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Groton School Board Approves Redistricting Plan

Students would be moved during the 2013-14 school year.

The Groton Board of Education voted 4-2 Monday to approve a redistricting plan that would move about 360 children, or 17 percent of students in kindergarten through grade 4 in the coming school year.

The plan would affect every elementary school, but even out school populations to reduce crowding and correct a racial imbalance to bring the district into compliance with state law.

Board members Shelley Gardner and Robert Peruzzotti voted against.

The plan would cost an additional $440,000 for transportation and require eight additional buses, Interim Superintendent John Ramos said.

However, he said he believed moving forward was the right decision.

“It’s good that the district has a direction,” he said. “That’s what’s most critical at this particular point,” he said.

Peruzzotti said he believed Groton should have challenged the state’s racial balance law.

“The taxpayers of the town of Groton just cannot afford half a million for something that’s not good for kids,” he said.

Gardner she would not support a plan that buses students.

Ramos said he would notify the state Department of Education Tuesday of the board's vote and send it material including the minutes of the meeting. Groton is scheduled to present the plan to the State Board of Education for approval at its February meeting.

The State Department of Education notified Groton school officials more than two years ago that Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School was racially imbalanced, and the situation must be corrected.

A school is determined to be out of balance if minority enrollment in a particular grade and school is more than 25 percentage points below or above the district average.

Groton’s elementary schools have a minority population of 41.7 percent, but it varies widely by school. At the magnet school, the minority population is 62.9 percent, according to data for current school year. By comparison, it’s 27.4 percent at S.B. Butler Elementary in Mystic.

Board Vice Chairwoman Elizabeth Gianacoplos said she agreed with many of Peruzzotti’s sentiments.

But she said the school department worked on the plan for eight months, and must correct crowding in the schools. She said she feared not acting would create chaos for students.

“I do think this is good for children, I think it I will alleviate crowding, I think diversity in all our schools is a benefit for all our kids,” she said.

Board Member Chaz Zezulka said his grandchildren are minority students under the definition the state uses, and pegging children based on skin color disturbs him.

But he said but Groton needs to make changes and has no alternative but the plan.

State Rep. Edward Moukawsher told the Town Council earlier he would defy the state’s racial balance law and refuse to redistict, because he believes the law is unconstitutional. He cited a 2007 Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled districts could not use race to determine admission and that achieving racial balance was not a compelling state interest.

However, School Board Member Kim Watson said he has not yet filed legislation to try to change the law.

Dannyboy January 08, 2013 at 12:05 PM
This is another example of adults over thinking the system and trying to force people to do things they don't want to do. The only thing they accomplished is to build up the private schools enrollment and help real estate agents out. People will just get up, sell their houses, and move to another town. Kids should go to the school where the parents decided to move to, quite possibly, because of that school(s). Another decision by a school board that is out of touch with reality.
augie42 January 08, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Thanks to Board members Peruzzotti and Gardner for standing up for our kids. NOW is the time for newly re-elected State Reps to do their job and challenge this bad law. Groton has a HUGE transient population and needs some variance for this bad law. Ellisa Wright, Ted Moukawsher and Andrew Maynard must fix this for Groton....Its costing tax-payers TOO much $$. Scott Aument
Northeast Academy Grandparent January 08, 2013 at 09:43 PM
It figures, once again the state steps in demanding compliance that it doesn't have to pay for or really live with. People choose to live in certain neighborhoods often because of the schools their children will attend. Busing, by any name, doesn't accomplish the desired results. The students resent being sectioned out and seperated from their neighborhood friends, the parents resent paying higher taxes for an education their child isn't getting, and the Board of Education probably hates admitting their on the board at all. Basically there seems to be a little something for everyone to hate in these unilateral mandates. Yes, the writer "Dannyboy" is right. Sacred Heart and St. Bernards ARE seeing an uptick in inquiries for next year.
Upset January 09, 2013 at 01:43 AM
Just to clarify this is about over crowding of schools first, and racial imbalance second. I am so glad this went through. Catherine Kolnaski is overwhelmed and needs help. It is not fair to have one school that is only 70% full and another that is over 100%. The children are the ones that lose in that situation.
Rick McDonald January 09, 2013 at 11:41 AM
Although overcrowding is being addressed by this, and is a valid reason for redistricting, I feel the driving force was and is the threat of fines by the state if the racial imbalance at CKMS was not addressed.
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