Derby Mayor: Let’s Talk About A Regional School District

Mayor Rich Dziekan will be asking the Board of Aldermen to form a committee that will study whether to create a regional school district with Ansonia and Derby.

Aldermen will take up the issue at their next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 8.

If Aldermen from both cities endorse the idea, an 11-person committee will be formed. It will have five people from Derby, five from Ansonia, and a consultant from the state Department of Education.

Two of the five members from Derby would be members of the city’s board of education, according to a draft legislative document.

The committee would have up to two years to study the issue and make recommendations.

Ansonia Aldermen are having similar discussions with their school board.

What a regional school district in Ansonia-Derby would look like isn’t known. The committee would study all aspects of the concept, including costs.

Ultimately, any plans for a regional school district would be put to voters in both cities. The majority of voters would have to vote yes in both cities.

Dziekan and corporation counsel Vincent M. Marino briefly discussed the concept with the Derby Board of Education during a meeting Thursday at the middle school.

School board chairman Jim Gildea said in an email that his board plans to recommend two people to serve on the committee.

Technically, Dziekan did not need a green light from the school board to proceed, according to state law.

He does need an affirmative vote of the Aldermen in order to form a committee and start the study.

But the mayor said he wanted to make sure the public and the school board hear about the issue directly from him.

“This is about communication,” the mayor said after his presentation to the school board.

“We just want to emphasize what we are discussing is only a study. It doesn’t mean ultimately anything is going to happen,” Marino, the city’s corporation counsel, told the school board.

The attorney even advocated for “limited excitement” about the news Dziekan was breaking.

Derby and Ansonia schools have a long and storied history. The football rivalry was once the fiercest in the state.

Regionalization has been discussed several times previously, but was often met with fierce public opposition.

A plan to consolidate schools in Derby — which has two elementary schools despite its size — failed after it was met with opposition from parents in 2013.

The Ansonia and Derby school districts have combined some services off and on over the years, such as food services.

But what Dziekan is talking about — actually starting the process under state law that could one day create a new, regional school district of some kind — is much more formal than the proposals that have been bandied about since 2009.

Also, the economics today are different. The state has budget problems, and the amount of state funding to schools and towns has become anything but predictable.

In November, state Rep. Linda Gentile, D-Ansonia, basically told local leaders in Ansonia and Derby to seriously look at ways to regionalize — or the state may eventually walk in and do it for them.

It was a sentiment repeated several times by Dziekan and the city attorney at the school board meeting.

After the meeting, Dziekan emphasized no decisions have been made.

There are no plans to dissolve the Derby border, burn the history books and start calling the place AnDerbia.

“This is about gathering all the facts. We have a clean slate. We obviously want what’s best for the kids and the taxpayers,” he said.

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