Consultant for Ansonia-Derby School merger study set to go
DERBY — A committee tasked with figuring out if merging the Ansonia and Derby School districts is a good idea met via video-conference with its paid consultant on Monday, mapping out a game plan and their respective roles.
The Boston-based District Management Group was awarded $137,000 to conduct what could be an 18-month or more project of data collection and interviews.
As a quorum of the 10-member committee listened in the Derby Middle School all purpose room, DMG Senior Director Sam Ribnick and his colleagues walked the group through their credentials as well as the process for investigating what many consider a controversial idea.
Combined the two Naugatuck Valley School districts have about 3,700 students. Money is tight. Still, some members of the committee are concerned with whether the consultants will get the data it requests and all their questions answered.
“Are we confident that your central office will participate and provide us with all the data,” Jim Gildea, the Derby co-chair of the Temporary Regional School Study Committee asked.
“Fair question,” responded John Izzo, the Ansonia co-chair. “The short answer is I don’t know. I hope so.”
The consultants plan to spend the next four months collecting data on staffing levels, finances, demographics and facilities. They will also hold a series of focus groups with boe members, community members, and school employees, separate for each community.
Committee members sought assurances that the focus groups would be balanced so that all voices are heard.
Then from April to October 2019 the consultants will create and present a report to the committee, assessing the pros and cons of establishing a regional school district.
“Will it take a whole six months to write the report,” asked George Kurtyka, a Derby committee member. “A lot are anxious to see what is going on.”
If all goes like clockwork, it could be shorter, Ribnick told them.
His firm has worked with several Connecticut school districts including Stamford, on special education, and Hamden, on finances.
Once it submits a report, another nine months — through June 2020 — focusing on recommendations for such things as grade configurations, how buildings would be used and the size and representation of a regional board of education. They also would recommend a way to negotiate union contracts and figure out a name for the new district.
If a merger is the ultimate recommendation, it would not occur without voters in both cities voting to approve regionalization.
As part of their work, the committee with the consultant’s help will also create a five-year educational and budget plan projection on enrollment, staffing needs, transportation and special education needs for Derby and Ansonia.
Norwalk Schools Superintendent Steven Adamowski, who is an Ansonia resident and member of the committee, said he hopes that the focus is not just on savings but on improving educational outcomes in both municipalities.
As the process unfolds, Tara Hyder, a Derby parent said she hoped committee members would keep their personal opinions in check and be as objective as possible.
“We need to be impartial,” Izzo agreed.
The committee also set meeting dates through 2019, in most cases the fourth Monday at the month, alternating between Ansonia High School and Derby Middle School. The next meeting will be held on January 28, 2019 at Ansonia High.