Message from Regional School District 17 Superintendent Jeff Wihbey to the Board of Education
(August 18, 2022) — We are excited to get the 2022-2023 school year off and running here at RSD 17. There is no better sound than the excitement of children getting off the buses and going into the school hallways during the opening days. We are all looking forward to having the kids and staff back from summer break.
Our primary focus is to return to normal operations. In conjunction with CDC and CSDE guidelines, it is now deemed safe to return to pre-pandemic school operations. This means that on the buses, in the cafeteria, at recess, and in the classrooms, we will be going back to our pre-pandemic procedures. This will allow our teachers and leaders to focus all of their attention on managing education and student life, versus masks, social distancing and other mitigating strategies. I can assure you that we will continue to work closely with our local health directors to monitor the state of local conditions as well.
Summer is always a busy time for school systems as we prepare for the year ahead. There is technology to be upgraded, positions to hire, professional development to plan and, again this year, the reopening of schools finally transitioning away from pandemic conditions.
● Burr Elementary School
o The freezer and refrigerator have been replaced by our maintenance staff.
o Burr’s comprehensive paving project was completed over the summer.
o There are several summer landscaping projects still in progress.
● Killingworth Elementary School
o Paving repairs will be completed by the start of school.
o Pre-K courtyard has been cleaned up and beautified.
● Haddam-Killingworth Intermediate/Middle School
o Auditorium Projection Screen is on order. We are waiting for delivery and installation date, but it will be after school starts.
o The ToolKat that was ordered at the beginning of summer should be received before winter.
o Paving repairs will be completed by the start of school.
● Haddam-Killingworth High School
o As of July 27th, the Fire Alarm System assessment and service is in progress. Minus a couple of back-ordered devices, the project will be complete by the August BOE Meeting.
o The cafeteria floor is completed. It was stripped by the HKHS custodial staff, replaced by the installation company, and will soon be waxed by the HKHS custodial staff and be ready for our students.
o One of the cafeteria AC units died. As of July 28th, we now have two others that are having issues and may need replacement.
o An Eversource transformer on the HKHS property has a leak and needs to be replaced by Eversource later in August.
o Eversource shut down our power on Monday, July 25th, but was unable to complete the
replacement, even though they checked and confirmed everything was ready to go. August 18th will be the next scheduled date for the transformer replacement.
o ViewBoards are on order. Awaiting delivery and installation dates.
o Computers are on order.
o Wi-Fi project is in progress. Some items are back-ordered. We are hopeful that all Wi-Fi access points will be delivered by August 17th and work will be completed by August 26th.
o The maintenance truck and plow are on order.
o We are exploring options for EV charging stations (bus yard and parking stations) for the schools through LEARN and the AcesUP program, which is building a network of dedicated chargers in Connecticut school districts.
o We have received the breakdown of costs and Eversource incentives for converting BES to LED lighting. We are awaiting the same for KES and will present them to the Board’s Facilities Subcommittee at the September meeting, if we receive the KES information beforehand.
o We have been in regular contact with the Swing Bridge Project manager and STA. STA has been doing dry runs. Routes for the most part will not change, as there will be a single- lane traffic light; but there are 25 times that the bridge will be closed from Sunday to Wednesday and we will be notified two weeks in advance. Elementary and HKIS routes will be combined with the Fire Station as the pick-up spot for those instances to speed up routing, as they will need to go over the Arrigoni Bridge.
o STA should be up 3 drivers this year so we are hopeful that a lack of drivers will not be as much of an issue this year.
○ Administration is working hard to fill positions, which has proven to be more of a challenge than ever.
○ Approximately 30 student ambassadors have been chosen to help transition our new freshmen into the school community.
○ Freshman Orientation will take place on August 25th.
o Our Leadership Team will meet all day on August 24th for School Data Day to review all data points from the 2021-2022 academic year and to set Continuous Improvement Goals for the coming year.
o The first day of football successfully kicked off on August 10th, with all other sports starting soon.
o HKMS ran a “Middle School Readiness” program the week of August 8th to the 11th for incoming 6th graders. This program focused on communication and problem-solving related to new Middle School routines and expectations. Students participated in team-building activities focused on communication and study skills, where they will learn about Middle School schedules, how to email their teachers, and other organizational skills.
○ HKIS is busy planning for our step-up day on August 22, where incoming 4th Grade students will be joining their classmates to tour the school again, make locker decorations, and play games together. They should even be able to meet their new teacher.
○ The HKIMS PTO is also partnering with the school to sponsor a lunch picnic for students and their families at noon.
○ We have had some staffing changes this summer with Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. O’Rourke heading to the Middle School to teach science, and Mrs. Papa and Mr. Houlton replacing them. Mrs. Papa was our math interventionist last year and is thrilled to be a 5th Grade teacher. Mr. Houlton is very excited about an opportunity to teach our 4th-6th Grade LEAP students and provide enrichment opportunities for HKIS.
○ Burr is excited to be bringing back the tradition of our Welcome Back Picnic where this year’s 325 students will get to meet their teachers, take a sneak peek at the classroom before the first day of school, and enjoy pizza and ice cream while catching up with their friends, courtesy of the PTO.
○ After going quiet for just a few short weeks, the halls of KES are very active again as the DLP and Pre-school Extended School Year programs have gotten off to a great start this summer.
○ KES has also hosted several teachers and administrators who have been busy with curriculum-writing projects this summer.
○ Extended School Year (ESY) services are being provided to eligible Special Education students who require additional instruction in order to maintain their skills over the summer vacation. Services are provided to students in Pre-school through Grade 12, and are occurring at all RSD 17 schools. Effective School Solutions has been providing counseling services to participating students during the ESY window as well.
○ The new online Special Education IEP and data collection system designed by the State Department of Education, CT SEDS, became “live” on July 1st. Training is ongoing and professional development is being planned for staff members beginning in August/September.
○ A new Elementary Coordinator has been hired. Becky Templeton, who was a Special Education teacher at HKI/MS and previously at Burr Elementary School, is looking forward to getting started in her new role.
○ The Food Services Department has received a Supply Chain Assistance Fund in the amount of $36,312.06, which will help offset the continuing rising cost of food and supplies. We also will use these funds to focus on putting more local food into the program for the upcoming school year.
○ Thanks to the hardworking, dedicated Food Services staff, combining all schools, the District served 61,118 breakfasts and 135,549 lunches this past school year, which is 23,201 more breakfasts and 42,967 more lunches than the prior year.
○ The Department has hired two full-time employees who will start in the fall. We are still working to hire another full-time employee and subs.
During the summer we on-boarded 27 new staff members, of whom 22 were certified staff.
o New Teacher Orientation will take place on August 24, 2022. The agenda includes a warm
welcome and introductions, laptop distribution, along with some tech support, and information from Student Services, the Curriculum Office, Human Resources, and HKEA. Attendees will receive copies of The Art and Science of Teaching and SEL and the Brain, as we begin supporting their professional learning toward the District’s vision.
o For the first time, a District Employee Handbook was created and shared with all staff. This document includes updated information about expectations and practices in the District. The Table of Contents is linked to each section, so employees can easily jump to a particular topic. Additionally, forms and resources are hyperlinked for easy access.
o In conjunction with Shipman & Goodwin, our staff developed a comprehensive list of mandated training and their respective frequencies. From there, a three-year training cycle was created to maximize professional learning time and compliance. This chart will assist Administrators in planning from year to year.
o The Department will begin sending out monthly newsletters to all staff. The newsletter will highlight positive events and achievements, as well as educate employees on their benefits.
o The Finance Department has opened the new year (FY 22-23), and purchasing for the upcoming school year has begun. We are in the process of closing our FY 21-22 books, while preparing for both the state-required reports (due Sept 1, 2022) and our annual Audit.
o We are interviewing for an open Accounts Payable Specialist position.
o Our strategic planning summer work culminated on Monday, August 15th, at our workshop with our strategic goal teams meeting and coordinating their efforts. We will continue the work in the coming weeks moving through our opening of school.
o Our four goal areas were led by co-chairs who met with teams of staff several times over the summer. The teams were tasked with developing strategies and targets to support and measure the strategic goals and objectives that were created.