The School Modernization Committee has been fraught with personnel changes since its inception last year.
Controversy surrounding one of the committee members, Matt Bowman, and his behavior has resulted in various resignations, with the newest coming from Town Councilor Peter Talbot at the most recent SMC meeting on Aug. 19.
The meeting began by recognizing the Committee’s newest member, Kate O’Donnell, who was chosen to replace former Committee Chair AnnMarie Kemp who resigned from her position at the Aug. 3 meeting due to derogatory comments made by Matt Bowman during the June 1 meeting and a decision by the Town Council not to remove Bowman and instead refer the matter back to the SMC.
“Kate is a skilled educator and has worked as a teacher for the past 26 years in Wallingford,” said Committee Member Sylvia Nichols. “She is now the science technology curriculum coordinator and has served on many district committees as a member and as Chair. …”
Nichols went on to highlight O’Donnell’s expertise within school districts, expressing excitement for having her join the group.
The meeting then shifted to the discussion of Talbot’s resignation, which leaves yet another vacancy on the committee, and the discussion of the nomination of a Chair and Vice Chair for the committee.
“We received a letter from Town Council member Peter Talbot on Aug. 3 announcing his resignation from the SMC,” said current Committee Chair Rene Martinez. “The Town Council will be responsible for filling this seat, but once it is filled we can discuss the election of officers, which will happen at the September meeting.”
Nichols pointed out to the committee that the SMC will need to have membership from two members of the majority party (Republican), and one member from the minority party (Democrat). Since the only other member of the Town Council who is a Democrat is Jim Jinks, he will fill Talbot’s position.
Once personnel issues were handled, the SMC received a status update on how recent site visits to the school buildings with Colliers International and Milone & MacBroom went.
“We joined Mr. (Vincent) Masciana and Mr. (Richard) Clavet last week to visit all the schools, except for the high school, and come up with a plan and get an understanding of where we are with all the buildings,” said Colliers Project Manager Chuck Warrington. “Overall, Cheshire schools are well maintained, which probably masks the underlying conditions of tired mechanical and electrical systems.”
According to Warrington’s summary, the biggest issue with Cheshire schools across all buildings lies with the “building envelope,” which includes the roof, windows, and doors. Warrington noted that the buildings cannot be properly renovated until there are “exterior envelope renovations”.
More specifically, Warrington noted that Chapman Elementary and Dodd Middle School both have temperature issues. Chapman has one side of the school hotter than the other and Dodd’s second floor is hotter than the main floor on any given day.
Other issues that were discussed regarding Cheshire Schools were the lack of adequate parking at all the buildings, and the lack of ADA compliance for Humiston, which hosts Cheshire’s Alternative High School program.
“There is a lot of information here that needs to be carefully reviewed and looked at,” said Martinez. “Many of these things may require additional research and revisions, so we must take what they have given us and process it tonight.”