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Newsletter No. 26

October 27th, 2019

There are 5 candidates running for 4 spots

 

On Tuesday, November 5th, voters will choose from five candidates for four open seats on the Board of Education. This is a very important election for Healthy Start Times - the new BOE members will make the decision!

We are so proud of Steven Eno, who has been part of the Healthy Start Times group for the past year and a half. We are enthusiastically throwing our support to Steve as he is a proponent of healthy start times for all students and we are confident he will ensure this gets done the right way. 


Steve will be a strong, independent voice on the BOE. As he states on his website, Steve will work to ensure that the BOE takes back its leadership role so that healthy start times and future issues get resolved more efficiently and with input from all stakeholders.
 

Here are all the candidates

 

We also want to share the other candidates' viewpoints about healthy start times. This past Wednesday night there was a candidate's debate at Town Hall, hosted by the League of Women Voters. All the candidates recognize that healthy start times are important for all students. The distinction is: doctors tell us that, due to the sleep shift in adolescence, our current school start times prevent our older children from getting the sleep they need to be healthy. Which candidates prioritize allowing our children to get enough sleep and will find a way to make that happen? Which candidates put other factors ahead of health, like bus funding, teacher commutes, or logistical  issues?

All five BOE candidates answered this question:

"Would you support a later school start time for grades 7-12, and how should the associated costs be handled?"

(Candidates listed in the order they answered the question at the debate.)

Julie Reeves: "Yes, I do support the later start times for our older middle and high school kids. The science certainly supports this, and there’s a lot of data on that. What is difficult, of course, is that nothing happens in a vacuum, and so, by changing those school start times, something has to give. We are limited by the buses we have. Potentially we could add more buses, but of course that comes at a cost as well. And there are other ramifications in terms of how does it affect teachers, the actual bus routes - how those are going to change. So, that’s what’s so tricky. We held a conference on Monday where we had representatives from all the different people who have skin in the game, from teachers to students to parents, and it was clear as mud that there is no right answer, or no answer that is going to make everyone happy. But, I think we do what we can. If this is in the best interest of the health of our students, we need to work on it and we need to find a solution."

Bob Naughton: "Yes, I completely support later start for the high school, or whatever grades we think we want to implement that in. I think the trick is, how do we do it. I think the process so far has been a little elongated. I think we could have brought other groups in earlier to the process. We see Norwalk’s done it pretty quickly. As far as the costs, I think it’s just another budget item and we have to figure out how to make it work, and that’s going to be the challenge."

Brendan Hayes: "Just like Julie, I do support later school start times for teens, but… the big but is that this is a very complex system. We have a very high performing school district. If we do make a change, we want to make sure we are not disrupting the community and our outstanding schools, and make that change, which may benefit some kids, while potentially disrupting others and not benefiting them - negatively impacting them, in school or otherwise. This is part of a broader initiative around student health and wellness. We’re working on things at the high school, for example, with the amount of time that kids spend on homework, reducing that, among a bunch of other things. So it’s an important issue. It has been an elongated process and the reason for that is that it’s a complex issue and we’re really studying it carefully as a Board and making sure that whatever we do we feel like we are benefiting the entire system, all students in our care. The last piece, just around cost, if we do make a change it’s highly likely to result in additional costs. I think as a town, if we’re making a change for the benefit of our students’ health and wellness, I think it’s going to be worth it. Whether it’s a couple hundred thousand dollars, six hundred thousand dollars. And also, as a Board, we’ve rejected the most expensive option which was a 2-tier option which would have been over a million dollars."

Steven Eno: "It should be no secret to most of you in the room, I’m 100% supportive of allowing our teens to go to school later. My 13-year old wanted to be here, but she’s got to get up at 6:15 tomorrow so she could not make it, and that should say something right there. As just about everybody up here has said, it’s very complex. It impacts a lot of people, not just the students. It impacts the teachers, it impacts traffic, it impacts just about every aspect of town life. I think, because of that, we need to look to towns like Norwalk who a year ago formed a 15-person committee of parents, administrators, and teachers. That committee met 11 times in 9 months. Parent focus groups, student focus groups, parent surveys, student surveys. They wrote a 25 page report. They looked at over two dozen different start time scenarios. And their Board of Ed, last week, voted on that proposal. That, I think, is the level of detail and the level of effort that the Board of Ed and our administration owes not just to the students but to our entire town. And as far as money, unfortunately anything we do is going to increase busing cost. So I agree with Brendan, we need to make that commitment to our kids, but I also think we need to find the money to pay for it, somewhere."

Carl Gardiner: "First, I think it’s important to not call this the Later Start Times, it’s Changed Start Times. Some students will be starting later, some students - the younger kids - will be starting earlier. I think that’s an important point to make because it captures that there are varying perspectives and varying views on this, and we need to take all that into account as we think about this issue. You see it when you go to the Board of Ed meetings and how passionate different people are from totally opposite sides. So I’m trained as a data scientist, and I see this as a classic optimization problem. There’s routing optimization software, lots of it. A consultant was brought in, so I think figuring out the right schedule and the most efficient schedule is the long pole in the tent, so to speak. A consultant was brought in, those consultants tended to have more of an accounting/comptroller background. There are other consultancies that come from more of a data/science perspective - that would have been a change in process that I would have liked to see. I think that’s also the answer in terms of how we can make this work fiscally. I think there are a lot of towns, when they’ve contemplated these changes, have taken a complete look at their busing schedules and optimizing those, and I think there is money to be found there."

Additional comments:

 
Julie: "The only thing I would add would be that we know that change is really difficult, and to echo Carl’s point, I think the focus initially, of course, was on the idea of “later” because we’re focusing on our teens and their health. But it is also important to think about the other players in this, the elementary kids, and the middle school kids. So I think change will be difficult, regardless, but we’re grateful for the input that the community has offered."

Bob: "One thing to add, in this process I would like to see if we could make it about changing the high school time and maybe not disrupting the other schools, because I think what ends up happening is - you end up pitting one group against another. We’re going to make a bunch of elementary school times change to much earlier, and basically everyone wants sleep. I don’t think anybody wants to give up sleep."


Brendan: "We’ve obviously analyzed many different scenarios. There is, as far as I can tell, no way to change the high school only and not change anything else. There will be, as Carl said, change in many different ways - not just start and end times - it’s sports, and visual and performing arts, it’s daycare. It impacts many different families in the community. So it’s not just the school day we are looking at, we’re looking at many different potential impacts, and it’s highly complex, which is why it’s taking us a lot of time and we’re thinking carefully about what we might want to do."

Steve: "Carl, thanks for pointing out that it shouldn’t be Later Start Times. I have to catch myself, and I obviously didn’t, because it really is about changing start times for everybody, and we need to make sure we don’t lose site of elementary school and middle school, and only think about high school, even though that’s where it all started."

Carl: "The medical evidence is clear, and that data is sound, in terms of how a young person, their sleep cycle changes over time. And by the way, if you’re a parent, you can see that your little kids get up at 5am and your older kids don’t wake up until maybe one. So it’s obvious. Having said that, I do think there is a benefit to getting it done, and we just need to get it done in a cost effective way.
 

Vote on November 5th to make a change  

 

There is no question that Healthy Start Times is one of the most important issues facing the Board of Education in a long time. Please vote for those candidates who you believe will bring the most creativity and determination to get it done in the best way possible so that all students have the ability to get their doctor recommended hours of nightly sleep.

And remember, you have up to four votes, but you do not have to vote for four candidates. You can vote for just one or two! 

  
     

Read about how Norwalk got this done in less than a year. They were thorough and efficient.

     
RECENT GOOD NEWS!

California just passed a law that all of its high schools must start after 8:30.
Read about it

HERE

Legislators in CT have begun similar discussions.
Read about it
HERE
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