Each month the Board receives numerous communications expressing concerns, asking questions, making suggestions, and offering help and support. I believe it important to address some of these issues as part of our regular Board agenda. To begin with I wanted to clarify a statement made about board polices. I indicated at a previous meeting that board policies, except when they mirror state statutes, do not have the force of law. Some people interpreted that to mean that we don’t have to follow them. That was not my intention. Board of Education policies are to be followed as strictly as possible by all board and staff members. The administration is given some leeway to waive application of a Board Policy under unique and limited conditions such as student safety. It is the expectation of the Board that should those waivers occur, the administration will provide a detailed explanation.
There have been numerous concerns expressed about DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion). The diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Amity are being developed by Amity staff for use by the Amity School District. We are not importing a DEI curriculum; we do not have a DEI curriculum; we are not in the process of developing one; and do not plan to develop one. We also do not teach, nor have a curriculum or classroom lessons which include Critical Race Theory (CRT). We do have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coach who is working as part of a team on curriculum audits and updates using our own evaluation tools developed for that purpose. That coach is also working with teachers in the classroom to present lessons, based on our curriculum, which students from our very diverse student body will find more up to date, interesting, and meaningful.
Declining enrollment, particularly at the high school level, has also raised concerns that parents are sending children to other schools possibly because of education issues at Amity. By every measure Amity is one of the finest public high schools in the state. A recent review of five-year enrollment figures for high schools in our DRG (District Reference Group) shows an overwhelming percentage have declines in enrollment, many more than Amity. The explanation is probably more about population changes than education. All schools have challenges, Amity is no exception. We continue, as many schools do, to struggle with bullying, racism, antisemitism, discriminatory comments and other discipline issues, but we are to working hard to improve our school climates so every student can strive to reach their fullest potential.
Application of the Amity Surplus
The Board of Education tabled a motion on how to apply the unexpended funds from the 2021-2022 budget. Since July, the Board has received clarification, directions, and information on how to comply with C.G.S. 10-51c. When presented with a motion for a process different from that suggested by the Board’s auditor, members of the Board felt it would be prudent to take more time to consider the options. The motion that was tabled read as follows: Direct the Superintendent of Schools and the Director of Finance to apply the audited surplus to the end of the current fiscal year to reduce the expense of the District for the current fiscal year. The Board will revisit this issue and motion at the regular December meeting.
Amity Continuing Education Program
After tabling a vote last month, the Board of Education took action on November 14, 2022, to formally end the Amity Continuing Education Program due to declining enrollment, decreasing revenues, and lack of a Program Director. The Board waited for a month prior to making this decision to hear from the public – no comments against discontinuation of the program were received. The District will continue to partner with Hamden Public Schools to offer Adult Education and English Language Learner opportunities. Any funds remaining in the Continuing Education Account will be transferred to the Drama Account for purchase of items that will support our creative theater, musical, choral, band, and whole-school programs.
Amity BOE Recognizes National Merit Scholarship Program Recipients
The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes and honors academically talented students across the United States. Students qualify for Nation Merit recognition based on their PSAT results from fall of their junior year of high school. On November 14, 2022, Amity continued its tradition of recognizing the National Merit Commended Scholars and National Merit Semifinalists before the Board of Education. Approximately 3.5 million students participate in the PSAT/NMSQT each fall. Commended scholars honors are awarded to the students who score in approximately the top 3% of all test-takers. The Semifinalists represent the top 16,000 students in the country – or those who score in approximately the top 1% nationally. The following students received National Merit Commended Scholars Recognition: Anushka Acharya, Henry Atwood, Simran Jain, Isha Khan, Marin Korenaga, Matthew Li, June Lin, Daniel Liu, Sophia Liu, Jennifer Luo, Nicholas Massey, Sophia McDermott, Harshil Parmar, Kiley Pickens, Lucas Rodriguez Herlihy, Sreenidhi Tadepalli, Silas Turner, Aadya Wijesekera, and Mingyue Zha. The following students were recognized as National Merit Scholarship Program Semi-Finalists: Piyush Bahel, Jacob Bettencourt, Francis Cavallaro, Jennifer Li, Si Ru Liang, Yuqi Liu, Melinda Lu, and Brian Scully.
Policy Committee Updates
The Board took action on two policies at its November meeting, approving updates to the Bus Conduct policy and adopting a new policy on Restorative Practice. Restorative Practice complements the punitive consequences of the student conduct policies by pairing discipline with meaningful instruction and guidance to help students learn from their mistakes. The main goals of Restorative Practice are accountability, community safety, and social skill development. The Board also moved two policies on to a second read, including the revised Conduct & Discipline policy.
Science Research Makes the News
Amity’s Science Research Program, a multi-year opportunity for students interested in careers in research, was featured on WTNH Channel 8’s “What’s Right With Schools” program on November 1, 2022. This is a program co-produced by WTNH and the Connecticut Association of Schools that features positive news about schools.
Virtual Keynote Series
Amity Regional School District is hosting a Virtual Keynote Series. Similar in concept to Parent University, these online webinars are designed for parents around topics relevant to supporting their teens. The ARHS Counseling and District Pupil Personnel Services departments hosted the first Virtual Keynote Speaker presentation of the year on November 3, 2022, featuring Dr. Alicia Farrell, who presented The Pressure to be Perfect and Its Unintended Consequences. With over 115 attendees, this program focused on practice suggestions for parents on how to raise resilient children in a society that sometimes values performance over character. Feedback from the presentation indicated this was a much-needed message. Please be on the lookout for additional speakers in this series.
Amity NAHS Exhibition
The National Art Honor Society will have its opening reception for the exhibition at the Woodbridge Library in the Community Room on November 15, 2022 from 5:30-7:30 pm. The NAHS invited all students grade 7-12 to participate in this exhibition. The exhibition can be viewed during normal Woodbridge Library operating hours through November 30, 2022.
BOE Adopts Its Core Values
Late in 2021 through the beginning of 2022 the Board held a series of workshops to develop a group of core values. We believe these values for our students, staff, and ourselves are critical to building a learning community. After a discussion about the values, how they were developed, and whether they truly express our beliefs; the board unanimously voted to accept these values as the current core values for the Amity Regional Board of Education. These are listed and described below:
- Integrity/Ethics: WE BELIEVE an effective school system requires the highest levels of integrity and ethics, open and honest communication, dependable and trustworthy effort, and accountability to learners and the community;
- Relationships: WE BELIEVE that learning is a social endeavor and thrives in healthy relationships at all levels. Open, strong relations, between and among students, staff, the Board, and families, rooted in common purpose and sense of direction, enhance trust and motivation and promote learning;
- Respect/Empathy: WE BELIEVE a healthy learning environment stems from a foundation of respect that supports expression of human dignity. Learners value different voices and perspectives and grow as kind, humble, compassionate, and open listeners, communicators, and colleagues;
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: WE BELIEVE the district should nurture a community of learners who embrace individual and cultural differences, valuing how differences enrich society. WE BELIEVE that all learners should have access to the resources necessary to achieve their fullest educational potential with the full support of a community of leaders. WE BELIEVE that learners must belong to and feel supported in their learning environment for them to thrive socially, emotionally, and academically;
- Resilience: WE BELIEVE in the importance of generating learners who are resilient and adaptable, engaged, curious, and eager, who embody growth mindsets and are highly motivated to persevere to achieve mastery/excellence in academics, sports, the arts, and extracurricular performance. Further, we value a system that nimbly responds to unexpected challenges, has a process in place to learn from them, and uses this learning to improve future responses;
- Commitment to a caring community: WE BELIEVE learners who establish meaningful, healthy connections will become effective stewards of their broader communities and recognize the importance of their contributions to society.
By Paul Davis, Amity BOE Chair