State education board hosts first ever meeting in Shelton

The state’s board of education held its first ever meeting in Shelton late last week, where it discussed its approach toward implementing its plan for the next five years.

In most cases, the education board meets each month in Hartford at the state office building, but Commissioner Diana Wentzell said this meeting was different because it focused more on the board’s annual retreat.

“Meetings like this are to make sure that everyone’s on the same page,” said Wentzell.

Shelton’s own and board member, Terry Jones explained that this year’s retreat is different than previous years because the board will use it as an opportunity to develop action steps that need to be taken to bring its plan into fruition. In previous years, the board used the retreat as a time to develop the five-year-plan.

Jones, whose term ends in 2019, said he made the recommendation to the rest of the board to hold its Aug. 3 meeting at the Intermediate School because of how proud he is of the city’s education and its ability to operate on one of the lowest per pupil spending rates in the state.

“I’m not condoning that we should be proud of that by any stretch, but I am proud that we have some fabulous schools that are stretching dollars. We should have more dollars,” said Jones. “I think the Intermediate School really shines, not to discredit any of the other great schools in the city.”

The lone Shelton board member went on to say that his colleagues’ trip to the Intermediate school also provided them with the opportunity to see some of the projects that SIS teachers have been working on with students. 

“I’m incredibly proud of Shelton schools, particularly the Intermediate School so I was pleased that they accepted my invitation to come to the meeting,” said Jones.

While the board admired the Intermediate School’s innovative projects and blueberries that were freshly picked from Jones’ farm, it also discussed how to address issues that are occurring in schools across the state. Some of these issues were less relevant to cities and towns such as Shelton, according to Jones.

“Some of the more urban districts have seen an alarming rate of out-of-school suspensions even among first and second graders. It’s actually counter-productive for that child. They’re not learning anything that way,” said Jones. “A lot of these kids’ parents, it’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they’re, who are often single parents, are out working their butts off and then they come home and they’re off to their second job. It can really create a challenging situation for these kids.”

The board agreed that it needs to continue to support teachers in every district, set high learning expectations for every student, and address the non academic needs of students.

Jones admitted that this process of reaching its goals will consist of an ongoing effort, not only from the state board, but also for the education staff at all levels across the state.