In the last meeting before school begins August 29, the Amity Board of Education tackled an array of financial and educational issues, including final preparations on a natural gas plan that administrators say will save approximately $120,000 for residents of Orange, Bethany and Woodbridge.
Highlights from the meeting:
- The board voted to move nearly $150,000 into an account to cover the district's new natural gas energy plan. Funds came from previous energy sources, which will be reduced thanks to the deal with Southern Connecticut Gas. Brady told Patch the deal will save money for Amity.
"We haven't paid anything in for bringing it in," he said. "They made an agreement if we committed to convert heating in all facilities, the field house, the garage, they would bring gas in for free." Brady said pipes for gas have been put in place, and the system should be ready to go after testing.
- Director of Curriculum and Staff Development Marie McPadden presented testing reports showing Amity students have taken slight dips in standardized tests. The results, from the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (taken in 10th grade) and the Connecticut Mastery Test (taken in grades 3-8), show improvement needed in math and science scores. While Amity lost its #1 position in reading scores, McPadden said Amity students are still strong in reading and writing.
"I'm extremely pleased to see a high school with such high reading scores," she said. "But of course there is no place to go once you're #1. I'm impressed with the work I've seen with reading teachers and consultants."
- McPadden reviewed a new federal plan, tied to changes in standardized testing, that would change how teacher evaluations are handled. The Common Core State Standards, which will be implemented during the upcoming school year, will base evaluations on observations, parent and student recommendations. The changes, while mandated on the federal level, sparked concern among some board members.
"We're one of the most efficient districts out there," said board member Thomas Hurley. "Now we just dropped another workload. Each teacher has to get five assessments a year? … I've always been concerned about this one. Have we really looked at what this is going to do to our operations?"
- Mike Goss of Fiduciary Investment Advisors presented a plan to the finance committee to switch pension plans to Vanguard Index Mutual Funds instead of iShares. Goss told the committee the move could save $11,000 in fees. In general session, the board voted to approve the change.
- Superintendent John Brady emphasized the district is complying with state policy requiring leftover funds to be returned to towns. "The policy clearly states if there's a fund balance, remaining funds will be returned to the towns," said Brady. "That was the major revision to just explicitly and clearly state that."
- Finance director Jack Levine outlined a new monthly report that will emphasize areas Amity has saved money. The first monthly report highlighted a self-funded insurance program which Amity hopes will save approximately $525,000, and a move toward online fee collection for student activity accounts, which could save over $200,000.