The Greenwich Board of Education agreed last night that they would not like to consider redistricting as a way to solve the racial imbalance issue cited by the State Department of Education.
However, that doesn't mean that the "R" word is off the table entirely.
While discussing the Racial Imbalance Work Plan during their monthly work session at the Havemeyer Building, Board Chairman Leslie Moriarty stated, "We may need to redistrict to deal with the enrollment trends."
The Greenwich Public Schools received notification from Connecticut Commissioner Stefan Pryor back in June 2012 that Hamilton Avenue and New Lebanon schools were cited as being racially imbalanced and Old Greenwich and Western Middle Schools were cited as being impending imbalanced.
The Work Plan, presented by Superintendent William McKersie and Special Projects Manager John Curtin, was brought before the board to obtain "more clarity on detail and process" in what Moriarty called a "multi-faceted project."
She went on to queue up the presentation by stating that the development of the plan was to create a single responsive action plan for three "complicated" issues which have recently plagued the district:
- Student achievement
- Enrollment trends and capacity issues
- Racial balance
The administration developed a "one pager" and presented the snapshot as a summary for the board's information (see attached pdf.) The three sections of the paper were "Context", Option Development" and "Objectives". "Context" is what McKersie called "everything we need to worry about," which includes the issues that need to be worked through.
"Greenwich is going at a judicious pace"
In approaching the "Option Development" and "Objectives," the administration is crafting "a framework for an action plan" for the State Board of Education. Moriarty said that one of the district's priorities will be "ensuring that there is community engagement."
State Says Slippery Slope
Board member Steve Anderson asked whether the free and reduced lunch program indicator could be factored into the solution. McKersie said he was dismayed that in a telephone conference with state officials on Thursday, that "we were strongly recommended not to use it." McKersie did say that Greenwich was "explicit" in why they "wanted to explore" the option. McKersie also said he planned on speaking to state officials about the option "legally" next week.
Once board members began discussing the options listed under "unacceptable means," the possible redistricting of Greenwich to balance out enrollment trends drew a mixed response.
Barbara O'Neill said that she was concerned about the "perception" of removing the option from the table completely citing that she felt that the "public" may be "confused by our actions." Fellow Republican Peter von Braun agreed. He said, "We may have to do it unless we can find an alternative that may actually work."
The board then proceeded to vote on whether to remove the redistricting option. Nancy Kail, Steve Anderson, Barbara O'Neill and Peter Sherr voted in favor of removal. Adriana Ospina, Peter von Braun, Jennifer Dayton and Moriarty, voted against. So with a tied vote, the motion failed, leaving redistricting as a possible option.
In the development of the plan, Moriarty stated that the board may need to consider holding a "special meeting as options are developed."
"There is our timeline and then there is the state’s timeline"
The Work Plan is meant to be "a statement on where we are at this point and where we are headed," and seemed confident that the "state will take us seriously."
McKersie pointed out that a RFP calling for an outside vendor to analyze the district's facility utilization was issued before the December holiday break. The selection of a vendor is expected next week. McKersie'splan calls for "deliverables" in the form of documentation to be sent to the state in March with a presentation to the State Board of Education in April.
"The state may not be fully happy" with what is presented, and there may be "verbal criticism," McKersie said. "We will see."