Local Coverage about events in the Town of Woodbridge, CT

Woodbridge Board of Education Explores Achievements and Infrastructure

Monday night, the Woodbridge Board of Education, at its regular monthly meeting explored several aspects of achievement as well as the state of the Beecher Road School building infrastructure.

The meeting started off with an executive session where the board conducted an exit interview with outgoing Principal Mary Lou Torres. Principal Torres has been an important part of the Beecher Road School administration and is moving on to a new position starting in October. While the primary focus of Beecher Road School is the success of the elementary school students, good educational programs recognize that we all remain students throughout our lives, and celebrates the successes of not only the young students, but also the students that are part of the staff.

Early on in the meeting, Principal Torres, assisted by sixth grade teacher Nancy White spoke to the board about the Tri-State Consortium.

The Tri-State Consortium is a learning organization devoted to assisting its member public school districts in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey in using student performance data to develop a rigorous framework for systemic planning, assessment, accreditation, and continuous improvement.

Last year, the Tri-State Consortium visited Beecher Road as part of the administration's ongoing effort to improve the quality of education at the school. The consortium recognizes the successes of the school and made recommendations about areas where the school could improve. A key area that they focus on is professional development and professional learning communities. Beecher Road School does well with its profession development, and Principal Torres' successes are a good example of this.

Following the discussion of the Tri-State Consortium report, there was a lengthy discussion of the results of last year's Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMT). The test results are usually reported in the context of schools in similar districts, called a District Reference Group (DRG).

Woodbridge scored well in its DRG as well as compared against the state as a whole. In terms of the No Child Left Behind Act, Woodbridge made Adequate Yearly Progress. However, for a high performing school district like Woodbridge, adequate may not be enough, and the board discussed how the CMTs fit into a larger framework of student assessment and other methods of analyzing the CMT scores so that the district can continue to learn from its previous experiences and improve the quality of education that is provided.

The presentation of the CMT results was the last one that Principal Torres and Ms. White will give together as Principal Torres moves on. Her service to the school district was recognized and the board moved on to the next item on the agenda.

Beecher Road School was built in phases starting in 1960, with important parts of the infrastructure being nearly fifty years old. There are major concerns about the boiler, sections of the roof and the air quality in sections of the school. A building committee has been investigating what it would take to update the infrastructure, including getting sections of the school to meet new building code standards and be more energy efficient. Such a project will be expensive and the board sought to understand which parts are most urgent, and which parts might be deferrable until we are in a better economic time.

The long board meeting continued with addressing its regular business, including correspondence, approving financial reports and hearing reports from various committees. During public comment, one parent spoke up expressing his thoughts about the CMT scores. The meeting ended with the board settling in to its continued discussion about the long term goals of the board.

Woodbridge Board of Education meetings typically occur on the third Monday of each month and are open to the public to observe and comment. Citizens are encourage to attend and participate.

(Cross posted at the Woodbridge Citizen)

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Principal Torres to Leave Beecher Road School

Everyone year around one hundred students move on from Beecher Road School in Woodbridge, CT. Most of them continue on at Amity Middle School. Some move with their families to other towns, and a few are adult students who are moving on with their careers.

It is an important perspective and a sign of a successful educational system where a lifelong love of learning is taught and when everyone is viewed as a student. So, it is with mixed feelings that Beecher Road School prepares to say good bye to one of its star students, Principal Mary Lou Torres.

Woodbridge Superintendent, Outgoing Principal and incoming Interim Principal

Principal Torres has been at Beecher Road School for five years and has accepted a new position that furthers her career. Tuesday evening, the Woodbridge Board of Education regretfully accepted her resignation and shared many words of praise for Principal Torres. The board then moved on to appoint Dr. Len Tomasello as Interim Principal. Dr. Tomasello and Principal Torres made a brief appearance at the Board of Education meeting and additional commendations for Principal Torres were shared as well as some of the hopes that Superintendent Stella, Dr. Tomasello and the board all share for the transition period.

The Board of Education then continued on with its special meeting to address goals for the board of education over the coming year. There is an important need to address the aging infrastructure of the school building. The board hopes to further explore the quality of education at Beecher Road and the departure of Principal Torres provides a great opportunity for the Board of Education to reconsider the structure of the administration.

The next regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting on September 20th will address many of these issues and parents are encouraged to attend.

(Cross posted at the Woodbridge Citizen.)

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Beating The Heat with the BRSPTO Ice Cream Social

Wednesday evening, the Beecher Road School Parent Teacher Organization held its annual back to school Ice Cream Social. As with other years, it was a well attended event. Sen. Joe Crisco and State Rep. Themis Klarides were both on hand to help PTO members, Superintendent Guy Stella, and members of the staff serve ice cream to students, parents and community members.

Parents sat in lawn chairs and compared notes of summer vacations and hopes for the coming school year as children ran around with their friends or danced to the music of a DJ.

Wednesday was a particularly hot day and many enjoyed the cold ice cream. Others talked about the effect of the heat on education. The Horace Porter School in Columbia, CT closed early because of the heat on Wednesday and the Laurel School in Bloomfield, CT is closing early today because of the heat. While there are currently no plans to close Beecher Road School early because of the heat, such a move would create complications with bus routes.

Indoor air quality is an important issue at schools that is too often overlooked. The EPA has an IAQ Tools for Schools Program and Connecticut has An Act Concerning Indoor Air Quality in Schools.

Beecher Road School appears to be adequately handling the current heat wave. While there have been scattered reports of students heading to the nurse's office because of the heat, it has not been at such a level that the administration has needed to take action, and so far, there is only one report of a class having to be moved because of excessive heat.

Indoor air quality has a significant impact on education which needs to be carefully considered at Beecher Road School. Events like the BRSPTO Ice Cream Social provide an important opportunity for members of the community to gather for a fun social event, as well as to share concerns about what is best for long term education in our town.

(Cross posted in the Woodbridge Citizen.)

An Open Letter Concerning the Operations of the Country Club of Woodbridge

With a week left before proposals are due to the town of Woodbridge, CT concerning the purchase or long term operations of the Country Club of Woodbridge, I have been asked to provide my thoughts about how the club has been run over the past two years.

For those not acquainted with the recent history of the club, in 2009, The Woodbridge Country Club experienced financial difficulties. Instead of the land being sold to a developer, the town stepped in and purchased the property. For the past two years, the club, renamed the Country Club of Woodbridge has been run for the town by a management country. Now, the Town of Woodbridge is seeking either a long term manager or a buyer.

I live approximately three quarters of a mile from the club. I have walked to the club to sled on its hills in the winter, just as my wife did when she was younger and would walk with her parents and grandparents to go sledding at the club.

Much of the focus of the current management has been on the golf operations and although I worked as a caddie about forty years ago, I am in no position to comment on that aspect of the operations. I also have eaten at the club restaurant from time to time. I was disappointed that the chef who had been at the club in 2009 did not return in 2010. I believe he provided real value to the club. I am glad that the town's Request for Proposals has asked all bidders to address issues of retaining current staff.

The aspect of the club that I have used most has been the pool. We were one of the first families to sign up for pool and tennis membership in both 2009 and 2010. I have used the pool extensively. In 2009, the pool didn't open until late in the season, and not many people joined. It often felt as if I had a great private pool to use in 2009. 2010 has been a different year. There have been days during 2010 which saw more people use the pool that used it in all of 2009.

As with any operation, there are minor things I would like to see done differently, yet all in all, through the difficulties of these first two years, the pool operations have been excellent. It is my hope that whomever buys or enters into a long term agreement to manage the club continues to run the pool the way it has been over the past two years.

The Town of Woodbridge has made a wise decision in purchasing the club and handling its operations as it has for these first two years. Hopefully, the decisions made by the town concerning the future operations will be as wise as these initial decisions and the people of Woodbridge will have this wonderful facility remain available, boosting the value of all the properties in town.

(Cross posted at the Woodbridge Citizen.)

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And So, Summer Camp Begins...

It is already hot, sticky and hazy at quarter of nine in the morning as I drive Fiona to camp. The town recreation director is sitting at the entrance to the camp dressed up in a silly outfit to welcome the young campers. “Oh yeah, I forgot about that,” exclaims Fiona.

I drive the old black car through the slalom of small cones to get to the drop off point. As we approach, Fiona shouts out, “Oh, I see two of my friends”. The green is covered with counselors wearing their Woodbridge Recreation Department T-shirts.

I pull the car to a stop and Fiona says, “I think I’m a mermaid this year”. Yup. Her group this year is called the mermaids. A counselor approaches the car and Fiona rolls down the window greeting the counselor saying, “I missed you so much”. The counselor checks what grade Fiona is going into and they are gone.

No longer are there tears of departure, fears of how much she will miss mommy or me, or other protestations. Nope. She is out of the car without so much as a ‘bye’, or ‘thanks for the ride’.

And so, summer camp begins.

(Cross-posted at the Woodbridge Citizen.)

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