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Members of Cheshire’s new school modernization panel selected

Members of Cheshire’s new school modernization panel selected

CHESHIRE — The Town Council has selected members of the new School Modernization Committee.

The town received about 40 applications to join the panel. In the end, 13 were selected.

“We were overwhelmed with the amount of response we received from the public,” Council Chairman Rob Oris said at the Tuesday meeting. “Because of this we have decided to vote on increasing the amount of community members on the committee from three to seven.”

The proposal to increase community members passed in a 7 to 1 vote, with Councilor Tom Ruocco opposing the move. 

The new committee will consist of three town councilors, three Board of Education members, and seven residents. The councilors selected are Paul Bowman, Sylvia Nichols and Peter Talbot. From the school board, Kathryn Hallen, Anne Harrigan, and Anthony Perugini will serve. The seven community members are Jen Bates, Matt Bowman, Cathleen Devlin, Rich Gusenberg, AnnMarie Kemp, Rene Martinez, and Charles Neth. 

“It took us a long time to choose these members,” said Hallen. “It was clear to us that a lot of people wanted to get involved, but we wanted to choose people who are from a variety of different backgrounds, like construction and communications, because that’s what is going to help us improve our schools.”

 Oris thanked all who applied.

“If you were not chosen to be on the committee, please be aware there will be plenty of opportunities for you to help us in either a subcommittee or other capacities,” he said.

The committee is tasked with researching options for ways to improve public school infrastructure. The most recent attempt to develop a plan came more than two years ago, when the Board of Education presented its Facility Master Plan — a wide-ranging proposal to replace or refurbish current local schools over a period of years with a price tag of more than $400 million.

The proposal did not receive Council support, and the new committee will attempt to provide a plan conceived in a collaborative manner.

“Two years ago, we went through a similar process,” Perugini said. “But the public participation wasn’t there, so when we presented the plan to the Council, it looked like we blind-sided everyone with the huge cost.”

The date for first meeting of the committee has yet to be set.