By Becky Harvey
Webster - Moods were light and emotions high at the Webster School Committee meeting Tuesday, due to the overwhelming vote of citizens to approve the building of a new Park Ave. Elementary school, combined with the retirement of Superintendent Dr. Greg Ciardi.
After an extra-long executive session, the open meeting was called to order at 7:40. After approving the minutes from executive sessions dating from October 2008 to July 2010 and the regular meeting minutes from last month’s meeting, Ted Avlas, Assistant to the Superintendent for Business, announced with great enthusiasm, that the summer meals program had begun as of June 25th. He spoke with great pride that the school system is, once again, offering all Webster school-aged children a free lunch every Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. To 1 p.m. at the middle school until August 3rd.
In addition to the free lunch, the town will be providing free transportation to and from the middle school for the lunches. There are currently three bus stops. The first is at North Village, the 2nd at the hub at Sunnyside and Lake St. and the 3rd at Island Road, across from the police station. The buses will run from beginning at 10:50 a.m. and running throughout a two-hour time-frame. The Patriot is running the bus schedule with stops and it is available through the school’s website. Also available in both places is the menu. The superintendent’s office is also working with the Parks Department on the possibility of running a bus down to the lake so that day-camp students will be able to access the free lunches as well, as a part of the day-camp program.
Dr. Ciardi, in his last days as the superintendent, discussed the success of a two-day retreat which was attended by both the new superintendent, Dr. Barbara Malkas, and the new Bartlett Jr./Sr. High school principal, Mr. Steven Knowlton, as well as the current administrators. The retreat focused on how to create smooth transitions for new administrations. SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) were discussed at length and the entire team focused on “audacious goals” that would focus on what they wanted the school system to be like ten years down the line. Ciardi was extremely pleased with the outcome. Avlas added that what “could have taken months” was accomplished in “just days.”
Praise for Park Ave School supporters
Next on the agenda was discussion over the previous night’s vote with regards to building a new Park Ave. Elementary school. The project, which was first proposed in 2007, passed, winning with a huge margin: 948 (yes) to 306 (no) – this according to the Webster schools website. Accolades were given to the Friends of Webster Public Schools, whose efforts were paramount in the vote getting passed. According to Ciardi, the vote not only gets a new school, but it sends a message that the parents of this town (Webster) want a quality education for the children of the town. Carolyn Wallace, principal of the Park Ave. Elementary school interrupted the litany of praises to personally thank the citizens of Webster for their votes for a new school. Thus began an avalanche of thanks and praise from all the members of the board. Committee member, Shawn Collins stated that the “vote was an endorsement of a vision” not just consisting of parents of current students, but also by those who will have families in the system in the future and of people who had students in the system in the past, or were themselves in it and believe it did right by them. The vision of which he spoke is to provide the town with a 21st century education, not just for the kids about to go through the school, but for generations in the future. Craig McNulty, committee member, concurred and stated that he was shocked the biggest supporters of the new school don’t even have children in the elementary level. He stated that Webster is “no longer a laughing stock” and that “it’s just super” that townspeople have gotten behind upping the ante with regards to the education that the town will provide its citizens.
Revisions of administrator contracts were approved, as were those for the secretarial/clerical staff, cafeteria workers and janitorial staff. The main changes for the administrators were that yearly raises are no longer guaranteed at two to five percent. They may now be as low as zero percent, based on assessment reviews. Ciardi semi-joked that if someone got a review that warranted a zero percent raise, they would have other issues than raises to worry about. As for the other contracts, they addressed health insurance adjustments, seniority/classification, cost of living expenses, funeral leave for janitorial and café workers, clothing allowances. All contract changes were unanimously approved by the board. Member, Joan Czechowski, thanked all the people involved in the discussions, praising how smoothly the talks had gone.
The board also unanimously approved all of the low bids for the cafeteria/food services contracts that were brought by Phyllis-Ann Zalewski, director of food services.
Farewell to Dr. Ciardi
As it was the superintendent’s last school committee meeting, all committee members and John Daniels, the high school vice-principal, and Wallace, the Park Ave. Elementary School principal took turns praising and thanking Ciardi for his service over the past six years. Humbled, Ciardi stated that his retirement was bitter-sweet. He thinks that he is leaving “at a good time and that feels right.” He praised the town and employees saying that they have created a “system where students transition at the right time” and that the schools were now “aligned with current theory and practice” in education. He finished with the comment that “it has been a singular honor” to be the superintendent of the Webster School System.
- Friday, 29 June 2012
- Posted in Categories: : News