COMMENTARY: Current happenings with the BOE

COMMENTARY: Current happenings with the BOE


The Berlin Board of Education has been busy discussing topics other than the 2019-2020 school year budget. Though it may seem the budget is our only focus during this time of the year, we wanted to share current topics that the board has been discussing.

At our May 13 meeting, the board discussed a number of issues related to programming and the provision of services to our students. At the March 25 meeting, a presentation had been made by School-Based Health Services, an organization seeking to promote and enhance the physical and mental health of students, particularly uninsured and under insured populations.

Superintendent of Schools Brian Benigni and Director of Special Services Linda Holian shared additional information regarding the program, following a visit to Clinton Public Schools, which currently contracts with School-Based Health Services. 

The board also discussed potential changes to the current practice of allowing food items to be brought into the schools for celebrations. District Wellness Policy 5141 encourages students to make healthy food choices in order to develop lifelong healthy habits, but does not currently address the specific practice of allowing outside food items to be brought into school.

In many districts, due to the desire to maintain safe classroom environments for students with food allergies in addition to wellness concerns, families are asked to send non-food treats if they wish to provide a small token as part of classroom celebrations. Such tokens could include pencils, stickers or donations of books or games to the classroom. Food-free classroom celebrations are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alternatively, some Connecticut districts have worked with their food services program to provide a list of approved snacks that can be purchased by families. 

Mr. Benigni, superintendent of schools, and Dr. McGurk, assistant superintendent, shared a proposal to allow local businesses and community organizations to provide sponsorship/funding for books to be distributed to students through the book vending machines at our three elementary schools. The proposal allows for a tiered system of recognition, including lawn signs, recognition in district newsletters or on the district website, and stickers attached to the purchased books highlighting the name of the sponsor.

Mr. Benigni previously shared the proposal with the Parent Advisory Group, which expressed strong support for the concept. The sponsorships will create a mechanism for ongoing support of this literacy initiative.

Mr. Cugno shared a plan for the Meriden-New Britain-Berlin YMCA to lease a portion of Willard Elementary School during the summer months for operation of its Camp Thundermoon program. The agreement will benefit the school system by providing a small amount of revenue, while benefiting the community by providing high quality summer programming at a convenient location. 

Join us for our next Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, May 28, 7 p.m., at Willard Elementary School, in the ibrary. Also, the second budget referendum will be held on Tuesday, May 28. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.