October 18, 2016
As our 2016-17 school year progresses, I want to provide you with an update on our efforts to reach an agreement on a long-term contract with the State of Connecticut.
In order to properly secure the educational future of your children in grades 7-12, The Gilbert School and the state need to agree to an appropriate long-term contract as soon as possible. And if the state is unwilling to do so, we need to have them give the negotiating authority back to the Winchester Board of Education, where it had been for decades before the state-appointed Receiver was brought in last year. You as parents have given the state a clear mandate that The Gilbert School is the best and most affordable option for your children, and you want it to remain that way.
That said, we have been disappointed that the past year of good faith efforts on our part to reach an accommodation with the state have still brought no progress. This process began with the State Department of Education's (SOE) proposal in September 2015, which The Gilbert School rejected in November 2015 because it included eleven contract terms that we deemed as untenable and burdensome to the school's faculty, students and parents. That was nearly a year ago.
As you may recall, The Gilbert School attorney emailed explanations of the eleven unacceptable contract terms to the SDE on November 5, 2015. After learning the SOE was working on a draft contract proposal on April 22, 2016, we reached out to schedule meetings with the Receiver and SDE to negotiate a long-term contract but never heard back about possible meeting dates. Updated explanations were emailed to the SDE on June 20, 2016 to assist them in drafting a proposed contract that would be acceptable to both parties, but after waiting ten months to receive a new contract proposal and despite the explanations we offered, the proposed contract received on July 19, 2016 from the Receiver and SDE still had nine of the unacceptable terms, including:
- It only offered a one-year duration, which means we would have to endure this same uncertainty surrounding Gilbert's future on an annual basis;
- It's lack of exclusive designation for grades 7-8, which could lead to your children being moved elsewhere, even during the middle of the year;
- The proposal allowing the Receiver to adjust tuition, reduce tuition payments and withhold funding would create more uncertainty for Gilbert about how much tuition it will receive, its level of funding and whether the school will have to reduce educational programs or extracurricular activities during the current school year;
- The proposal provided limited input by Gilbert in special education programming and allowed the Receiver to contract with other organizations for special education services for Gilbert students without Gilbert's input.
Another meeting in Hartford on August 5th with the SDE and the Receiver yielded, unfortunately, more of the same, as well as the Receiver reiterating his desire to possibly send all Gilbert students elsewhere, an idea we naturally find to be unacceptable. We sent our counter-proposal to the state on August 19th, yet received no word back until September 23rd that another proposal was even coming, and then had to wait until October 3rd before finally receiving word that we would not be offered anything more than a one-year contract with continually reduced tuition payments. This whole ordeal continues to be a frustrating way to secure the future of Winchester's middle and high school students.
We are deeply disappointed to be no further along in our negotiations with the Receiver and the state than we were a year ago; you and your children deserve much better than this. For the sake of the faculty, students, parents and alumni who make up our extended Gilbert School family, we simply cannot wait any longer to implement a sustainable long-term contract that best positions Gilbert to remain a center of academic excellence into the future.
The Gilbert School remains committed to being the best and most affordable educational solution for the Town of Winchester; despite our difficulties coming to agreement on a contract, we believe we provide the best education for a competitive cost compared to all surrounding districts. The Town of Winchester is clearly supportive of a long-term commitment to Gilbert, and has supported education with increased funding for the first time in many years. Our hope is if we are unable to negotiate with the state, we will be able to negotiate with the reconstituted WBOE soon, and that this route would at last get us the long-term agreement we all need.
We are honored by your continued support of The Gilbert School, and please feel free to contact me if there are any additional questions.
Anthony Serio, Ed.D.
Head of School/Superintendent