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  Letter to the Gilbert and Winsted community: superintendent clarifies issues

While the school year for The Gilbert School recently ended, there are still lingering issues concerning Gilbert, the Winchester Board of Education and the town of Winsted. This includes Winsted’s tuition to Gilbert for the upcoming school year, the town’s designation of an official high school, and legal proceedings involving W.L. Gilbert Trust owned land at the former Hinsdale Elementary School property.
“It’s important for the public to understand why Gilbert has taken the positions that it has,” Gilbert Superintendent Anthony Serio said in a recent interview. “However, it needs to be emphasized that we have nothing against the town or the Winchester Board of Education.”
On June 1, Winsted voters passed a budget for fiscal 2019-2020 that included tuition to Gilbert of $6,943,193, which was far from the amount Serio originally proposed for Winsted’s tuition to Gilbert.
As a result, Serio said that Gilbert had to reduce its budget for the 2019-2020 school year 2019-2010 by $207,000, resulting in a budget of $7,611,609.
“We had to make cuts in order to get to this number,” Serio said. “Two of the major reductions came through two resignations that took place. One was a guidance counselor and another was a Spanish teacher. We did not replace them. There were also things that took place that allowed us to make some adjustments, including a position of remedial math that we did cut because we decided to take a different direction in the sense of interventions in mathematics.”
Serio said that the school also cut into several line items for the school year 2019-2020.
“We are trying to make these cuts without hurting our programs while trying to maintain some of the initiatives that we have, including our resource officer,” Serio said. “At this particular point, we are also hoping that this last cut would produce for Gilbert a contract that would give Gilbert the sole designation of Winsted’s high school.”
However, Serio said that there is no contract at this time between Gilbert and the Winchester School District.
“Right now what we have on the table is a gentlemen’s agreement between myself and Winchester Superintendent of Schools Melony Brady-Shanley,” Serio said. “A contract is important to Gilbert because it is all about high school designation. None of us like the idea that something might be going on in the background where another school could take our students.”
Serio said that one reason why that the Winchester School District has not agreed on a mutual contract with Gilbert is that the Board of Education wants to have a superintendent that would oversee both the school district and Gilbert.
“The superintendent would have jurisdiction over both the W.L. Gilbert School Corporation and the Winchester Board of Education, thereby making decisions for The Gilbert School,” Serio said. “It would be a conflict because one has to always take a look at in a very fair and equitable manner the interests of The Gilbert School without the influence of elementary school education. This is a high school that is very unique. It has unique programs and it has to be able to have its own budget. The interest of The Gilbert School would not be served well with one person overlooking everything. It’s a separate enterprise.”
Serio said that Gilbert representatives have not met with representatives from the Winchester School District for quite some time, and no meetings between the two parties have been scheduled.
As for the issue concerning land on the former Hinsdale School property, back in May, the W.L. Gilbert trust filed a civil complaint against the town of Winsted concerning 5 acres on the property.
According to property deeds filed in 1944 and 1955, the trust lent the five acres for both an athletic field and a playground.
Hinsdale was closed in 2016 and the property has remained unused ever since.
“This issue is about clarifying who owns the property now that Hinsdale Elementary stopped operating four years ago,” Serio said. “There is a reverter clause in the deeds provided to the town. It says states that the property would remain to Winsted as long as it is used by the public for a playground and a playfield, and as long as the school remained operational. The school doesn’t exist anymore and that playground has fallen into disrepair.”
Serio said that the reverter clause in the deeds went into effect immediately after Hinsdale was shut down.
“We let the town know that back in October 2016,” Serio said. “At that point, the town was ready to offer the building up to developers. We wanted the town to know that, before it did that, you have to know about this component of the land.”
Serio said that requests to discuss the issue with the town went ignored.
“We reached out again and we offered the town the opportunity to lease the land for a dollar a year for the next 30 to 35 years,” Serio said. “We never heard back. That led to us saying that we should get this clarified in court. This issue is not about the Gilbert School. This is about The W.L. Gilbert Trust which gave the town the land it owned to the town so that they could have the playground and the playing field. We are just trying to do the right thing.”