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Derby-Ansonia school consolidation talks hit bumps

February 13, 2019

DERBY— An attempt to get the Ansonia Board of Education to withdraw its request for $20,000 to begin planning for a new middle school was rejected by the Ansonia-Derby School Regionalization Committee.

“It’s not our place,” said Barbara DeGennaro, a Derby alderman and member of the regionalization committee. “It’s not on the agenda.”

The issue was raised by Steven Adamowski, an Ansonia resident, committee member and Norwalk superintendent of schools. It came at the conclusion of the study committee’s Monday night meeting at Derby Middle School.

Adamowski’s suggested sending a letter to the Ansonia Board urging it to defer the middle school plan until the regionalization study is concluded. He believes said spending millions now on a new middle school would be “detrimental to consolidation.”

He also said it could place an unnecessary financial burden on residents of both cities if regionalization is approved. Adamowski suggested letting the committee do its work.

“Maybe it’s just one high school and one middle school,” he said.

“I don’t feel it is the role of the Temporary Regional Study Committee or members of the Derby Board of Education to comment on local matters involving Ansonia,” countered Jim Gildea, Derby’s Board of Education chairman and a member of the regionalization study committee.

Derby’s high school was built in 1967 and its middle school was built in 2010. Ansonia has a high school that was completed in 1999. However, the former high school, now serving as a middle school, was built in 1936 and is costly to maintain. The Board of Education was told replacing the boiler is going to cost $500,000.

Meanwhile, a new Ansonia Middle School, built on the Pulaski Highway property near the High School, would cost about $36 million. The state would pay about 62 percent of the cost.

“The state’s building schools everywhere,” said William Nimons, who chairs Ansonia’s Board of Education. “We really need a new middle school, so why shouldn’t we seek funding?”

Nimons called Adamowski’s actions—“politics at its highest.”

Ansonia’s five representatives on the regionalization committee are all appointees of Mayor David Cassetti. They include two Republican alderman and two Republican Board of Education members who have been at odds with Nimons’ and his supporters on the school board.

Ansonia’s aldermen are expected to vote Wednesday night on a request for $20,000 to begin the process of applying for a state grant to build the new Middle School.

It is anticipated that the majority of aldermen will either table or deny the request. The school board and aldermen have been at odds since early 2017, when $600,000 was removed from Ansonia’s 2017-18 school board budget. That resulted in a lawsuit which is close to being settled for an $850,000 appropriation to the school board’s 2018-19 budget.

DeGennaro, Gildea and Tara Hyder, a Derby parent and committee member, all objected to Adamowski’s request to hold off on the Ansonia middle school request.

“We can do without any external interference,” Hyder said.

For much of Tuesday the DMGroup of Boston, which is serving as the committee’s consultant, conducted focus group sessions with Derby school administrators, students and parents as well as the study committee’s members.

Participants were asked they perceive as benefits and challenges of regionalization, the strengths and issues in each system as well as academic, financial and political implications. A similiar session planned in Ansonia for Tuesday was postponed because of weather. No new date was set.

DMG is partnering with Milone & MacBroom and Silver/Petrucelli and Associates to complete a study on whether regionalization is advisable. They expect to have their initial report completed in October.

Once the October report is completed the consultants will then compile a second report due out in June, 2020 indicate what services can be shared and what savings could be expected.

While some state legislators are pushing regionalization in smaller districts like this (Ansonia and Derby combined have about 3,600), it can’t take place unless voters in both cities approve it during a referendum.

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