community about the details of board service.” • I n the same article, the author discussed “policy governance”, an idea that may work in some districts. It is the idea that the board sets goals for the superintendent and then gets out of the way. It’s basically a build out of the well-known “Carver” model and it may prevent some board members from getting

overly involved in the running the district, a situation usually described as “micromanagement”. Based on my knowledge of Connecticut school boards, however, this model is hard to use because, in the true New England spirit, board members want to be more involved in and knowledgeable about what taking place. They will be asked about it on the soccer fields, in the grocery store and other places. Finding the right balance between too involved and not involved enough is a challenge for many boards. • I n a sidebar, there is a graph on percentages of board members who are either Black (3), Hispanic (2), Asian (1), American Indian (1). From what I’ve seen the numbers for Blacks and Hispanic are low. I contacted the researcher for the article and she said she could not give me numbers on Connecticut, since there were not enough people in the sample.​ •A  n article on “Why School Board Diversity Matters” informatively addressed an issue that the CABE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee has focused on: there are too few board members of color.  Research discussed in the article states that when ethnic diversity was added to school boards in California, such as even just one Hispanic member, the districts were “more likely to make greater financial investments in district schools, and minority students See ED WEEK FOCUS page 6


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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021 See You in Court – The Nutmeg Board of Education

COVID-19, Free Speech, an Illegal Meeting and More! Thomas B. Mooney, Esq. Shipman & Goodwin The Nutmeg Board of Education makes many mistakes. The latest imbroglio created by the board will be reported here each issue, followed by an explanation of what the board should have done. Though not intended as legal advice, these situations may help board members avoid common problems. Bob Bombast, veteran member of the Nutmeg Board of Education, has an active presence on social media, and he is not reluctant to tell people what he thinks. But his willingness to share his own views is not matched by a reciprocal interest in hearing what others think, especially criticisms about his work and that of his fellow Board members on the Nutmeg Board of Education. Bob has been particularly vexed by posts of Tom Teacher, a veteran teacher and faithful member of the Nutmeg Union of Teachers. Ever since Ms. Superintendent decided last fall to open the elementary schools in Nutmeg fully for in-person learning at the elementary level, Tom has been posting information about COVID-19 fatalities, and he even suggested that Nutmeg teachers prepare their wills “just in case.” Bob was particularly offended by Tom’s recurrent claim that the Nutmeg Board of Education has abdicated its responsibilities by deferring to Ms. Superintendent’s “reckless” decision to reopen the schools. Bob raised his concerns in executive session at the last meeting of the Nutmeg Board of Education. “What are we going to do about Tom Teacher?” Bob asked Ms. Superintendent. “Employees have some sort of duty of loyalty, don’t they? I know that I would be fired if I were on social media criticizing my boss like that. Just tell him to put a sock in it!” Ms. Superintendent conceded that Tom Teacher’s posts were hard to take. But she expressed concern that Tom may have a First Amendment right to speak his mind. Board member Mal Content agreed with Ms. Superintendent, and suggested that the best approach is to counter Tom’s claims with more information. Bob was unmoved, but the other Board members got on board with Ms. Superintendent’s proposal to add a “COVID Clearinghouse” to the district website to provide the public with information about district measures to continue in-person learning with appropriate risk mitigation measures. Bob decided to take a more direct approach, and he responded to Tom Teacher right on his Facebook page, per-

haps too directly. “Tom, you are an ignorant coward,” Bob began in his response. “We have no use for teachers who put their selfish interests above those of the students we are all supposed to serve. Why don’t you just resign?!” Tom Teacher was delighted that he had gotten Bob’s goat. In the next post on his Facebook page, Tom baited Bob with the observation that he and the other Board members were the “cowards” for not taking action in overruling Ms. Superintendent’s “ridiculous” decision to insist on in-person learning during such a dangerous time. Stung by that direct affront, the other Board members got into the act. Board members Penny Pincher, Red Cent and even Mr. Chairman all posted replies to Tom’s post, and Mal Content even warned Tom that he was treading on “thin ice” because his negative posts were undermining effective instruction by encouraging parents to elect the remote learning option. Ms. Superintendent observed this back-and-forth with concern, and she decided that she needed to act. She called Tom in, and she directed him not to make any further critical remarks about the Nutmeg Board of Education, and she followed up to that effect in writing. The next day, Ms. Superintendent received an email from Attorney Bill Alot, informing her on behalf of his new client Tom Teacher that he was demanding that she rescind the directive, pay Tom’s attorney’s fees, and apologize for her mistake. Does Tom have a claim that his First Amendment rights were violated? • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Sorting out the free speech rights of public employees can be a challenge, and we would need more facts to know for sure whether Ms. Superintendent was within her rights to issue the directive. However, Bob and the other Board members got way too involved here. Public employees did not always have First Amendment protections. In 1892, Oliver Wendell Holmes, then sitting on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, famously observed, “The petitioner may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.” However, in 1968 the United States Supreme Court announced a new rule – public employees have the right to speak out on matters of public concern. Pickering v. Board of Education (U.S.

1968). Then, in Connick v. Myers (U.S. 1983), the Court elaborated on this rule, announcing a two-part test to determine whether speech by a public employee is protected by the First Amendment: •F  irst, the employee must be speaking on a matter of public concern. If so, the First Amendment applies. Speech about matters of personal grievance is not protected. • S econd, the importance of the speech must outweigh the disruptive impact, if any, of the speech. Employee speech that significantly disrupts operations is not protected. Finally, the Court ruled in 2006 that public employee speech “pursuant to duty” (i.e., required as part of one’s job) is not protected. Garcetti v. Ceballos (U.S. 2006). Here, we need more information about whether and how Tom’s posts were disruptive of district operation in order to apply these principles to Tom’s social media posts. Certainly, it can be disruptive if employee speech causes apprehension and changed parent behavior. Another common measure of disruption is whether close working

relationships are affected. However, Tom does not work directly with Ms. Superintendent, and he certainly doesn’t work with the Board. Also, in considering whether to prohibit employee speech, it is good to keep in mind the presumption in favor of free speech, underscored by Justice Louis Brandeis almost one hundred years ago: “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” Whitney v. California (U.S. 1927). In any event, Bob and his fellow Board members made a number of mistakes here. First, Board members should not get into it with individual teachers. Under the Teacher Tenure Act, these Board members could be called upon to act as an impartial judge if Tom’s actions ever resulted in Ms. Superintendent’s recommending his termination. Bob’s suggestion that Tom resign could lead to Tom’s claiming a violation of his due process rights if Bob were called upon later to decide whether Tom’s contract should be terminated. Second, there was no indication that Bob’s comments in executive session See SEE YOU IN COURT page 13

The Ninth Edition – Now Available!

A Practical Guide to Connecticut School Law by Thomas B. Mooney, Esq. Shipman & Goodwin

CABE is delighted to announce that the Ninth Edition of Tom Mooney’s Practical Guide to Connecticut School Law is now available. PRICING: CABE Members: $54.99; CABE Non-Members: $79.99; Students: $44.99 There have been many changes in school law in the last few years, and the Ninth Edition has been extensively revised to provide updated guidance on the legal issues that govern our schools. Changes include descriptions and commentary on:

• Changes in teacher evaluation and teacher tenure. • New rules regarding employee background checks. • New requirements concerning student data privacy. • New rules for suspension, expulsion and alternative educational opportunities. • Revised requirements governing seclusion and restraint. • The new “Every Student Succeeds Act” and how it has changed “No Child Left Behind Act” requirements. • The CCJEF case and ongoing litigation over equal educational opportunities. • The Minimum Budget Requirement and new duties to collaborate with town officials. • A host of other changes in the rules that boards of education and school administrators must follow.


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

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Aim Higher

Creative legal solutions for Connecticut’s public schools – because sometimes it is rocket science.

Shipman & Goodwin’s school law attorneys have more than 40 years of experience, and represent over 100 public school districts, as well as public school member organizations and associations, on a full range of legal issues that they confront, from general education law to special education matters.

Our school law site, www.ctschoollaw.com is devoted entirely to emerging school law issues. Attorneys counsel clients, monitor legislation and provide periodic alerts and updates. We regularly present seminars, quarterly workshops, webinars and professional development workshops for schools on current topics of interest. Our Practice Group Co-Chair, Tom Mooney, has written A Practical Guide to Connecticut School Law, a comprehensive treatise on Connecticut school law, published by CABE and used by teachers, administrators and board of education members throughout the state.

Education is a core focus of our law firm. www.ctschoollaw.com

Contact: Thomas B. Mooney or Linda L. Yoder | 860.251.5000 | www.shipmangoodwin.com CONNECTICUT

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NEW YORK

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WASHINGTON DC


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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

What Do You Know About Housing in Your Town? Robert Rader

Executive Director, CABE

Last summer, social justice activities increased due to the shootings of George Floyd, Briana Taylor and other people of color. The focus of claims of systemic racism were centered on our systems of justice, education and housing. It is no secret that housing is an issue that brings forth strong opinions. Segregated housing patterns leading to segregated schools in Connecticut resulted in the Sheff decision, the building of magnet schools and other attempts to integrate public education.  Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, a reporter for the Connecticut Mirror, has been doing a series of articles on housing in Connecticut and, especially, the dearth of affordable housing in our suburbs. If you are interested in the topic, her articles can be found at https://ctmirror.org/.  Education is often seen as a cure for all aspects of social justice. CABE Use this interactive tool to learn about housing in your community and how it compares to your county and the state, https://houshas long had a policy that “supports ingprofiles.pschousing.org/. efforts by the State … to address and Are you aware of what percentage necticut.  The information provides single-family or multifamily homes, solve the issues of social and economof your population has grown… or answers to the questions, above — number of bedrooms in homes), housic isolation in the areas of housing, decreased in the last few years? and much more data.  ing costs and affordability, housing transportation, employment, access Besides Jackie’s data-rich and Found at https://housingprofiles. production and affordable units.” to health care and social services”. We thoughtful articles, the Hartford pschousing.org/, the free website proHousing will always play a big recognize that, even now in the midst Foundation for Public Giving’s vides information on all towns and part in diversity, equity and inclusion. of the COVID-19 crisis, we must conNonprofit Support Group has made compares much of the information Fixing issues that have been with us tinue to work on these issues if we are information and workshops available with averages “on an array of housing for hundreds of years will not be done to someday make Connecticut and the rest of our nation more integrated and dealing with the many issues of impor- metrics across Connecticut, providing in a short period of time. However, if we know the profiles of our districts, provide all of our students with equity. tance. I​ n addition, the Partnership for users with information on housing Strong Communities has disseminat- stock, income, race, age distribution we will at least have identified some of Do you know what housing or ed considerable information pertainof residents, housing characteristics the issues that will affect our students renting costs in your district? Do you ing to each of the 169 towns in Con(age of housing stock, number of every day. know if there is affordable housing?

ED WEEK FOCUS

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saw academic gains the years following” the change in the boards’ makeup. ​It also shows that “the gap in academic performance between white and minority students tends to be largest in district where the electorate looks most unlike the student population”. However, no matter what the real numbers are, it is obvious that in Connecticut, and, I would guess most states, the percentage of people of color on boards are nowhere near the proportion of students of color. We know that, in Connecticut, over half

of our students are of color, and, only about 10 percent of board members are of color. This has probably occurred for a number of reasons: tradition, political parties choosing candidates for boards and too few people of color running for boards.  ​​If we believe that board members should reflect, or come close to mirroring the population, it is incumbent on us to help encourage people of color to get involved in public education. As our state’s and nation’s demographics change, we must address this issue if we want our strong grassroots, democratic institution to survive and even thrive in the future. Passing down this legacy should be a goal of all

school board members. There are several initiatives in Connecticut to do this in our teacher and administrator ranks. Why not one for school boards? There are additional articles in the booklet about orientation for new board members and advice from a long-serving school board member from Long Beach, California. All of these articles contain much more advice and other information that should be read by board members and superintendents across the state.  I hope Education Week will continue to write about school boards and their importance. I think they will find that most boards are well-run and, yes,

work respectfully, effectively and harmoniously with their superintendents. The work of school board members across the nation averages nine hours a week and their top motivation is a “general desire to serve the community and give back” according to Ed Week Two-thirds of them have jobs in addition to their school board positions.  Their work is worth noting... and celebrating. The articles can be found at https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/11/18/building-better-schoolboards-3-strategies-for.html#comments


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

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Connecticut School Attorneys Hold Annual Meeting Patrice McCarthy

Deputy Director and General Counsel, CABE

The Connecticut School Attorneys Council held their annual meeting in a virtual format in early

December. Sonja Trainor, NSBA Legal Advocacy Managing Director, provided an update on litigation at the federal level. The 25 attorneys also discussed the Connecticut Freedom Alliance mask lawsuit, Office of Civil

Rights actions related to transgender athletes, and the impact of the pandemic on school operations. Melinda Kaufmann (Pullman & Comley) presided as President. Newly elected officers are John Khalil

(Berchem Moses) President, Sara Saucier (Zangari Cohn Cuthbertson Duhl & Grello) Secretary and Patrice McCarthy (CABE) Treasurer.

2020 CABE VIRTUAL DELEGATE ASSEMBLY

CABE Resolutions Chair, Leonard Lockhart (Windsor) presides over the Delegate Assembly while CABE's Gail Heath, Administrative Associate for Government Relations, provided support and took minutes.

VIRTUAL ASSEMBLY

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Sheila McKay, Sr. Staff Associate for Government Relations, and Patrice McCarthy, Deputy Director and General Counsel, staff the Virtual CABE Delegate Assembly.

vaccinations; social and emotional learning and funding. A new resolution adopted by the delegates addresses the need to

review curriculum through the lens of multicultural and diverse perspectives and eliminate the use of Indigenous Americans as mascots. All of the adopted positions guide CABE’s advocacy at the state and federal level.

DECEMBER 2020 WEBINAR SERIES

In preparation for the 2021 legislative session, CABE Sr. Staff Associate for Government Relations Sheila McKay presented a webinar on the Board’s Role in Advocacy on December 7.

Ellington School Business Official Brian Greenleaf and Ellington Board Chair and Vernon Town Administrator Michael Purcaro presented a webinar on December 2 on the Board’s Role in the Budget Process.


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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

THE POLICY CORNER Vincent A. Mustaro

Senior Staff Associate for Policy Service, CABE

A Policy Perspective to Budget Development

This time of year is the budget season when most school districts are deeply involved in the preparation of the budget proposal for the new school and fiscal year. Budget proposals are commonly considered by boards of education in a budget timetable that extends from winter into spring. This will be an extremely difficult budget development process because of the nation’s current economic difficulties, which are also reflected in Connecticut’s economy and local communities due to the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of school boards’ primary responsibilities is to approve the school system’s budget. Through the budget process, the board provides for many district services. School spending represents the clearest example of the independent authority of boards of education. Boards are required by state law to prepare an itemized estimate of expenses for operating the schools in the coming year. That estimate is presented to the municipality by the specified budget submission date. Obviously, this process at the current time must be cognizant of the economic pressures and downturn caused by COVID-19. When districts take stock of their fiscal conditions and begin the process of developing their budget proposal for the next school year, it is also a good time to review financial policies. These policies are customarily placed in Series 3000, “Business and Non-Instructional Operations” section of most district manuals. Board members need to understand the budget process and transform it into a vehicle for meeting today’s many educational and economic challenges, exacerbated by the continuing pandemic health emergency. It is essential that districts have policies and regulations in their policy manuals that define the responsibilities and the procedures involved in the preparation, dissemination, and adoption of the board’s budget proposal prior to its submission to the community’s fiscal agency and ultimately to the community. First and foremost, districts should ensure the budget development process is a continuous, carefully planned endeavor which thoroughly evaluates educational and administrative programs, as well as current and projected fiscal conditions. Districts, by doing

this, provide stability and continuity and a more cohesive foundation on which to base financial decisions.

Considerations

Many considerations must be addressed during the budget development period which have policy implications. First, while the superintendent and his staff are primarily responsible for developing the district’s proposed budget, the procedures used in its development will depend on factors unique to the district. Those factors include the district’s educational goals and priorities, the degree of community support, personnel resources, lines of communication and the financial resources available from local, state and national sources. Next, the budgeting process is best served if, prior to the arrival of the budget season, the board, the district’s superintendent and school business administrator, have developed a budget calendar allowing time in which to develop the proposed budget and for sufficient staff and community input in all stages of budget development. The establishment of procedures and activities to gather needed budgetary information, along with accompanying deadlines and assignments of each activity, provides the district adequate time to evaluate the educational merit and financial feasibility of existing and proposed programs, in addition to setting priorities for educational dollars. The public dissemination of the proposed budget with an explanation of the reasons for its expenditures in an easily understood format also must be considered. This is a necessary prerequisite to the final budget adoption by the board, prior to sending it to the municipality’s fiscal agency for approval. This action helps to better cause community support and approval of the board’s spending plan. Therefore, to accomplish this, boards should hold budget meetings or hearings, issue newsletters and news releases, provide material on its website and speak to school and community groups. The district may provide a budget brochure designed to promote public understanding of the proposed budget. This is extremely important due to the present pandemic-caused difficult economic situation affecting all communities and our state.

Special attention must be given to actions of the school system or district personnel advocating positions on a budget or referendum. Attention should be given to board policy language which details when children in school can be used as couriers of budgetary information as well as the use of teachers, administrators, facilities, supplies and equipment to influence any person to vote for approval or disapproval of a budget question. State law prohibits any expenditure of public funds to influence a vote on a referendum question. Keep in mind that on issues to be decided at referenda, information distributed by school personnel or board of education members, whether through students or otherwise, such as the use of automated community notification systems, may only provide information on the time, date and location of the referenda and may not advocate positions on the referenda questions. Districts may not expend public funds to urge voters to vote “yes” on the budget, any proposition, or any bond issue. However, board members may recommend support when they speak in public or write letters to local newspapers. It is strongly suggested that members of local and regional boards of education refer to recommended policy #3152, “Spending Public Funds for Advocacy.” This policy reviews the specific situations, applicable to local and regional boards of education, in which public funds can be spent to disseminate information, including with the use of community notification systems.

Community Notification

The law generally prohibits municipalities from sending residents unsolicited communications about referenda, with one exception. It authorizes those that maintain a community notification system to use it, at their chief elected official’s direction, to notify enrolled residents of an upcoming municipal referendum. By law, a “community notification system” is a communication system available to all residents of a municipality and permits them to opt to be notified of community events or news by e-mail, text, telephone, or other electronic or automated means. Regional school boards may request that their member municipal-

ities use their community notification systems to notify enrolled residents of an upcoming regional school district referendum. The board chairperson must make the request. Regional school boards are also permitted to print and disseminate neutral printed material, in addition to explanatory texts, about regional school district referenda. The board’s attorney must approve the material. As stated, state law prohibits the use of public funds to influence the success or defeat of a referendum question. Public Act 15-173 exempted from this prohibition third-party comments posted on social media or on Internet websites maintained by the state, municipalities, or regional school districts. In conclusion, board policies in the business and non-instructional operations area should be consulted first in the preparation of the budget. A board of education that has a good grasp of budget fundamentals and translates that into reasonable, workable policy has a better chance of getting public support. Budget policy encompasses the district’s budget philosophy and the schedule that translates that philosophy into a working documentplanning, formulation, presentation, adoption and dissemination. A fiscally prudent board considers “the most for the money” and how the expenditures contribute to student achievement. The board’s budget philosophy is not only limited to its business practices. Policies pertaining to instructional practices, curriculum, personnel, transportation, energy, food services and curriculum extensions, for example, have budgetary implications. Priorities have to be established. The budget document must be thought of as the district’s plan to allocate resources to fulfill its policies. The budget is an extension of the policy manual, in which the necessary financial resources are provided to fulfill the board’s policies. Therefore, the budget is a tool for implementing goals, controlling costs, evaluating results and planning with long range implications. For further information on budget related policies districts should contact CABE’s policy service department.


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

9

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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

Three Programs Aimed at Diversifying State Teacher Workforce the years to diversity the educator pipeline, there is more work to be done. My goal is to ensure we offer opportunities, resources and exposure to the education profession across the K-16 spectrum yielding the diversification that is needed here in Connecticut.”

Robert Rader

Executive Director, CABE

If your Board and Superintendent are looking to increase the percentage of teachers of color in your district, below are three programs that might help you. As was announced by Governor Lamont and Education Commissioner Cardona in October and November, Educators Rising and NextGen Educators are new arrows in the State’s quiver for increasing the number of teachers of color in our schools. In addition, the RESCs also are collaborating on a residency program across the State. While approximately 52 percent of students in public schools are of color, only 9.6 percent of teachers are of color. The State has been trying to raise the latter percentage over the years, though the change has been slow. Studies have shown that students of color and all other students gain when teachers are diverse. The State’s Minority Teacher Recruitment Task Force has a goal of hiring 1,000 black and Latino teachers and school leaders before 2021. It is overseen by SDE’s Talent Office, led by Chief Talent Officer Shuana Tucker. Chief Talent Office Tucker shared that “While much has been done over

Educators Rising

Educators Rising Academy curriculum, developed by Phi Delta Kappa, will be employed in 10 districts. Its goal is encouraging students “early on to consider careers in education and diversifies the state’s teacher workforce”. The program “emphasizes fundamental professional practices that are critical for the next generation of aspiring teachers to develop and take their first steps on the path to realizing their full potential.” The program, includes curriculum, teacher training and “Beginning to Teach” micro-credentials. For success, current teachers will “mentor and inspire high school students to teach in their own communities.” It is a “community-based” effort with chapters in individual schools. It gets help from SDE, foundations and local funders. The program has been piloted in New Britain Public Schools under

Chief Talent Officer Tucker when she headed the Human Relations Office there. More information can be found at https://educatorsrising.org/growyourown/.

NextGen Educators

This program represents a partnership between SDE and Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). It is focused on bringing “highly motivated college students from CCSU seeking education degrees into Connecticut’s K-12 classrooms to ease pressures on current teachers and contribute to the success of students. The initiative is designed to be highly flexible to provide future educators with experience and mentorship while addressing districts most pressing staffing needs without placing an added burden on administrators or teachers.” According to the Governor’s Office, the program “will assign a pair of NextGen Educators who will each provide two to three days of support per classroom. Unlike student teachers, the NextGen Educators will not earn credit for this program. Instead school districts will agree upon an appropriate payment for their service…” For more information, go to https:// nextgenct.uconn.edu/.

Meetings of Interest

RESC Alliance Teacher Residency Program

As was discussed with Board Chairs at their November 5th CheckIn Session, this program is designed to help recruit and retain teacher of color by helping them overcome “the cost of graduate school, standardized testing requirements, the economic hardship of being a full time students and inadequate preparation for teaching.” Candidates work for a year in one classroom with a mentor teacher, are paid a “living wage and receive full benefits” and simultaneously take education courses taught by practitioners on weekends, evenings and over the summer. They are guaranteed a job teaching in a participating district when they are finished. The program has been approved with CREC as the certifying agent and will be operating in 2021 in partnership with the RESC Alliance and districts across Connecticut. More information can be found at www.crec.org/c/trp. [Editor’s Note: Bob Rader is CABE’s representative on SDE’s Minority Teacher Recruitment Policy Oversight Council and its Educators Rising Committee.]

HISTORIC VOTE

(continued from page 1)

n January 6, 2021: F irst Day of the 2021 Legislative Session n January 13, 2021: Meeting of the Connecticut State Board of Education: Virtual meetings will be

live streamed for public access. A link to the live stream will be available on the Board’s website the morning of the meeting at 9:30 a.m. n Tuesday – Weekly: 8 to 9 a.m.: Weekly DPH/SDA COVID-19 Health and Safety Superintendents’ meetings. Use the following link if you are interested in participating: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1833072109561771533

audit to the Education Committee. The African American, Black, Latino, and Puerto Rican Course of Studies is available at https://portal. ct.gov/-/media/SDE/Board/BoardMaterials120220/African_American_Black_ Latino_and_Puerto_Rican_Curriculum.pdf

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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

11

NOVEMBER 2020 WEBINAR SERIES

CABE Sr. Staff Associate for Professional Development and Communications Lisa Steimer presented a webinar on the Board’s Role in Communications on November 18.

CABE Area Virtual Legislative Breakfasts

CABE Consultant Dr. Martha Brackeen-Harris and CABE Executive Director Robert Rader presented the webinar Continuing the Conversation: What We’ve Learned and What We Still Need to Think About on November 17

Did You Know? CABE Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy and Sr. Staff Associate for Field Services Nick Caruso presented a webinar on Roles and Responsibilities of Board Members on November 16.

January 7 – Area 8 January 21 – Area 9 January 22 – Area 7 All virtual breakfasts are 8-9 a.m.

For the price of CABE dues, your board and superintendent are eligible for: •U  nlimited help for your advocacy efforts with the Legislature, the State Board of Education and other state and federal officials. • CABE Area legislative breakfasts (held virtually in 2021).

Check your email for registration information.

C.O.P.S.

What will provide YOUR district? • A policy manual updated within days of a board meeting. • Access to your policy manual 24/7 anywhere with Internet capability. • Time saving links to legal and cross references. • A search engine specifically designed for board policy manuals. • The ability to search other online districts for sim­ilar policies or language. • A happier staff that will have less paper to deal with.

If you would like additional information on CABE’s Connecticut Online Policy Service (C.O.P.S.), call Vincent Mustaro at 860-571-7446 or email vmusta­ro@cabe.org for full details

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The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

Results of Northeast REL Study on Teacher Education, Mentoring and Retention Robert Rader

Executive Director, CABE

Approximately 10 years ago, Connecticut implemented a new teacher induction program, TEAM (Teacher Education and Mentoring Program). The Northeast Regional Education Laboratory (the “REL”) studied the program, examining data on 7,708 teachers who participated in the pro-

gram between 2012/13 and 2015/16. A webinar was held in early November to discuss the report. It included Claudine Primack, SDE’s TEAM Manager. To watch it, please go to https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/ northeast/Events#!#archive.​ The effectiveness of TEAM is critical to school boards and superSee REL STUDY page 15


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

13

CABE: Working for YOU

Individualized Workshops | Professional Development Opportunities Legal Services | Policy Services | Representing You Statewide and Nationally Below are the highlights of activities that the CABE staff has undertaken on your behalf over the last month. We did this:

B  y providing opportunities for members to learn how to better govern their districts: zR  esponded to sixty-four requests for policy information from 19 districts, one state school boards association and one consultant, providing sample materials on 54 topics. Further, districts continue to access CABE’s online Core Policy Reference Manual and/or online manuals posted by CABE for policy samples. The topics of greatest interest continue to pertain to pandemic policies especially the new remote– learning code of conduct, COVID-19 emergency measures, telecommuting and electronic board meetings. Crowdfunding and Title IX continue to remain topics of interest. zM  et with Westbrook Board of Education to discuss roles and responsibilities of school board members. zH  osted CABE Board Chair CheckIns and Updates. zH  osted and presented at CABE Workshops on Roles and Responsibilities, Continuing the Conversation on Diversity, Equity and Tolerance and the Board’s Role in Communications. zA  ttended SDE/DPH/ Superintendents’ weekly Tuesday morning discussions on the COVID-19 crisis and schools. zM  et with Superintendent Steve Rioux of Canterbury on CABE member benefits, activities, programs and services. zP  lanned a retreat for the Middletown Board of Education.

B  y helping school boards to increase student achievement: z S ent were two issues of “Policy Highlights” via e-mail listserve covering topics that affect student achievement. Included topics pertained to student privacy protection, sexual

harassment prevention training virtual learning “snow days,” crowdfunding, and the new H.S. course approved by the SBE, “African American/Black and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies”. zM  et with Lighthouse multi-state training group to discuss future Lighthouse program improvements.

B  y ensuring members receive the most up-to-date communications: zP  repared materials, as part of the Custom Policy Service, for Danbury and Region #15. zR  evised policies in the master resource file of policies and in the online Core Manual.

B  y promoting public education: zP  articipated in CAPSS Retired Superintendents meeting. zC  onducted annual CABE Delegate Assembly.

B  y providing services to meet member needs: zP  osted policies online for districts utilizing the Connecticut Online Policy Service (COPS) for Canterbury, Chaplin, Granby, Monroe, Region # 4, Sherman, Somers, Voluntown, Westport, and Woodbridge. zR  evised policies for East Hampton, New Fairfield, New Hartford, North Stonington, Sterling and Windham as part of the Custom Update Service. zP  articipated in a virtual meeting with the Portland Policy Committee.

B  y attending Professional Development to strengthen staff knowledge and skills: zA  ttended a webinar pertaining to the budget process. zA  ttended a webinar pertaining to advocacy. zA  ttended Hartford Foundation for Public Giving Nonprofit Support Group webinar on HR during the COVID-19 crisis. zA  ttended Massachusetts Association of School Committees workshop on parliamentary procedure. zA  ttended CT Society of Association Executives (CSAE) webinar on Ethics and Inclusion in Challenging Times.

B  y representing Connecticut school boards on the state or national level: zA  ttended CAPSS Board of Directors virtual meeting. zA  ttended CAPSS Technology Subcommittee. zA  ttended meeting of the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology. zP  articipated in Northeast and Islands Regional Laboratory (RELNEI) Fall Governing Board meeting. zP  resented workshop on collaboration at CCM Convention. zP  articipated in Financial Literacy Coalition meeting. zA  ttended CREC Council meeting. zP  articipated in Special Ed Leaders Steering Committee meeting. zP  articipated in SEL4CT meeting.

zM  et with Newtown Board of Education to discuss effective meetings.

zA  ttended Southern Connecticut Area Superintendents legislative breakfast.

zP  rovided orientation for new Darien Board members.

zP  rovided legislative update for LEARN Board.

z S taffed State Relations Committee meeting to establish legislative priorities.

zR  eviewed NSBA Constitution and Bylaws amendments.

zH  osted CABE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee meetings. zM  et with NSBA staff on affinity group.

zP  articipated in NSBA State Association Counsel virtual meetings. zO  rganized and participated in Connecticut Council of School Attorneys Annual Meeting.

zA  ttended SDE Board and Legislative Committee meetings. zA  ttended meetings and did preparation work with NSBA Sector Trends Group and its Strategic Choices workshops. zP  articipated in Partners meetings with SDE, CAPSS, CAS, CEA and AFT-CT. zA  ttended ADL webinar on speaking to kids on diversity issues and book discussion on Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist”. zM  et with new CBIA Executive Director Chris DiPentima and ReadyCT Executive Director Shannon Marimon. zA  ttended Governor Lamont’s bi-weekly discussions with municipal officials. zM  et with Education Affiliate, Communities in Schools’ representatives Kate Kemeklis and Doug Sessions.

SEE YOU IN COURT

(continued from page 4)

about Tom Teacher’s social media posts were on the agenda or that Tom has been notified so that he could require the discussion as to him be held in open session. If not, the discussion was improper. Third, one may ask whether the Board members’ all joining in the discussion on Tom’s Facebook page was an illegal meeting of the Board of Education. Since its inception in 1975, the Freedom of Information Act has defined a “meeting” of a public agency as including “any communication by or to a quorum of a multimember public agency, whether in person or by means of electronic equipment, to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.” Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-200(2) (emphasis added). Did comments by a quorum of the Nutmeg Board of Education on Tom’s Facebook page constitute an illegal, unposted Board meeting? Let’s hope not to find out. Attorney Thomas B. Mooney is a partner in the Hartford law firm of Shipman & Goodwin who works frequently with boards of education. Mooney is a regular contributor to the CABE Journal. Shipman & Goodwin is a CABE Business Affiliate.


14

The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

The Media Message by Hannah Borowiec, Project Manager, Baldwin Media Marketing, LLC

Trending: Staying Ahead of False Information Online This year, more so than any other year, communicating effectively is critical during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Disinformation online thrives in crisis and the false content spread throughout social media is purposely created to mislead and cause fear, confusion and uncertainty. When this misinformation does reach the internet, sharing, liking and commenting on posts only creates more of a public health risk. According to Statista, 244 million Americans used social media in 2018. That number is forecast to exceed 257 million by 2023. Due to

the pandemic, millions of people are working from home, forcing communication to occur virtually. Communication such as questions, complaints and inquiries should be referred according to your district chain of command. To stay ahead of dis/misinformation circulating throughout your community, it’s essential to communicate clearly and often. It’s normal for individuals (especially now!) to want to stay up to date with announcements, trends and messages. Posting weekly Coronavirus updates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter from the district will help

people adapt to a schedule and routine. Whatever information is posted must be thoroughly researched and well-written, always coming from a reliable source. I would recommend paying attention to CDC guidelines and government notifications. It’s important to note that people respond to different channels. For example, many students prefer to learn about news and updates through social media. Make sure your districts’ accounts are pushing out content regularly. A busy parent or educator may prefer to receive emails, text alerts or good old fashioned mail. At the end of the day, all forms of

communication must maintain an accurate and consistent message. Coronavirus misinformation has become so prevalent on social media that it is now increasingly difficult to avoid participating in spreading false or misleading narratives. Exercising caution and being proactive online is the best way to stay ahead of malicious news. To protect yourself and communities from fake news read beyond the headline, check the date, consider the source and don’t exacerbate the problem at hand.

“A leader is a dealer in hope” – Napoleon Bonaparte


The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

15

How a budget document can help or hurt your school district brand Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the January 2017 CABE CONNection service.

It is written in plain language, as is the accompanying budget summary booklet.

A school budget is much more than a financial document that connects income and spending with the school district’s mission. Although that function is essential, the budget also illustrates the current state of the district’s relationship with the community. Quite simply, the budget embodies the school district’s brand. In fact, the budget – the process, not just the document – often is more important than such traditional “brand” elements as logos, slogans and sometimes even mission statements. How often have you heard Jayne Q. Public ask how much the superintendent makes? Or why class sizes are so large. Or why Super-Dooper High School has an International Baccalaureate Program but Publicly Maligned High School does not. Or how much money SuperDooper School District spends on classroom teaching. Those are all budget-related questions. Those are all legitimate questions. How the district provides that information is critical to the district’s reputation. After all, many residents – and potential voters, if your budget requires a tax election – do not have children in school and do not relate to the district through the classroom. A weak budget document, no matter how thick, is one that fails to answer such questions in everyday language. It complies with the law and district regulations, but it’s full of charts and bureaucratic language that only a technical expert could understand … or appreciate. Post that budget document online and its social interaction scores will be dismal. A good budget document focuses on what the community wants to know, instead of being written from the standpoint of what the district assumes people should know, although that information also is included.

Hope that residents and district staff read the budget information in the local newspaper and in your district communications. But don’t count on it. Many people do not get involved until they learn how the proposed budget will affect their job, their neighborhood school, or their children and grandchildren. As communicators, we have to meet them where they are. Focus communications foremost on what they want to know, instead of what the district considers most important. Tell how the budget potentially affects them. Have the key budget links prominently displayed on the district’s home page and other most-visited pages. Post brief videos (no more than 60 seconds) illustrating how to give effective testimony during budget hearings. People often watch Facebook videos on their smartphones with the sound off, so include brief written statements as well as voices.

Be realistic

Involve the influencers The influence of traditional institutions and civic leaders is waning. It is being replaced by people’s interactions with their handpicked influencers – friends, family members, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, and others whose views they respect. If you haven’t already developed that database of localized community influencers, get suggestions from school staff members, leaders of parent-teacher organizations, neighborhood businesspeople, and others. Analyze social media. Depending on the size of your school district, find the influencers who have hundreds or thousands of followers. Seek out the self-appointed influencers who have email distribution lists in the thousands. Ask those influencers to spread the word about the budget process. Listen

to their opinions about your print and online information and make improvements as appropriate. But still contact the traditional influencers, such as news reporters, newspaper editorial writers, service clubs, the faith community and civic leaders. Keep your own district staff members informed and involved. Social media now fill the information vacuum. If you don’t provide information expeditiously, others will fill the space with rumors and conjectures that will cost you time in the long run and potentially erode the district’s reputation.

Your goal is to have a fiscally, educationally and politically sound school budget. But the goal also is to engage the public throughout the process, so district patrons and staff members feel heard and will honor the outcome, regardless of whether they agree with the final numbers. Contributed by communications consultant Dick Hughes, who covered scores of school-budget presentations as a journalist. Contact him at TheHughesisms@gmail.com.

Listen to input at the hearings

It’s not worth taking criticism or suggestions personally. If people have budget ideas that make sense in light of the district’s financial situation, embrace them. Listen and, when possible, ask clarifying questions. Avoid trying to justify your decisions; that comes across as defensive and undermines the district brand. Instead of saying, “We can’t do that” or “That won’t work,” say, “This is why we recommended not doing that. The tradeoffs we looked at were soand-so. What would you suggest for those tradeoffs?”

REL STUDY

(continued from page 12)

intendents. Ensuring the appropriate professional training for teachers is critical to the education of our students. There are many goals of this professional development as we try to strengthen the skills and abilities of our teachers.  The analysis of TEAM found: •T  eachers who completed more TEAM requirements, including those in the 10 lowest performing districts, “were more likely to stay in the same districts and in the Connecticut public school system”. • “Adherence” to the program was higher for those requirements having to do with “module completion and reflection paper submission than for require-

NSBA Chief Advocacy Officer Chip Slaven shared some insights on the Federal legislative landscape during the CABE Board Chair Check-In and Update on November 19.

ments related to teacher-mentor contact hours”. Adherence refers to how many of the program’s requirements the teacher finished. • I nterestingly, the module completion and teacher-mentor contact hours was “higher for teachers in the state’s 30 lowest performing districts than for teachers in higher performing districts.” The report can be downloaded at https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/ project.asp?projectID=4571​. [Editor’s Note: For the last few years, Bob Rader has been a Governing Board Regional and Content Advisor for the REL. He was appointed because the REL saw a need for input from school boards. The REL is funded by the U.S. Department of Education]. ​


16

The Journal – Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | January, 2021

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The CABE Journal - January 2021  

Volume 25, Number 1

The CABE Journal - January 2021  

Volume 25, Number 1

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