UPDATED: Groton School Board Votes To Close Fitch Middle School

Board votes 7-0, with 2 members abstaining, to consolidate from three middle schools to two and keep Cutler and West Side open.

The Groton Board of Education voted 7-0 Monday night to consolidate from three to two middle schools and to keep Cutler and West Side middle schools open.

Fitch Middle School would close, but the building would be used as swing space during construction at other schools.

Board members Rita Volkmann and Shelley Gardner abstained from the vote. failed 4-5.  Board members Volkmann, Gardner, Beverly Washington and Chaz Zezulka voted in favor of rescinding.

Financial worries

Board members said they felt compelled to close one of the schools because keeping all three open would result in a shortfall of $1.5 million in the coming fiscal year, forcing cuts to other programs. The school department still expects to be $1.5 million short if Representative Town Meeting wants another year of zero percent increases in school spending.

But Superintendent Paul Kadri said that gap may be closed due to two factors: Groton will not need money it spent this year on software for a new literacy program and schools may see savings in health care. He said he could probably spare programs and close a $1.5 million gap, but not one double that.

“If we keep up with three schools, I have no plan for that,” he said.

The plan

Kadri said he would recommend dividing the roughly 1,000 middle school students equally into six teams at each school, if the school board opted to close a building. The plan would require portables at West Side and Cutler.

Wes Greenleaf, director of buildings and grounds for Groton Public Schools, at the southwest corner of the building. City officials are expected to meet with LLR Architects Friday morning to determine if this is possible.

If it's not, or if the district cannot meet the requirements of racial balancing, transportation and redistricting, Kadri said he would recommend five teams at West Side and seven teams at Cutler.

This scenario would place 433 students at one school and 597 at the other, with class sizes about the same, with a student to teacher ratio of a little more than 21 to 1.

Survey results

The , followed by facilities and the impact on taxpayers.

The board received 660 responses to the survey, including 114 from people affiliated with West Side, 254 from Cutler and 98 from Fitch Middle School.

Fitch Middle School was built in 1928, with separate elementary and high school entities before merging together in the 1950s as a junior high school. was a factor in their decision.

Nancy Gilly December 20, 2011 at 08:49 PM
My concern about portables, is that they are supposedly "temporary", yet our schools seem to have a lot of permanent ones. If I head Mr. Greenleaf correctly last night, they were talking about putting the portables at one of the schools in the SW corner of the property near the ball field. That would be Cutler, and that's quite a hike to be making multiple times a day, and in bad weather. Those portables aren't cheap either, I think they were talking about $200K per classroom. And then there's parking. It doesn't look like Cutler has a lot of excess parking as it is, and if we nearly double the student body, where do parents park for school functions? Can the Cutler and West Side auditoriums handle them? I know that Fitch's auditorium is significantly too small for the annual Winter Concert, and that's with 400 students. If Cutler is increased to 600?
Nancy Gilly December 20, 2011 at 09:06 PM
Those surrounding towns have fewer students. East Lyme has 850 in their middle school, but that includes 5th grade, so it would be around 650 or so for a 6-8. Ledyard only has 450, but they are just a 7-8, and Waterford, which is a 6-8 has under 700. For Groton to have one middle school, we'd be looking at over 1000 students. I've checked some other districts in other states, and they seem to try to run at no more than 700 students per middle school.
Nancy Gilly December 20, 2011 at 09:08 PM
I've checked on the locations, and I was confusing locations at West Side and Cutler, though on the google earth image, I can't see a space on the SW corner of West Side where they could be put. But even with close locations, I did portables in high school, and having to constantly change buildings with only a 5 minute passing time in bad weather didn't exactly add to my high school experience.
Rufus Jefferson December 20, 2011 at 09:58 PM
HEAR! HEAR! Groton Mom, You have the solution to many issues.
gberg December 20, 2011 at 10:00 PM
What is wrong with additions, and maintenance of the older (something Groton Hasn't done) Oh by the way, the towns with only one middle school, like Waterford? Is the same original school, added to , maintained. but the same school. Mr. Kardi, & GBOE, keep what you have, and have the present schools grow, you'll find happier kids and happier citizens. If it costs more it's only cause it's been ignored for so long.
William December 21, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Great. Close a school with no plan in place and little more than half a year to pull it off. Seat of the pants education. Sad. And The kids who had this year wrecked by Kadri's schedule and Kadri's half baked notion of how to run SRBI will now have at least one more year of chaos to face as they prepare for high school and eventually college. So happy my kids are out of our schools, but so sad for our young families.
mom2x's December 21, 2011 at 12:34 PM
William, i completely agree with you. The children can look forward to another year(atleast) of chaos and confusion at the hands of Mr. Kadri. SRBI has been a joke, and with now that many more children attending the middle schools next year, can you imagine what the ramifications will be? Regardless of what school they chose to close, we are facing very large class sizes. That is already happening in the elementary schools with noone seeming to care.
LadyMaMa December 21, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Everyone here really needs to read the book "Who Moved My Cheese." It is subtitled "An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life." Sometimes there are changes in our lives that we think are going to have a horrible impact. Instead of complaining about it, we need to learn to adapt. Children are amazingly adaptable human beings - they have to be to survive. They will survive the consolidation of the middle schools. We have been pretty spoiled in the Groton School System for a long time, with our neighborhood schools and small classes. In the majority of school districts across the country, there are totally different conditions than the ones to which we've been accustomed. We need to adapt to the harsh reality that these are troubled economic times, and we have a vast senior citizen population in this town that are done raising their kids and do not want their taxes to go up as result of increased expenses in the school system. It sucks, but it is what it is. The best thing we can do at this point is to prepare our children at home for the changes that will occur as a result of this consolidation. Don't baby them......kids from age 10-14 in other countries are already working in factories to help support their families. Our children have good lives, even if they have to deal with a half-hour bus ride in the morning or a class with 26 kids in it as opposed to 20. Let's keep this change in perspective and get on with our lives.
William December 21, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Pine Point is advertising on the Groton Patch home page, and St. Bernard's and Williams are already accepting Groton middle schoolers, so maybe the class sizes won't be that big?
Jennifer Sim December 21, 2011 at 03:25 PM
I believe many many people care about the class sizes. The Town does not want to finance a different model.
fed up December 22, 2011 at 08:25 PM
Ms Sim, has it ever occured to you that Mr. Kadri has been less than honest re: numerous things. The former board which you sat on seemed to never entertain the notion that Mr. Kadri was schmoozing you. There are many Groton teachers, employees and parents that comment on here. Many of them would give information that they know are fact. Your fact always came from Mr. Kadri's mouth which time and time again we see is LESS tha factual! He skirts the truth, he has the gift of gab that some people find intrigueing, he has given job opportunities to many who support him even though we have no money for educational purposes that actually will benefit the children. I hope that eventually you will see that you and many otheres have been duped by our fantastic superintendent.
Jennifer Sim December 23, 2011 at 04:49 AM
I am fairly certain there is no single person that states there is a gift for gab. I still don't see what this has to do with the Town avoiding their responsibility for the facilities. They voted over a decade ago to halt funding on all capital projects for the schools. Many of the same individuals have been reelected time and time again. So, this is the Town's decision, this is how they have voted, and now the families with children in school have to live with the consequences of it. Feel free to pull up the minutes during the Blue Ribbon Commission. Doesn't need to come from Mr. Kadri, it is public record.
mystmom December 23, 2011 at 01:52 PM
Why would the superintendent "schmooze" the BOE? Most of them were around way before he was and they aren't stupid people. Why would the superintendent want to "dupe" the BOE? Also, why would he want to use the children as "pawns", as Rita Volkman accused him of? Why? To what end?
LadyMaMa December 23, 2011 at 05:59 PM
Mystmom, you have some good points. I am no fan of Mr. Kadri, but not because he is "schmoozing or using." My feeling is that his background is inappropriate for the job of Superintendent. He is a businessman, not an educator. I also feel that he is not the best communicator - that he makes unilateral decisions without consulting those most affected. But I do not believe he is the devil incarnate, as do some people in this town. Groton is a town with some unique traits and demographics. When Mr. Kadri is inevitably replaced (my guess is next year!) it would be beneficial if the Board would make every effort to hire a replacement who has lived and worked in this community for many years. Only a Groton native or longtime resident would have the experience and knowledge of the class wars in this community to deal appropriately with issues like the middle school closing.
C.J.Boa December 23, 2011 at 07:52 PM
Not the best communicator! Every other word out of his mouth is eather ah or um
Kg Trejo December 24, 2011 at 03:53 PM
No, the BOE aren't stupid people, several didn't want the Superintendent and some others have changed their opinion of the man. They really do care about Groton and the families but they wanted change. Mr Kadri sold them a bill of goods at his interview and we are stuck with him right now. Any new person with skills will have some good qualities but most of his, is about himself. It is either "I' or 'Me' and if he can use the students, families or whoever as a selling point, he does and he has.
William December 24, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Mystmom, Perhaps you don't have the benefit if taking high school psychology, or having even a pinch of common sense, so I will try to put this in terms you can understand. Provided you put down your Kadri coolaid and let your mind clear, you might get this. Mr. Kadri is a business man. Business men make money. Mr. Kadri wants to make more money. That is the American capitalist way. To maximize his income Mr. Kadri can't have anyone else affecting the business of education in Groton- he must be the sole decision maker, for others could make decisions that affect his income. In order to maintain control in an educational system that involves many many individuals he must either have their allegiance and support. In order to ingratiate himself to these people he must manipulate them into liking him. He chats with them. He acts friendly. He gets support from those, like you Mystmom, who fall for his act. TBC
William December 24, 2011 at 05:21 PM
But there is another side to Mr. Kadri that you and many others don't see Mystmom.  There is the side that knows how to handle those who don't drink his coolaid, and that is the one that rarely leaves Central Office- the bully.  If he can't 'schmooze' you into supporting him, he bullies and intimidates you.  Fist pounding, vein bulging,  bellowing tirades that can be heard throughout Central Office during meetings with staff.  Threatening people with the loss of their jobs.  Harassing people into retiring or leaving the district.  All tools Mr. Kadri uses to control his district employees. Children are not Mr. Kadri's concern.  If they were he would not use the techniques of a boss manager within a system that requires collaboration, cooperation and synergy.  If children were Mr. Kadri's priority he would seek input from those with experience in education when creating new schedules or implementing new initiatives, such bas SRBI.  If children where Mr.   Kadri's reason for taking his position he would listen to the concerns of the District's educators who have the childrens' best interest in mind. Mr. Kadri has duped many in his short but eventful career as an educational administrator, and you, Mystmom, are just one of the latest to fall for the schmoozing, smiles, and stipends. TBC   
William December 24, 2011 at 05:21 PM
It's time we opened our eyes, sent Mr. Kadri on his way, and brought in someone who can work with our teachers to craft a system that places children at the forefront of Groton Public Schools. Merry Christmas Groton, Willy   
Jennifer Sim December 24, 2011 at 05:38 PM
What does this have to do with the town politicians skirting their responsibility for the facilities since 1990? Curious that no one is really willing to take focus the blame on the conditions of our facilties where it belongs. Where is the outrage? Interesting that the status quo politicians in this town don't want to discuss it. Instead they want to focus the lens elsewhere. Our kids don't have time for this. Put all the energy that you use for prose in the Patch into stressing to the town the desperate need and condition of these facilties that have been ignored for far too long. We get it. You don't like the superintendent. That has nothing to do with the need to get these facilities where they need to be. Now a 53 million dollar referendum is looming to only repair what has been broken instead of a building a vision for our future. So funny that the Friends for Affordable Education promised to offer another solution after Phase II but now are saying they will wait and see. Maybe they are too caught up in their witch hunt to put their energy and effort where it really needs to be.
William December 24, 2011 at 05:46 PM
PS- forgive me for not wrapping things up. Mr. Kadri is doing nothing more than using Groton to build his resume so that he can continue to flit from district to district commanding ever higher salaries based on his 'experience'. By being in total control, he has the ability to take credit for anything he can use to further his so called career.
Josh December 24, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Ms. Simm, I'm confused, Is your head stuck in Kadri's rear end or your own. The BOE receives their budget money year after year to run the school system, It is their responsibility to maintain all the buildings properly. So it's pretty safe to say that YOU have failed. Don't try to blame any of our other town leader's for the boards failure. Try to open your eyes and be a little open minded for once. P.S. Friends for affordable education wouldn't even exist if the previous BOE did there job, so don't criticize FFAE for not presenting new idea's yet when your board voted to close a school before having a plan in place.
Jennifer Sim December 24, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Hi Josh, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Unfortunately the Town owns the buildings and when a capital improvement is required such as a boiler replacement, roof, windows, foundation cracks, windows, etc. only the Town has the authority on those repairs when they exceed a $750,000. So how many foundations for a building the size of a school have you seen repaired for that price? It is clear that Mr. Kadri does not have popularity in this town but that is no excuse for the town ignoring the fact that they have ignored these facilities. My head doesn't need to be up anyone's anything to know that. It is a simple fact of town charter and town records. Again...who is going to do something about the town's responsibility? Josh could start by reading the charter but what are the rest of you Kadri clubbers going to do?
mom2x's December 25, 2011 at 08:19 PM
William.....THANK YOU! You are absolutely correct. the Kadri that presents himself to the public is VERY different than the Kadri MANY of his employees see. He is a business man, plain and simple. the education of our children has never been a priority of his. He has been more excited about the business aspect of his ball field than any educational decision yet! Central office workers have tried to speak up re: his tirades there. Many of them use screen names on here to protect their job, they are speaking facts. The Kadri koolaid drinkers are listening to Kadri's spin on things. He is so out of touch with reality, its disturbing!
mystmom December 27, 2011 at 12:46 PM
Personal attacks only dilute whatever message you are trying to get across.
William December 27, 2011 at 09:05 PM
Mystmom, Mr. Kadri is not an educator, does not have the skills or mindset necessary to manage a public educational system, is not doing a good job, and needs to have his contract terminated before he does any further damage to our school system. Ask anyone who works for GPS- they will all tell you he is not good for our kids or our community. There. No personal attacks to dilute the message. Willy
C.J.Boa December 28, 2011 at 12:08 PM
Ok, for the real reason why the school is being closed. The RTM cut 2.2 million from the education budget for no reason but to lower taxes. If you don't like whats happening to your town call your district reps.http://www.groton-ct.gov/town_gov/Groton%20Town%20Register.pdf
Kg Trejo December 28, 2011 at 02:24 PM
To clarify, the RTM did not cut the EDUCATION BUDGET. The RTM didn't let them raise their budget, they were looking for an increase. Also they (Superintendent & BOE) manged to recieve monies to keep programs moving forward without closing a middle school then.
mom2x's December 28, 2011 at 04:59 PM
they also found $$$$ to hire very expensive new central office staff. Noone seems to question that though.
William December 31, 2011 at 10:32 AM
But never men! Apparently only females can do CO jobs.


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