September 26, 2013 04:37PM
By Eric Vo
WALLINGFORD — Two key members of the school system’s Early Childhood Exploratory Committee say it will be challenging to meet a November deadline for recommending a comprehensive plan to the Board of Education.
Formed earlier this month, the committee is researching different options, including an all-day kindergarten program.
The 13-member committee is comprised of parents, teachers, administrators and school board members. It has five subcommittees that will look at specific areas, including financial implications and present and proposed practices. Each subcommittee will meet at least once a week, and the full exploratory committee will meet once every three weeks.
Chet Miller, a member of the school board and the early childhood committee, said he doesn’t believe the panel can thoroughly research the options and make a comprehensive recommendation by mid-November. The deadline is designed to allow School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo to include funding in his next budget for any programs the committee recommends.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to completely explore all the pros and cons of all of those different programs in just six weeks,” Miller said.
Though there’s not much time, school board and committee member Michael Votto said the panel is going to do as much as they can before the deadline.
If the committee can’t make a recommendation by November, it may have to request more time to work on it, Miller said. Votto would prefer not to request more time and instead work with the superintendent to come up with a best cost estimate for next year’s budget.
“Just a ballpark figure that we can have in the back our heads as a board when we do the budget,” Votto said.
Menzo has said he will only put a placeholder in the budget for an early childhood program if the committee recommends it. The dollar amount of the placeholder must also come from the committee, he said.
Board of Education Chairwoman Roxane McKay said she believes the committee will go past the mid-November deadline, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“If they’re not ready, then they’re not ready,” said McKay. “We don’t want them to rush things.”
Panel member Arlene Cassello of Wallingford Early Childhood Alliance Resources and Education had a more optimistic outlook. She said it was premature to determine where the committee would be by mid-November, and added she wouldn’t be surprised if a plan is established.
“From the people I met at that first meeting last week, everybody seems so dedicated, so involved and so committed,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if people put in the extra effort to get it to work or trying to get it to work.”
In addition to Cassello, Votto and Miller, the committee is made up of two parents, Jenny Cabral and Amy Johannes; four teachers, Beth Connors of Highland School and Stephanie Rubin, Cindy Balsamo and Tina Kell of Cook Hill School; two principals, Jan Murphy of Cook Hill and Victoria Reed of Highland; and two administrators, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Shawn Parkhurst and Director of Pupil Personnel Rob Mancusi.