Derby and Ansonia officials met for the second time Thursday to discuss the possibility of regionalizing the two school districts to help alleviate problems facing both.
Many ideas for the two municipalities to work together on schooling were discussed throughout the course of the sit-down, which ran about 90 minutes in Aldermanic Chambers at City Hall in Derby.
Perhaps Ansonia High School could become a school for 10th- through 12th-graders from both communities, and Derby High School would become a 9th-grade academy. Or Ansonia and Derby could consolidate high schools, leaving schools for other grades in place.
Or the districts could combine advanced placement programs, some of which are in danger of being eliminated now because of low enrollment. Or the districts could combine completely, top to bottom.
All those ideas and others are well and good, Ansonia Board of Education President John Lawlor said, but knowing whether any of it is even feasible has to come first.
“We can sit here and expound our deep-down personal beliefs about regionalization, but until we get someone in here (to help) . . . we’re just going to continue to spin our wheels,” he said.
So between now and the group’s next meeting, in April, Derby Superintendent Stephen Tracy and Ansonia Superintendent Carol Merlone will work together to find a consultant they can ask to look at both districts and help evaluate whether regionalizing is feasible.
Derby and Ansonia each have cash-strapped local government and school districts. Both school districts need to improve test scores as well. The thought is that combining schools or services may help both the students and the over-burdened taxpayers.
Derby’s Board of Education recently completed a strategic plan that looks toward the school district’s future. The plan calls for school officials to explore whether regionalization could be a benefit.
However, the discussion is at the earliest of early stages, officials in both cities are quick to point out.
Conceptually, those at Thursday’s meeting — Lawlor, Merlone, Tracy, Derby Mayor Anthony Staffieri, Derby Board of Alderman President Ron Sill, Derby School Board President Ken Marcucio Sr., Ansonia school board member George Boath, and Ansonia Assistant Superintendent Anthony Gasper — seemed enthusiastic about regionalization.
Going forward, though, many on the ad hoc group noted that public perception will be important to move the idea of regionalization forward.
“Is this going to be a saleable item to the public, whatever format we come up with?” Boath asked.
To help in that regard, the group is looking for more members.
Lawlor and Marcucio will ask a parent from each of their communities to join the group, and Staffieri and Ansonia Mayor James Della Volpe will draft tax board members and senior citizens. Merlone and Tracy will each ask their teachers’ unions for representatives, too.
Once the expanded group meets next month, Tracy said, the group can decide more specifically in what direction to go.
Tracy suggested getting legislative bodies in both municipalities involved sooner rather than later and “give them a chance to shape the thing a little bit in the beginning.”
After that, perhaps a public forum to introduce members of both municipalities to the concept would be the best way forward.
One thing members of the group must communicate, Marcucio noted, is that “the status quo is not going to work in either town.”