New London school board reforms policy committee

New London — For the first time in four years, and following mounting pressure from some parents and students, the Board of Education has reinstated a policy committee.  

The group, composed of the entire seven-member school board and four others, met for the first time on Wednesday to set a meeting calendar and reviews policies for discussion.

“I’m looking forward to this new committee so that all of our board policies can be brought up to date,” school board President Margaret Mary "Peg" Curtin said in a written statement issued by the school district. “We were disbanded five years ago by the state, and I felt strongly that the committee should be reinstated to begin reviewing policies that haven’t updated since 2012 and some since 2005.”

Curtin, however, had been criticized by some for stalling on the formation of the policy and other committees.

The New London Chapter of the NAACP issued a letter to the school board last month demanding establishment of “critical committees needed and required both by local policy and state law.”

“The committee process is at the heart of our democratic society dealing with today’s challenges,” read the letter signed by New London NAACP President Jean Jordan and Education Chairman Donald Wilson. “Your failure to establish these committees denies those citizens the right of governance of their community.”

Maegan Parrott, a parent leadership training coordinator with New London Youth Affairs, wrote a letter last month reiterating the importance of a functioning policy committee and expressing frustration that the committee had not yet formed or met.

“I am writing to ask that the BOE prioritize appointing a diverse group of stakeholders to the policy committee to take on the many areas that need attention,” Parrott wrote.

Along with the full school board, the committee is composed of Science and Technology Magnet High School junior Shineika Fareus, New London High School graduate Carly Sizer, New London education advocate Jason Morris and parent Shirley Zaccheo.

Fareus was a part of the youth-led organization Hearing Youth Voices that for months had lobbied the school board to look at the school attendance policy to help decrease the number of students losing credits, and sometimes not graduating, because of absences.

The board passed changes last year.

The newly formed group is expected to take issues that include conflicts of interest, public and executive sessions and attendance at meetings via electronic communications.

Morris, who had also pushed for formation of all required and promised committees promised, said he would additionally like to see discussion about policies regarding transgender and nonconforming students, elementary school start times, dress codes at the high school and food services.

g.smith@theday.com

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