Wintergreen parents lobby Hamden Board of Education as redistricting continues

Parents and community members from the Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School lobbied the Board of Education not to force students and the program out of the building, as would occur under recent redistricting proposals.

Parents and community members from the Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School lobbied the Board of Education Tuesday, Oct. 9, not to force students and the Area Cooperative Educational Services program out of the building, as would occur under recent redistricting proposals.

Sada Marshall said the shift would harm her son, a special needs student who in the past has had to fight to adjust to change .

“I’m asking you, from the bottom of my heart, to please come to some resolution where we can keep this building. There’s other things that can be done. Please. I’m asking that God will touch each and every one of your hearts, so you can do the right thing,” said Marshall. “My son and these children, they mean the world to me, and I don’t want to see them devastated because they have to go somewhere else.”

“Would you tell your children, your grandchildren, that you’re going to put a dollar amount in front of their well-being and their safety and their security and their love of education and the love of the building that they’re in?” Darrylle Olsen, a second-grade teacher at Wintergreen, asked. “At some point, don’t the kids have to really come first?”

“We don’t want you telling us that we have to be redistricted and go to other schools,” said Michael Garbatini. “We saw the schools; we don’t like the schools.”

Mary Kate Kelly said her son had thrived at ACES and become an avid reader. She said the board should seek to produce those sort of outcomes for town residents.

“You’re just going to be giving up a huge asset,” said Kelly. “The program’s great.”

Board of Education Chairman Chris Daur responded to the concerns shared Tuesday, saying that the board understood and acknowledged them. Redistricting is a difficult decision, he said.

“We understand that you love the school. It is a beautiful school and it has some nice programs,” said Daur. “No matter how this goes, Hamden is still going to provide you the options to go forward with the ACES program, should you choose to. But I would hope and encourage you to take a look at the Hamden Public School programs, because we have excellent programs, as well.”

Superintendent of Schools Jody Goeler said doing right by the students ,should be the foundation of the redistricting effort.

The three most recent ideas for redistricting would see the Board of Education retake control of the Wintergreen building before the next school year, as allowed under the terms of the lease with ACES.

Projections shared with the board by Cheshire-based firm Milone & MacBroom suggest 70 percent of Wintergreen students would return to the Hamden Public Schools, which parents from the institution cast doubt on Tuesday.

Wintergreen parents met recently to discuss the issue. At the time, ACES Executive Director Thomas Dannehy urged them to attend future board meetings and share their concerns.

Daur said the board was waiting for Dannehy to present a proposal to the board, which would allow an informed discussion of long-term plans.

The current financial outlay required from the board for the Wintergreen program is unsustainable and the percentage of students from other communities is dwindling, he said.

Evelyn Rossetti-Ryan, chief of marketing and outreach at ACES, noted their commitment to the program in response and said Dannehy was open to discussing options for the future of the building. Appraisals for the property have just been completed, she noted.

Dannehy said he planned to meet with Mayor Curt B. Leng to discuss buying the building, which is town-owned.