Abandon Peck Place? Move Kindergarteners? One Orange School? What Did Jim Zeoli Say to The Orange BOE?

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Feb 172014

First Selectman Jim Zeoli speaks before the Orange Board of Education on Feb. 10.

First Selectman Jim Zeoli speaks before the Orange Board of Education on Feb. 10.

At last Monday’s Orange Board Of Education meeting (available for viewing on OGAT’s Video On Demand) First Selectman Jim Zeoli spoke during the public participation section regarding proposed expenditures for Peck Place School.

The subject came up again at Wednesday’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting and by Friday what he had said went around town like a game of telephone — so what ARE his thoughts?

Zeoli responded in a public forum on Friday afternoon with the hope of clearing things up.

He wrote:

There are way too many rumors and speculation out there about Peck Place School today. I appeared at the Board of Education meeting on Monday the 10th and spoke during Public Participation.

I had told the Chairman that I would be at that meeting. I encouraged the Board to look at the dollar costs for putting Peck back in shape and that are there any other options.

I suggested that as part of considering a full day Kinder program they see if it is possible to move these classes back to each home school of the respective district and the K’s could be with big brothers and sisters as it was prior to the refitting and reuse of MLT.

I then asked that they look at MLT for the Peck district school if it could be used that way. I then suggested if all that was possible they then would walk away from Peck and at the same time consider using the bond and operation money slated for Peck to be used at TH, RB, and MLT.

Then the charge would be to consider a new school for all elementary or just refurb what we have. These were all possibilities that the OBOE could look at. I do not have a say in what ultimately happens anymore than you, the OBOE elected members do on your behalf.

The most recent rumor I heard today is that I am forcing the schools to split the grade levels and putting two grades at each school. Never will I support this.

The Board of Selectmen met on Wednesday at our regular meeting, one item on the agenda was the contracts with AIG dealing with asbestos. Phase 1 was approved to be paid, this was the areas that were water damaged and asbestos abatement is not a covered expense.

Phase’s 2 and 3 the Selectmen had questions that answers were not readily available in the material provided for work in area’s other than the water damaged zones.

A meeting is being held with the Oboe’s staff and experts for the work required in these area’s. This meeting has nothing to do with school or staff planning or staff reductions as I heard today. 

Orange Live will keep you posted on any updates concerning the ongoing Peck Place School situation.

Obituary: Donald Michael “Bud “ Priest, 83, Veteran, Past President Orange BOE, Past Chair Police Commission

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Nov 152013

Screen shot 2013-11-15 at 12.45.36 AMDonald Michael “Bud “ Priest, 83, of Hamden, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his loving family, on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

He is survived by his beloved wife of sixty years, Ruth Priest; his loving children, Pamela P. Irving and husband Dr. Jack, of Hamden, Donald M. Priest, Jr., of Branford, and Amy E. Paier and husband Richard, of Orange; and his cherished grandchildren Brian Irving, Alison Irving Appleby and husband Michael, Griffin Paier, and Kelsey Paier. He is also survived by his brothers Richard and Edward Priest, both of Syracuse, NY, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

He was predeceased by his daughter, Susan L. Priest, and his brother, John Priest.

Born Dec. 10, 1929 in Syracuse, NY, he was a son of the late John G. and Catherine Downes Priest. Bud graduated from Holy Rosary High School in Syracuse and St. Bonaventure University, class of 1951.

After serving with the U.S. Army, he had a distinguished career as a realtor as owner of First Woodbridge Realtors. He was a past president of the New Haven Board of Realtors, and was honored as the CT Realtor of the Year. He was a civic-minded person who was a past president of the Orange Board of Education and a past chairman of the Orange Police Commission.

Bud was also a charter member of the Woodbridge Rotary Club, serving as its first president, and was a Paul Harris Fellow. He was a communicant of St. Rita Church in Hamden. Bud was a selfless giver with an abundance of compassion and kindness. He committed himself to family, friends, and those in need. He brought joy to everyone he met. An eternal optimist, he took great pleasure in life and never turned down an invitation for fun.

Bud’s family deeply thanks all those who cared for Bud over the past six months, especially the staff at Whitney Center.

Friends may call on Fri. from 5-8 pm at Sisk Brothers Funeral Home, 3105 Whitney Ave., Hamden.


His life will be celebrated with a mass of Christian Burial at St. Rita Church, Hamden, on Sat. morning at 10:00. Entombment will follow in Mt. St. Peters Cemetery Mausoleum, Derby.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Woodbridge Rotary Club, P.O. Box 4096, Woodbridge, CT 06525, or to the Rocky Mountain MS Center, 8845 Wagner St., Westminster, CO 80031 (specify “For Research”). www.siskbrothers.com

Coaches Needed For School Lego League Teams

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Sep 032013

FIRST_LEGOThe Orange Board of Education is looking for parents other interested adults to coach the fall Lego League Teams.

Coaches are an important part of what makes LEGO League possible, and First LEGO League would not exist without help from volunteers! If your child is enrolled in the LEGO League program or if you are dedicated to science and helping kids learn to love it, too this may be an opportunity for you to get involved and have some fun.

As a LEGO League coach:

• You will meet with your team twice a week for about 8 weeks, from September-December

• You will help the team to develop goals and a guideline for their progress

• You will control the process, not the content.

• You will help your students understand concepts, research ideas, and arrive at solutions without telling them the answers.

• And, most importantly, you will HAVE FUN.

If you would like to learn more, check out the First LEGO League website at www.firstlegoleague.org or e-mail Jennifer Acker at jacker@orange.ed.org if you are interested in participating.

We look forward to hearing from you.

School Security: Superintendent Not In Favor Of Armed Guards

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Jan 142013

The Orange Board of Education held a special meeting on Jan. 7 at which time they discussed contracts and school security. An ad hoc committee was formed to work on formulating a security plan for the Orange elementary school system.

On Thursday, Jan. 10, the committee met for the first time at Mary L. Tracy School. Among those in attendance were Asst. Police Chief Anthony Cuozzo, Fire Chief Charles Gagel, Police Chief Robert Gagne, Fire Marshal Tim Smith, firefighter/Kindergarten teacher Lisa Kaplan, school principals and Board of Education members.

Following are the minutes from that meeting:

Meeting called to order at 4:00 p.m. Mary L. Tracy, upstairs conference room

Panic Buttons
•    A must, put them in immediately
•    Use a small committee within this group to determine where and how?

ID Card Readers at Doors
•    Accountability – holding the door open, losing cards, must swipe your own cards, people don’t lose it very often
•    Limit the time that the cards will work, so alarms don’t get off
•    Power outages – 2-hour battery back-out

Classroom Door Locks
•    Another let’s do it, item
•    With classroom doors open, the doors between classes become an asset, not a detriment
•    Policies… trainings for teachers on doors and keys

•    Amity has camera security and has had remarkable results
•    Huge advantages regardless of the issue
•    Monitoring: 24-7, live feed to our computers… to police computers
•    The Bond needed to have a radio/data transfer wire project which would facilitate this ($125,000); but this did not make it into the bond – can it be reconsidered?
•    The lack of bandwidth for the police does not hold back our project
•    Records and holds the data for anywhere from 14 to 30 days, then tapes over itself

•    Much discussion ensued about the value of armed security at the front doors; from 7 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
•    Not much interested among any committee members at all in armed security guards that are supplied by a security firm – huge liability
•    Police explained that all shooting incidents are planned; having an armed person at the door simply means the person plans for that armed person and looks for some other ‘soft spot’ (playground, buses, arrival, dismissal)…or plans to eliminate that guard, as part of the plan.
•    Better if money is spent to improve the facilities’ weaknesses
•    Takes about a year to hire a police officer; then, the officer needs some seasoning before assigned to a school; can’t take someone out of the academy;
•    Conversation about a police school resource officer (SRO) rotating through the four schools… unscheduled, thus, no perpetrator can plan for the whereabouts of an unscheduled officer on any given day
•    Much discussion about the advantages of the SRO’s value-add to the school system in terms of making personal connections, curriculum supports, decision-making, working with individuals and families, identifying bullying and isolation
•    Random presence is a deterrent because planning becomes impossible… a stationed guard can be planned around
•    However, a school resource officer does not solve the ‘traffic monitoring’ problem at all
•    If we plan to increase the monitoring of visitors by asking for ID, the nature of their business, etc. this is not a secretarial function
•    Not a 21st Century paraprofessional position, either

Ideas that seemed hold to the committee’s interest:
1.    An SRO officer assigned to the four schools; has value-add to students and families; rotating on an unscheduled basis deters ‘planning’ an event
2.    Adding a ‘sally-port’ vestibule creates a double locked entrance which is a deterrent
3.    Adding shatter-guard makes the doors themselves a deterrent
4.    Hiring a monitor for each school (7 a.m. – 9 p.m.), stationed in the sally-port, checks in visitors and facilitates visitor traffic into either the office or the school

Changes in visitor policies and protocols
•    We did not get to this specifically, but decided…
•    Yes, a committee needs to be formed to looked at this

Sally-port vestibules
•    Much interest
•    Needs more detailed investigation, planning, and rough estimates

Glazed or wired shatter-guard glass
•    Much interest
•    Needs more detailed investigation, planning, and rough estimates

We did not get to these three topics:
•    Separating student and staff/parent access
•    Improving ‘line-of-sight’
•    Defining the perimeters of the schools (signs, fences, etc.) to prevent accidental trespass

From the Superintendent:

Supt. Lynn McMullin told Orange Live that sub committees will be formed to concentrate on the different areas of this plan.

McMullin said she does not support the use of armed guards inside the schools. She said Police Chief Gagne and Asst. Chief Cuozzo both said that armed guards would just bring guns into the schools.

Instead, they favor having a school security officer — DARE Officer John Aquino, a friendly, familiar face to all the children — move from school to school throughout the day.

By doing this, someone with bad intentions can’t plan an attack. “They look for a soft target, and by not keeping a security guard at one place all the time, we create the inability for anyone to devise a plan,” she said.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School took place one month ago today, so funding for security changes was not in the budget approved last year.

Nothing that they discussed is definite until it’s funded, so the Committee is on the agenda for the Jan. 28 Board of Finance meeting to discuss getting some money to implement these changes.

McMullin said some other schools already have some of the above mentioned procedures in place.
Next steps:

We will meet again as a full committee on January 24th, 4:00 upstairs in MLT to assess where we are

No need for a parent forum, but some communication that there is a committee meeting and considering options would be extremely helpful to parents.

The Superintendent will send out an email to the group, asking for a RSVP back with which sub-committee they would like to serve on.  People should only pick a committee in which they have a particular interest or knowledge-base, as the sub-committees will be very specific in their work.

COPS 2013 grants will be available; but not clear how the money will be distributed

Orange Pulls Out Of State PEAC Pilot Program

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Jul 212012

Screen shot from video of Board members

In May, Orange Supt. Lynn McMullin expressed her excitement for being part of the new (PEAC) performance evaluation pilot program that would evaluate the performances of principals, administrators and teachers, based on a new state standard of effective practice using a program developed by the state’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council.

But at this month’s Board of Education meeting, McMullin announced that Orange was withdrawing from the pilot due to the schedule.

“The timeline is too tight of a crunch for us to do this,” she said. “We have two new principals (Turkey Hill and Peck Place) and in order to continue with this I needed to give up four full days for the administrative team to be trained between August 13 and August 27. I had a feeling that our two new principals would like to have those four days in their new buildings in the two weeks before school starts and not being at the State Department of Education for training.”

She said although she and Colleen Murray — her new right hand person at Mary L.  Tracy School — were excited about the program when they were accepted into the pilot, but once the timeline was revealed, it was apparent that it would not work for Orange.

In addition, the Orange administrators only had seven days to make any amendments to the state’s program once it was released on July 20.

“What I want for Orange is to take the state’s product and modify it so that it fits Orange’s needs extremely well,” she said. “From previous experience, that kind of work takes many many hours and we wouldn’t be able to do that between July 21 and July 27. So I notified them that we’re pulling out.”

The Board members did not disagree with her decision.


¿Su niño de primer grado hablan español? — Orange BOE Votes On Spanish Class Issue

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Jul 102012

The Orange Board Of Ed discussed its way through a proposed change in the Spanish curriculum.

The Orange Board of Education (BOE) had a long discussion Monday night regarding eliminating Spanish classes for first and second graders.

During her “Superintendent’s Report” Orange School Superintendent Lynn McMullin suggested not filling the seat of a retired Spanish teacher and cutting back on the class as an option for first and second-graders.

She justified her recommendation by stating that studies show that 20 minutes of Spanish once or twice a week in these lower grades does not make a difference, but when children get into third grade they would receive a longer class period and more time to learn the language.

She said researchers said children should start learning foreign languages by age 10 and be given 30 minutes a day three days per week — Orange offers 25 minutes per class.

Each school would have its own Spanish Teacher and the Board would not hire anyone to fill the position vacated by the retired teacher.

Colleen Murray, who spoke to Amity’s Spanish teachers in June, said, “When the Orange students arrive at the Amity Middle School, their language skills will be assessed so teachers will know whether or not the students are prepared for the upper grades when they leave the Orange elementary schools.”

Board Member Debra Marino said she feels its important to expose children to foreign languages when they are young and parents want their children to have the option of learning a second language too.

Board Member Keith Marquis said the Board should consider making the school day longer. Orange has some of the shortest school days in the state of CT. “We should increase the school day so students have time for lunch and recess and Spanish and math,” he said. “We need to take a look at the school day instead of taking away programs that make Orange what it is.”

Board Member Bobby Riccarelli said the plan for improving instruction time for the upper grades is not that significant. “It says here, two 30 minute classes for grade 3, that’s 60 minutes. Two 40 minute classes for grades 4-5 that’s only 5 minutes more than the 75 they are getting now.”

Marino disagreed that first and second graders can’t learn the language on such a short class period. “My son just got out of second grade, and he’s learned so much,” she said. “If the transition time between classes is a problem, maybe we should do something about that.”

Marquis suggested having the teachers move from room to room instead of the kids, Less travel time means more time for the teachers to concentrate on instruction.

Marino said, “Once it’s out, it’s out and I think it will have an impact on how the parents feel.”

Board member Jodi Dietch said her eldest son started taking Spanish in third grade and her other son took it from first grade on. “I’ve never seen a difference in their learning of Spanish. If we could have more math time I’d rather see that.”

Board Member Scott Massey said his son took it in first grade and it made him very interested in learning Spanish. “I think it’s more important to plant the seed in grades one and two than in grade three saying, ‘you’re going to do this.'”

Murray said the entire school could become involved by posting signs with Spanish Words in the cafeteria, hallways, etc. to help build literacy.

After a nearly 25 minute discussion, the board voted 5-4 in favor of keeping Spanish lessons in grades one and two and possibly expanding the time that it’s taught in the upper grades.

McMullin will post a job listing for a Spanish Teacher to fill the retirement vacancy today.

[Junta Escolar dice sí a español]




Orange BOE Introduces New Turkey Hill Principal Tonight

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Jul 092012

Meet Stephen Bergin tonight at the Orange BOE meeting.

After a well orchestrated search, led by Race Brook School Principal Mike Gray, the Orange Board of Education last month, announced their decision to hire Stephen Bergin as the new Turkey Hill School principal.

Turkey Hill parents, teachers, and Orange residents are invited to meet Bergin  tonight as he is officially introduced to the community at the Orange Board of Education meeting at the Board meeting room at Mary L.Tracy School at 7:30 p.m.


All Orange School Principal Positions Filled

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Jun 292012

Superintendent Lynn McMullin and the Orange Board of Education introduced the new Turkey Hill School Principal-elect during a special meeting at the BOE meeting room on Thursday night.

McMullin posted Stephen Bergin’s bio on the BOE website, in which she stated that he was one of 50 applicants in a search chaired by Race Brook Principal Mike Gray.

The notice stated, “His nomination was supported by the BOE… Bergin comes to Orange with five years of valuable experience as a K-6 principal in Hamden and three years as an asst. principal in Westport, where he also taught at an elementary level. He earned his Sixth year degree from Southern and is currently a doctoral student at Boston College.”

It continued, “Bergin brings a wealth of experiences with data teams, technology integration and Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s). He impressed the interview committees with his open and approachable style an his strong reputation for collaboration and involvement in the school community.”

Bergin is the second Orange elementary school principal that the BOE has hired this year.

Principal Searches

Searches began after earlier this year both Ralph Nuzzo, Principal of Mary L. Tracy School and Al deCant, Principal of Peck Place School announced their plans to retire at the end of the school year.

Finding two new principals would be quite an undertaking, so McMullin and the Board followed a tried and true protocol to get everything in place in time for the start of the 2012-13 school year.

Four search committees were formed to find two new principals. They were comprised of teachers, parents and BOE members.

McMullin chaired the search for the Principal of Peck Place School. Committee number One interviewed candidates, then made their recommendation to Committee Two, which conducted its own interviews and made its decision and then brought it to the full Board for approval.

On June 11, Eric Carbone was introduced at the regular BOE meeting as the new Peck Place School Principal, replacing Al deCant.

Carbone was an Asst. Principal in Wallingford, with six years of experience [Elementary school level for 4 years, Middle School 2 years].

Under Mike Gray’s leadership, the second team of two committees chose Bergin as the Principal at Turkey Hill School.

STOP! What Happened to Colleen Murray?

This is where it may be confusing for some residents. Higher up in this story we mentioned that Ralph Nuzzo from Mary L. Tracy and Al deCant announced their retirements, so why on earth did the BOE need to find a new principal for Turkey Hill School? What happened to Colleen Murray?

On June 8, Orange Live published an article explaining all of these changes.

McMullin explained the Mary L. situation to Orange Live.

Ralph Nuzzo was Principal of Mary L. Tracy School with eight kindergarten classrooms and several pre-K classrooms. A part time director of curriculum rounded out the leadership at that school.

With the Board of Education’s approval, McMullin moved Turkey Hill Principal Colleen Murray over to the Central Office to become the Director of Curriculum and Instruction and Part Time Principal of Mary L. Tracy School.

“Mary L. has something called a 1.0 Lead Teacher, most of the teachers have a .84 contract and a 1.0 lead teacher. We restructured the 1.0 Lead teacher so that person has more leadership opportunities,” McMullin said. “Colleen will supervise the Kindergarten from here (Central Office) and be the Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

McMullin said, “If anyone has any questions about the process with which these principals were hired, the BOE has a protocol for it that is on our web page. Mike and I both followed the same protocol and it worked well.”

Bergin will be formally introduced to the public with a meet-and-greet at the July 9 Board of Education regular meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Technology Anyone? Orange BOE Introduces Matthew Bruder

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Jun 132012

The Board of Ed’s Intro flier

Video: Meet Matthew Bruder

On Monday, the Orange Board of Education introduced two new employees to the community, Peck Place Principal Eric Carbone and Technology Administrator Matthew Bruder.

Bruder is currently the assistant technology administrator in Milford.

He brings with him a lot of technological knowledge and the ability to connect with the community and to speak in terms that everyone can understand instead of “computer-speak.” See Video HERE.

“I’m looking forward to helping bring Orange up to the 21st century and expanding on what they already have in place,” Bruder said.

Bruder moved to Orange six years ago, and, he said he looks forward to seeing what he can do for his community, using tax dollars wisely and helping build up the school system.

“I can’t wait to get started in a couple of weeks,” Bruder said. “I look forward to working with everybody.”