With over 1,000 new bills before the General Assembly in the January session, one in particular is causing quite a stir in the tri-town BOWA community: Senator Martin Looney’s Proposed Bill No. 454, An Act Concerning the Creation of Regional School Districts. If the bill were to pass as is (with redistricting based on existing probate map), the Orange school district would be merged with Milford; Woodbridge would be merged with Ansonia, Derby, and Seymour; Bethany would be merged with Hamden.
In a news release, State Representative Charlie Ferraro shared concerns ‘about a Democrat proposal to regionalize school districts based on the current Probate Judge map, which means Amity Regional School District #5 would be broken up.’ Ferraro, who represents Orange, Milford and West Haven, said, “This proposal would penalize a school district that already regionalizes,” said Ferraro. “I haven’t heard from local officials who believe that this is a good idea. You would think Democrat lawmakers would consult with their boards of education, first selectmen, and mayors before proposing something so ridiculous.”
State Representative Themis Klarides agrees. “This proposal to mandate the regionalization of all Connecticut’s schools is completely misguided. If you look at the current probate map, there will be students from around the state with impossible commute times to school, this plan doesn’t make sense. Left as is, the plan will break apart already regionalized school districts like Amity for example, which is made up of Woodbridge, Bethany and Orange. I believe that we should put our trust in the towns to decide what is best for their communities and schools.” She represents Orange, Woodbridge, New Haven and Hamden.
With the proposal comes conversations about combining Orange, Woodbridge and Bethany Pre-K through 12 into one regional Amity district.
Former Orange Board of Education Chairman Jody Dietch, whose sons attended Orange and Amity schools, says that there has been conversation for years around combining into one district. “It’s ridiculous to have four superintendents in three towns,” she said. She said merging of the towns makes sense academically as well as financially. “If we had one district, we’d all have the same curriculum and it would be even keel from kindergarten on up through high school.” She does not believe Looney’s proposed redistricting will happen as proposed.
“The best part of this proposed legislation is the thoughtful conversations it provoked about how to make public education in Connecticut more efficient – and more effective,” said Laurence Grotheer, chairman of the Woodbridge Democratic Town Committee. “The challenge remains how best to minimize redundancies and devote more energy and resources directly to student development.”
Woodbridge First Selectman Beth Heller has been following four different bills that focus on education. “I too have been following reports on proposed legislation and now find there are several different proposed bills that either support, encourage, or require regionalization, merger, or shared service agreements between school districts,” she said.
When asked her opinion on combining the three towns into one district, she said she’s looking forward to taking an active role in the ongoing dialog about how to best secure the long-term viability of the excellent public education we offer the children of Woodbridge.
“We are known for our schools, which are second to none, both at the elementary level at Beecher Road School and at Amity. Above all I want to protect the quality of education we provide and not allow any compromise that might diminish it,” she said.
She has scheduled meetings with Senator George Logan, Senator James Maroney, and Representative Themis Klarides to discuss her concerns with them and seek their assistance in representing the needs of Woodbridge as these and other bills make their way through the General Assembly.
“I have also reached out to my counterparts, Bethany First Selectman Derry Gorski and Orange First Selectman Jim Zeoli to gauge their thoughts on potential expansion of the Amity district to include grades pre-k through six. I am interested in learning their opinions, as well as hearing more from our local Board of Education members as these state level legislative initiatives develop,” Heller said.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent