NEWINGTON - School officials are taking the reins on future Board of Education offices into their own hands.
BOE members plan to vote on education specifications for the district’s offices at their meeting Monday night, in preparation for a grant application due to the state by June 29. This comes after a so-called “disconnect” between the BOE, Town Council and the Town Hall Renovation Building Committee, following each of the respective bodies’ May meetings.
“We would typically send in an application at the beginning of the process and this is very late in the game,” BOE Chairman Joshua Shulman said this week. “We were unaware that the building committee and Town Council wanted an education grant. They never communicated that and we were never asked for any input.”
While there has been school representation on past building committees, the current working group has no liaison. Just recently, the BOE became aware of the latest building plans, which cut square footage of school offices by over 40 percent and did not account for a full build-out of the Transition Academy.
“With the reductions we won’t be able to fit people in here and continue to do the work we’re doing,” school Finance Director Lou Jachimowicz told the board at its last meeting. on May 23. “To build out the third floor with undersized space, you’ll never be able to recover from that.”
Jachimowicz reviewed the grant process with members at that same meeting, before they authorized him to draft a document with the district’s needs. Members discussed the draft at a special meeting this week and plan to vote on it Monday. Council approval of the specifications is necessary before a grant application is finalized and sent to the state.
“These education specifications reflect the space and resources necessary to operate the Board of Education central office along with maintaining the Transition Academy program in Town Hall,” the current draft reads.
It goes on to specify the need for square footage equal to that of the existing facility, at 2,272 square feet, for the academy and at least 11,419 square feet for central offices, excluding building corridors and circulation space.
Town councilors sent the board a letter before the May 23 meeting, conveying concern about Superintendent of Schools Bill Collins’ “lack of cooperation” with the project. In it they claimed Collins refused to apply for a school construction grant to offset the cost because he was unhappy with the amount of space allocated to school offices.
“Given the magnitude of the project and the benefit to the entire community, we on the council find it unconscionable that a single employee can impede the progress of this undertaking,” the letter read. “We call upon you, the Board of Education, to assertively and unequivocally direct the superintendent to complete the requisite funding applications in an affirmative and compelling manner and to file them by the stipulated deadline. Newington deserves no less from its elected leadership,” it concluded.
Collins said there had been no communication about the proposed school plans to him or the board and that he was never asked to sign anything.
“I’m not in any way, shape or form opposed to signing any grant application,” he told members. “It was not disclosed to us before, during or after the meeting that the square footage was reduced to that amount, nor was it disclosed that the Transition Academy was taken out of the project. The board’s been kept out of the loop and you would have to authorize this for an application to move forward.”
The BOE is set to meet Monday, June 11, at 7 p.m. in Newington Town Hall. The council’s next meeting is Tuesday, June 12, at 7 p.m.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or email@example.com.