Wallingford early childhood panel forms subcommittees

WALLINGFORD — The Wallingford school system’s Early Childhood Exploration Committee held its initial meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Board of Education member Mike Votto, a committee member, said he is grateful that the scope of the committee encompasses early childhood education comprehensively and is not limited to full-day kindergarten.

Votto said he does not want all-day kindergarten to serve as a substitute for daycare. “That’s not what it should be,” he said.

Arlene Cassello, of Wallingford Early Childhood Alliance Resources and Education, who also sits on the committee, said she wanted the group to examine developmentally appropriate programs for all the town’s pre-school and kindergarten students.

School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said he hoped the recommendations that emerged from the committee would feature “connectivity” with the emphases of the district’s holistic education program.

However, the topic of all-day kindergarten loomed over the proceedings. Before being shown to the meeting room, audience member Karen LeBeck entered the district’s Hall-Elton building and asked where the “full-day-kindergarten meeting” was being held.

Committee member Jenny Cabral, a parent, stated outright that she joined the exploration committee in hopes that Wallingford would implement full-day kindergarten.

Assistant School Superintendent Shawn Parkhurst said that for operational purposes the committee will be divided into five subcommittees: Identification of Need, which will determine the district’s specific needs related to early childhood education programming; Research and Analysis of Present and Proposed Practice, which will study practices related to early childhood education on the local, national and global levels; District Transformation Initiative Alignment, which will ensure that proposed actions on early childhood education conform to the district’s transformation plan; Resource Cost Analysis, which will examine the cost of proposals; and Implementation, which will develop strategies to put the exploration committee’s ultimate plans into action.

Parkhurst instructed the members to sign up for at least one subcommittee and directed subcommittees to meet once a week, although not all meetings have to be conducted in-person, he said.

He also told subcommittees to identify one person as a “facilitator” to lead their team and to set a date, time and place for their first meeting.

The exploration committee will meet once every three weeks, Parkhurst said, with its next meeting to be held on Oct. 15 at 4 p.m.

Parkhurst said the exploration committee will report its findings to the district’s Instructional Committee in late November, when the Board of Education would review its recommendations and determine the next steps to be taken in Wallingford schools and the community at large relating to early childhood education.

Menzo said the committee’s final plan has to start coming together by mid-November because that is when he will begin work on the on budget for the following school year, which must be finalized in January 2014.

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