The Kent Board of Education faces two very urgent questions. First, how does Kent Center School change to better prepare their students for high school? Second, what is the staffing plan for Kent Center School when enrollment falls to 180-190 students in three to four years? At their regular meeting this week, Assistant Superintendent Pam Vogel asked them to understand the changes taking place at the high school and what that implied for Kent Center School. They also heard from a high school student from Kent who outlined the perceptive differences of the education in each elementary school as viewed in high school classes. The Board responded by verbally attacking Vogel while demanding local autonomy and input from local teachers.
Monthly, the Kent Board of Education hears from one of the Kent students attending Housatonic. Invariably, the student is one of the better students, an “H” level student, who get separated out and given a separate curriculum and different grading. This month’s student was obviously well versed in science, and proposed following that direction in college.
Chairman Allan Priaulx asked, as usual, whether Kent Center School had prepared the student adequately for high school. Her answer was illuminating, because she could perceive differences between the preparations at each of the elementary schools. For instance, students from North Canaan were unprepared in mathematics, some not being able to do long division in Pre-Calculus class. The students from Sharon were well prepared in English, but she had not been and had struggled.
However, she appreciated the extracurricular activities because they allowed her to meet the “CP” students [the rest of the students]. In other words, her perceptions of preparation were just for the better students.
Previously, the Board had heard that over 30% of the students leaving Kent Center School were not prepared for high school, 36% in English. They have heard from Jonathan Moore, the Representative to the Region 1 Board of Education, that too many students at the high school were getting poor grades. Vogel reiterated that aspect, stating that over half of the high school students were doing poorly. Both Moore, through this video, and Vogel stated specifically that the high school was changing to personalized learning to rectify this situation.
If the children at Kent Center School are to be properly prepared for high school, they need to be taught not only the necessary subject content, but also the proper educational environment that they will meet, that is, personalized learning. Otherwise they will be at a distinct disadvantage with respect to the other students from elementary schools that do change over, like Salisbury.
Yet, the Board seemed unconcerned about the students. Board member Rob Ober said that the teachers in Kent Center School must have a say in this; the school’s autonomy must be preserved. His position was supported by Board member Cici Nielsen who reiterated that the autonomy of the elementary schools was important. Priaulx decided to make the discussion an agenda item for the next meeting as well as providing an agenda space for the teachers to speak.
Apparently, the education of the children is less important than the working environment of the teachers. And that type of autonomy can only be provided if Kent leaves Region 1, an arduous task.
The Budget committee, chaired by Nielsen, reported that the major change this year will be $450 per month for internet connectivity that the school must now pay. The state is passing that cost to local school districts as an added state tax. She did not mention any consideration of staffing changes in spite of the reduced enrollment. Apparently, only the Board of Finance has considered that possibility.
And, as has become usual, the Kent Board of Education violated the Freedom of Information Act again and again. Apparently, they held a gathering with the Kent Education Association, the teachers’ union, and discussed school topics in an unwarned meeting, an egregious violation that could lead to a substantial fine. Further, they once again took up topics (in New Business) that were not warned ahead of time, and did not modify their agenda accordingly.