Superintendents Blog Archive

Opportunity Knocks
Dr. Scott V. Nicol, Superintendent
February 2016

Singer song writer Rita Coolridge once mused, “Too often, the opportunity knocks, but by the time you push back the chain, push back the bolt, unhook the two locks and shut off the burglar alarm, it's too late.”

For more than a decade, the Ellington Board of Education (BOE) has been interested in offering full-day kindergarten. This is a service routinely requested by Ellington parents that is currently offered by all eight towns that surround Ellington. Connecticut has approximately 36,000 kindergarten age students; only about 2,000 of those students do not have access to full-day kindergarten. About 150 to 200 of those students reside in Ellington, which is now one of only thirteen school districts not providing full-day kindergarten.

Longitudinal research regarding the benefits of full-day kindergarten has been undertaken during the past twenty years. The research indicates the following regarding students who attended full-day kindergarten versus half-day programs:

  • Higher academic performance in reading and mathematics grades 1 through 8
  • Reduction in students requiring remedial and special education services
  • Reduction in student grade retention
  • Better social and emotional skills

Citizens interested in learning more about the budget and educational implications of full-day kindergarten are encouraged to attend one of three informational sessions hosted by the Board of Education and school administration.

Windermere (6:00 PM) Monday, March 14th

Center (6:00 PM) Tuesday, March 15th

Crystal Lake (6:00 PM) Wednesday, March 16th

Strategically Timed

This summer the Crystal Lake and Windermere school construction projects will come to a close. The Permanent Building Committee should be lauded for their expert oversight. From the onset, the Board of Education has strategically developed a multi-year academic plan in preparation for the completion of the building projects. The Board of Education believes there are several opportunities for both Ellington students and its taxpayers that coincide with the 2016-2017 school year.

For the first time, the classroom space required to implement full-day kindergarten is now available. Moreover, this additional classroom space is easing the school district’s two-year transition in which Windermere, Center and Crystal Lake Schools will each service students from kindergarten to grade 6 by the 2017-2018 school year. During the 2016-2017 school year, 5th grade students will attend each of the three elementary schools with all Ellington 6th graders attending Windermere for the last time.

The Board of Education recognizes the great potential of a student entering full-day kindergarten at one of its elementary schools and spending the next seven years at the same school prior to entering Ellington Middle School.

Taxpayers will benefit in several ways from the Board of Education’s well-timed planned 2016-2017 budget.

  • An approximate $200,000 savings in transportation costs with the elimination of mid-day kindergarten bus runs and associated employee overtime costs no longer needed for half-day kindergarten.
  • Pending approval from the Permanent Building Committee, $73,688 of start-up full-day kindergarten costs (furniture, technology etc.) for both Windermere and Crystal Lake may be satisfied through building project grant funds at a possible 58% reimbursement rate from the State of Connecticut.
  • $54,204 start-up full-day kindergarten costs to be satisfied by grants.

Solar Panels = Taxpayer Savings

The Permanent Building Committee isn’t the only board working cooperatively with the Board of Education (BOE). Currently, the BOE is working with the Board of Selectmen and Planning & Zoning Commission on a solar panel project for Crystal Lake, Center and Ellington Middle Schools.

The review and approval process will continue into the spring.

The solar panel project would cost Ellington taxpayers zero dollars. There aren’t any hidden fees of any kind. The solar panels would not waive the warranty of our schools’ roofs. The Town of Ellington and its Board of Education wouldn’t assume any liability for the maintenance of the solar panels.

The solar panel project would enable the Board of Education to purchase electricity at a fixed rate over twenty years. The projected savings over that time would be approximately $600,000.

The install would be completed by EarthLight Technologies, LLC., an Ellington business owned and operated by an Ellington resident, Tim Schneider. EarthLight is an approved vendor for the quasi-public state agency, Green Bank.

BOE Adopted 2016-2017 Budget

The Board of Education adopted a 2016-2017 budget of $36,448,027 which represents a proposed increase of 3.99% or $1,397,377 over the current fiscal year. The budget is the result of three primary areas of focus:

  • 1)Maintenance of Effort $ 631,367 1.80%
  • 2)Full-Day Kindergarten $ 432,698 1.23%
  • 3)K-6 Transition $ 333,312 0.96%
  • $1,397,377 3.99%

The 2016-2017 Maintenance of Effort budget proposal preserves current programming and upholds operations and infrastructure at an increase of 1.80% or $631,367. The proposal to implement Full-Day Kindergarten (1.23%) and costs associated with the K-6 Transition (0.96%) total 2.19% and represents a little more than half of the proposed increase of 3.99%.

Collectively, when including Full-Day Kindergarten and K-6 Transition, there are two accounts that impact the entire budget by 3.91%; the two accounts are the salaries and health/life insurance accounts.

Salaries $ 948,886 2.71%

Health/Life Insurance $ 421,938 1.20%

$1,370,824 3.91%

Remainder of Increase $ 26,553 0.08%

$1,397,377 3.99%

The Board of Education looks forward to working with the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen to bring a budget to the Ellington taxpayers that respects and honors all of its citizens.

Citizens interested in learning more about the Board of Education’s adopted budget are encouraged to attend one of five informational sessions hosted by each school’s PTO and/or the school administration. Some Board of Education members will be in attendance.

Center PTO (7:00 PM) Wednesday, March 2nd

Ellington High Principal’s Morning Coffee (7:15 AM) Thursday, March 3rd

Crystal Lake PTO (6:00 PM) Tuesday, March 8th

Windermere PTO (6:30 PM) Monday, March 21st

Ellington Middle PTO (7:00 PM) Monday, March 28th

In addition, citizens are encouraged to attend and participate in the following upcoming town budget meetings in order to make a well-informed decision:

March 22nd (7:30 PM) Board of Finance Meeting @ Town Hall

April 12th (8:00 PM) Board of Finance Public Budget Hearing @ EHS

May 10th (8:00 PM) Annual Town Budget Meeting @ EHS

Board of Education Chair Dan Keune was recently quoted, “Economically, doing it this year is an alignment of the stars. It’s as good as it can ever be for this to happen.’’

Opportunity knocks; will we open the door for the students and taxpayers of Ellington?